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'I don’t see how I can diet while training to be a nurse'


Can you advise this student nurse?

“I’ve always been big but since starting my nursing course a year ago I’ve really let things go. I recently worked out my BMI and it’s 32 – making me officially obese.

“I’m well aware that the reason I’ve put on weight is my poor diet and lack of exercise but I just don’t feel I have any control over my lifestyle anymore.

“I eat crisps on placement because I don’t have time to sit down and eat a proper meal and then when I get home I’m just too tired to cook and it’s so much more tempting to put a pizza in the oven than faff around making a salad.

“As for exercise - where’s the time? When I’m not working, on placement, revising, writing essays or attending lectures, I need to just chill out.

“Does anyone have any tips for taking back control?”

- Anna, Devon


Please use the comments section below to share your advice

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Readers' comments (7)

  • Unfortunately, losing weight is about hard work. Whether it's making a salad instead of chucking a pizza in, you have to be strict with yourself. I'm about the same BMI as you, if not higher, so I have a lot of sympathy.

    The good thing is that as you are so active on placement, changing your diet should be enough to start the weight loss. Or maybe see if you can fit a walk in on a day off. Or the usual stuff people say like park further away or get off the bus a stop early. I completely understand if this isn't feasible with your workload, but at least work hard on the diet side of things. And I don't mean restrict your calories a stupid amount, but eat healthily. Or use your days off to bulk cook and freeze healthy meals, and just don't buy pizza and crisps. I rarely buy them at all, and if I don't have them, I can't eat them.

    Good luck, I hope at least some of this has helped.

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  • I gained a lot of weight starting my nurse training but I've been influenced by my previous mentor who didn't eat anything but healthy that really motivated me because if a nurse can do it you can as well. I think it all comes down to determination. I feel more exhausted if I don't have breakfast before attending my placement. Take some fruit with you or make a salad ready to go the day before placement (organisation is key here). I tend to pack my lunch and my dinner (if im doing a 12 hour shift) the day before, it really helps to plan ahead of what you want to eat obviously make sure they are healthy choices. The quickest thing to do is a salad for lunch some yoghurt and a banana which would give you a bit more energy to pull through the day than crisps. I try to drink lots of water as well which keeps me hydrated and makes me less tired. I know coke is tempting but try and cut out the coke and other fizzy drinks because that makes you feel sluggish faster than drinking water. Hope that helps.

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  • I have been doing slimming world for 2 years following a drs referral. I love it, It's really not a fad and it fits in with my life. Needless to say a bereavement and uni took it's toll and i've gained 10 pounds in 12 months but really if i wasn't at SW it would be sooo much harder!!

    I've found that I need to be in the zone - you need to WANT to lose weight, I've had weeks i've attended group and I just didn't have it in me, but I was able to control my gains.

    I love going to group, they've helped me through the lowest of times. And im powered to get my next sticker!! It also pushes me to exercise - i try to do 3 lots of half an hour which I dont think is a great deal to give.

    Good luck, it's hard work but theres no quick fix. Obviously SW might not be for you but for me it fits in my life and has changed my eating regime :).

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  • Katie Sutton

    Like others have said, it isn't easy, but the good news is, it is doable, with willpower and preparation! I lost most of my weight (6st of the 6.5st that I've lost in total) before starting my nursing course, by following the Slimming World ExtraEasy plan, and I've kept it off the same way. If you can prepare meals in advance and stick them in the freezer to heat up on placement, or take soup in a Thermos, and stock up on snacks like low calorie cereal bars (Alpen Lights are often two boxes for £3 in supermarkets!) and fruit (Morrisons are great for budget bags of fruit/veg!) - the hardest thing of all is saying "no" when someone offers you biscuits and cakes! I fell down that trap at Christmas last year, and put on half a stone again, but (six months after finishing the placement…!) I'm back on track to shifting it again, by sticking to Slimming World.

    You don't need to pay to go to classes to do SW either, if you can't afford it - there's lots of info freely available on the internet about how much you can eat of what kinds of foods, or you can get the books that people have finished with on eBay :)

    Good luck!

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  • Edward Freshwater

    Cycle! It's the only thing keeping me healthy.

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  • 1. Please don't 'go on a diet’, they’re snake oil. Like political careers, all diets end in failure. You will gain weight long term if you 'go on a diet'. The question is 'what happens at the end of the diet?' (the answer is: 'you gain even more weight' because when you mess with your metabolism's homeostatic mechanisms, you either slow down your metabolic rate (and feel lousy) to preserve calories, or eat voraciously to return to your personal caloric status quo. Diets may win you beauty contests but have nothing to do with health (20% of the obese pop. have perfectly healthy biomarkers and will live a long, healthy life; 40% of the BMI-normal population are insulin resistant, 20% are likely to be carrying visceral fat and will either die early or suffer multiple long term conditions in later life (but the NHS will do a grand, unaffordable job in keeping them alive to savour their illnesses for years).

