Inspirational Story: Valerie 3.0

I’ve known this wonderful girl for quite a while, and despite this being a lengthy post, it deserves every bit of your attention. Make sure you to give this your time, because she was gracious enough to share her story with not only me, but to the community.
Valerie is a Registered Nurse in her early twenties. She was never really into sports as a kid, and like much of us, she grew up eating lots of processed foods a.k.a. junk (Cheetos, dunkaroos, soda, etc.). College also did not offer her many opportunities for healthier living with dining hall food, ramen noodles, late nights, partying, all nighters for exams, and red bulls/sugary energy drinks.

Nursing school introduced to to the world of health. The two years I was in nursing school, I learned the pathophysiology of diseases and health conditions. I learned how to take care of patients with these horrible conditions. Being that I went to nursing school in the heart of Baltimore, I saw firsthand how much of a problem health maintenance was. Tons of patients I worked with in clinical had diabetes and heart disease- two major diseases that are considered the number one killers in this country. I learned about these diseases back then but never really paid any mind to how it could affect me. My rationale is that I’m still “young” and that I don’t have to worry about it now.

After I graduated nursing school and passed my NCLEX I started my first job. The stress of being a new grad in the nursing world really got to me. The environment I was in was always high stress. Sometimes I didn’t eat at all during a shift. When I did eat, it was always at 4pm without a break, no breakfast. Sometimes I get a chance to pee once during a shift and minimally drank water. I started eating more and being a bum on my days off. I always ate out and never paid any mind to nutrition at all. I NEVER EXERCISED. I minimally did physical activity when I took my dog on walks. Man, that place was stressful. Realizing I was unhappy with my life, I decided to do something about it.

I landed a new job up in Baltimore May of this year- which was closer to my [boyfriend]. Another thing about being all the way in DC was that I never really got to see him. I would go 1-2 weeks at times without seeing him which contributed to me not being happy with where I was. There was a 2 week period of time before I started my new job. I had relatives from the Philippines that visited during that time period. I had a blast hanging out with them! We went everywhere and ate everything. Some days we ate out breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My cousins wanted to try American food, so that’s what we had- pizza, cheeseburgers, wings, fries, ice cream, fried, processed foods. I ate to my heart’s content.

I started orientation at my new job. One speaker was a representative of my hospital’s affiliated gym. The idea of joining the gym came into my mind but I never acted on it. They offered a pretty good deal. $60/month pre-taxed which came straight out of my paycheck. I didn’t think it was important enough to join. I then started on the floor. I continued my bad eating habits. Any nurse will tell you though that nurses are always offered the most unhealthy type of foods. Our break room always had free doughnuts, cookies, and pastries for us to get in some quick glucose. I always indulged. I found myself not as “stressed” out at my new job. I was at least getting some sort of satisfaction. I got to see James more often and I had a to-die for job. Happiness level up 65%.

Now here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. How did I get the inspiration to start my fitness journey?
I stepped on a scale for the first time in years. You see I’ve always floated around 113-114 (the last time I really looked was maybe 4 years ago). I stepped on a scale and found myself at 122.5. I literally was in shock. I never wanted to reach that number (especially with my height and size). I’ve never ever been in the 120’s. The scale was my worst enemy at that time. I then started looking at all my facebook photos from 2013 all the way back to high school. I was told by family members that I was starting to get “fat.” How do you think that made me feel? That was my biggest eye opener.

That day I stepped on the scale for the first time in years was the day I joined my gym.

My biggest motivator was my “Jammycakes.” He’s always been into fitness, weight lifting, and eating healthy. Back in my unhealthy days, I constantly ate fast food while he ate clean. I cried to him for what seemed like an hour about how self-conscious I was about my body. As any good bf would say, he always thought I was beautiful but he wanted to support me and make sure that I get on the right track. He taught me about strict calorie counting, macros, supplements, and clean eating. He shared his lifting regimen with me and taught me how to go about weight training. My gym also offered 5 face2face sessions which catered to me in developing a fitness regimen that worked for me. I also did my research. I found many fitness websites I liked (i.e, pinterest, youtube gurus) and educated myself on the “healthy lifestyle.”

