So often patients and families bring food as expressions of gratitude to the staff who cared for them. I remember circling back for “just one more”. I would feel sad as the number of goodies in the box dwindled, and wondered if others noticed how much I was taking. I also remember celebrating the end of a rough shift by sharing stories with colleagues while mindlessly eating. The next day I’d feel tired and a little hung over without even a drop of alcohol.
Over the years I put on weight and took it off again and again. As I got older, it got harder to take it off. For years nursing journals have been writing about nursing and obesity. The latest issue of The American Nurse notes that nurses, like the rest of the population, also experience being overweight and obese.
Nurses are at increased risk for illnesses related to stress due to the highly complex nature of their work, the huge responsibilities they shoulder, challenging work schedules, lack of sleep and the difficulty of getting healthy food on worksites. There is also increased risk of injury due to “the sheer physicality of the job which can make nurses inclined to eat more and exercise less.” To top it off: when nurses are overweight, our credibility drops in the eyes of our patients because we are obviously not walking our talk. You may prescribe a 12 step program for substance abusers, but did you realize food can be abused too?
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
What you think influences how you perceive the world. Since Self love is the most important gift you can give yourself (and everyone else), what is Self love and what are your barriers to it? For years I ate compulsively as a solution to problems and difficult feelings. I used eating to celebrate, to mourn, to avoid, to manage resentments, and to pause. Eating foods that were fast and easy felt like Self love until I realized that style of eating actually created barriers to feeling. Connecting to others, clear thinking, being honest with myself and other people and even effective action were all difficult when I used excess food for Self love.
The literature and studies send us to all sorts of websites that address the physical and emotional aspects of unhealthy eating. When I found the 12 step program of Overeaters Anonymous, the spiritual dimension to the mental and physical aspects of poor eating habits made my solution blossom. Over the years I have developed the wisdom to use food as medicine, or as fuel to operate my body. Good nutrition enables me to strengthen qualities that support being a loving presence personally and professionally. Where I work, the food served is often not healthy for me. Choosing what I put into my mouth and knowing why has strengthened my connection to a deeper part of myself and has reduced barriers I had to love.
I experience Self love in being thoughtful about what I eat. I am more tolerant and understanding of others and their choices. I have greater clarity and focus for practical and useful solutions that enable me to provide better patient care. I am a better teammate and colleague at work and a more loving mom.
This journey has benefited my patients, employers and family.
The 12 step program of recovery provides a healing community of anonymous peers, which adds to the effectiveness of all of the tools that can be used to create better eating habits.
Do you use food for comfort, for relief, for managing stress, or for pausing?
Do you have a healthy body weight? What do you do with your resentments and anger? Have you noticed that how you care for yourself influences the way you care for others?