    2. A 'calorie is a calorie' is arrant nonsense. Adopt a paradigm of permanent, good nutrition: eliminate lethal calories: sugar and refined carbs from your eating habits ( 8g fibre per 100g of carbs). Eat whole fruit, not juices or smoothies which mechanically destroy the fibre, causing it to lose its utility. This is important because it’s the fibre that speeds the movement of food through the gut to the small intestine, where it triggers the satiety signal. Also, without the coating fibre provides around the stomach lining during digestion, we get a large hit of glucose and fructose. The glucose will cause a large hit of insulin, leading to fat retention, insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease. The fructose flies under the insulin's radar, causes a disruption of the body's satiety mechanism and you fail to 'register' the calories, so inadvertently you eat more than you need. And sugar is addictive, great for Big Food and its profits, not good for you. Rx: whole grain rice, whole wheat spaghetti, bread made from 100% stoneground wholewheat flour (sorry, potatoes are refined carbs, they’re used for fattening pigs and they’re completely out, well maybe once a year). Be prepared to fart a lot (we fart about 15 times a day anyway, we’re nurses, who cares? You’ll live, literally.)

    3. Avoid low-fat diets like the plague. If you are eating food with its fibre, fats won't make you fat and they won't make you ill (now that we've eliminated industrial trans fats). The Masai live exclusively on fatty meat, milk and blood. The Inuit eat nothing but meat groaning in fats: seal and whale, complete with lots if blubber. Both populations have infinitely better biomarkers than us, and virtually none of the metabolic syndrome diseases of the West. The low-fat diet is the confidence trick of the age. Guess what got put into processed foods to replace the fat in order to make crap seem palatable? Low fat diets are particularly lethal for women, because their HDL goes down.

    4. The NHS is a toxic nutritional wasteland so avoid any food that is sold at work (and whatever you do, don't eat the patients' food, as if you would - it's particularly cheap, nasty and lethal). Avoid any food sold in public places unless you really know its provenance, because it is likely to be groaning in sugar (metabolic syndrome) and salt (stroke, gastric cancer) and will kill you. There really is no such thing as a free lunch: buy and prepare your own food according to sound nutritional principles; make your own lunch and bring it to work.

    5. Alcohol (ethanol) is a problem. Unlike carbs, the liver can’t store ethanol as harmless glycogen (liver starch). What the liver can’t send to the mitochondria for energy, it turns into liver fat. Long term ethanol use can cause fatty liver disease, cardiomyopathy, oh the joy is endless. Remember it is visceral fat that makes you sick, not subcutaneous fat. Recent work suggests that the public health advice out there about drinking limits may be overdosing us and that even light to moderate drinking is a risky behaviour. As well as being addictive, it’s culturally problematic to eliminate drinking if it is already part of your social life, so do what you can.

    6. Exercising at the amounts prescribed by public health peeps will cause you to merely lose a couple of pounds, so for obese people it is fairly irrelevant to weight loss but relevant to general health in ways I don’t need to rehearse here (cancer, dementia etc etc). It may help with weight stabilisation, in that we consume most calories through our resting metabolic rate, and exercise raises it. Do exercise but don’t expect to lose appreciable amounts of weight by doing so. If you want to develop a targeted OCD around spending several hours a day in the gym, you might get to lose 4 pounds. Fill your boots.

    7. Stay strong and don’t listen to pig-ignorant comments about there being some direct relationship between calories in and calories out, or accusations of gluttony and sloth. These comments usually come from smug people with normal BMIs who have no idea that they may be carrying visceral fat and that they are eating in ways which will make them sick in later life. Did an entire generation suddenly decide to eat to obesity? Why are so many poor people overweight?

    8. Remember obesity has a genetic component and that the luck-of-the-DNA-draw dictates your body-type. If you eat to sound nutritional principles, and let go of calorie reduction (and if you don’t, naivety will meet the complex awesomeness of the endocrine system, and lose) you will shed the visceral fat that will eventually make you sick, and you will feel great. You will also feel happy because your life does not revolve around the misery of stupid calorie reduction. You may or may not lose weight. You are loved for the content of your character by family, friends and your current squeeze, not the content of your fat cells.

    9. Be prepared to seem a bit weird to your family, friends and colleagues. This will be the biggest challenge of all (‘go on, have a chip/another glass of wine/doughnut, it’s a treat, just one’). We live in a toxic wasteland and the current zeitgeist operates from an erroneous paradigm of gluttony versus calorie control and sloth versus treadmill purgatory. It is our responsibility apparently to navigate it, nothing to do with government or reining in Big Food and its tawdry adulteration of food.

    So, anyway, I’ve no idea how you lose weight :-)

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  • I know on days off theres a million and one things to do, but maybe try and fit some exercise in. A little bit here and there and it will soon become a routine, maybe during a break from essays?

    As for food during placement pack healthy and for after placement I struggled with this but on your days off make healthy food whilst preparing tea that you can slam in the microwave for a few minutes when you get home :)

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