The most important change in my life was eating clean. I found so much relief throwing out all the unhealthy foods in my fridge and pantry. Can you believe I filled 3 large trashbags?! How crazy is that? My entire kitchen was filled with processed food and junk food. I gave my kitchen new life with fresh veggies and fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs. I also started to weigh my food and keep a strict log on fitday.

What gave me motivation was the fact I set small goals for myself. In June, I told myself that I would weigh 110 by September. I reached that goal back in the 3rd week of August. My new goal is to get to 105 lbs, be able to do a pull up, and get to 25% body fat by the 2nd week of December. I’m getting there slowly but surely! My gym routine has changed quite a bit as well. At first I used to work out targeting multiple muscle groups. Now I concentrate on 1-2 muscle groups per workout and end it with a 45 minute cardio exercise. I am always looking for new exercises so I don’t get bored at the gym. I am starting to get back into spinning. Lucky for me, my gym offers a whole bunch of fitness classes which I plan on exploring.

Being that I work 75% nights and 25% days, it made it really challenging to fit in a workout. While I was still on orientation, I worked a lot of days so working out wasn’t really a problem. I work three 12 hours shifts a week. On dayshifts I work, I usually don’t work out since I’m exhausted. Nights make it more challenging. I REALLY push myself to keep active when this roadblock called nightshift gets in the way. The first night I work, I go to the gym right before work. This actually pumps me up and I’m wired for my shift. If I’m working the next night, I don’t work out. So basically, on 3 in a row night stretches what I usually do is workout right before work on the first night, rest the second night and third night, then workout after that stretch. If I have days off in between nightshifts, I try to do some sort of workout. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll go to the gym. Otherwise, I push myself to do a Jillian Michaels workout or P90x at home. At least it’s something right?

Nutritionally, I do a lot of food prep for my shifts. I weigh all my food and pre-prepare my meals for work making sure I have the proper macros. If I know I’m working 3 in a row, I usually will cook for that 3 day stretch. I’ll throw an extra chicken breast or 2 on the grill and just save it for lunch/dinner. I prepare my meals the night before work so it’s one thing I don’t have to worry about when I get home from a long day of work. Going into the break room is the hardest when you have doughnuts staring in your face. I always tell myself, “Be strong, Val.” I walk away and eat somewhere else. Lucky for me, my unit has 2 break rooms. I eat at the unpopular break room, where it’s quiet and peaceful and not a single pastry to be found 🙂

My biggest motivator is seeing results. I thrive on that. It makes me work harder. Everything I’ve been doing has been so worth it. Me 5 years ago would have never predicted me now. As a nurse, I promote a healthy lifestyle and I take care of people. It’s ironic that nurses teach patients about healthy lifestyles and preventative measures when they are constantly surrounded by the culprits that make life “unhealthy.” (i.e. the stress of working in a busy environment and the food offered in the break rooms and cafeteria). Diabetes runs on my Dad’s side of the family. At the rate I was going at 6 months ago, I was probably headed down that path. The earlier you take initiative to take control of your health and your life, the easier it gets to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The excuse I gave myself years ago on how I was “young” and eating bad was ok was a load of crap. I’m thankful I came to this realization.

For me, I feel so much happier. My work/life balance has never been so great. I feel happy, my mind is sharper, and I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. Who knew living a healthy lifestyle would be the culprit of that? 😉

Whether you are a nurse, work odd hours/night shifts, or just in need of a healthier lifestyle, I hope Val’s story has inspired you to at the very least make a choice in wanting to change.  I’ve said this before and will always say this, if you need any help at all, guidance/how to start/where to begin, please do not hesitate to email me. I will never charge anybody for coming to me for advice about making healthy changes to their lives.

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