Denise Norris, RN

Exercise and plant-based diet helps nurse shed 235 pounds.
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"It’s a journey." That’s what Denise says about her health and wellness changes over the past few years. She’s certainly come a long way on this journey.

Back in 2011, Denise reached a breaking point. She wasn’t happy with herself. Getting through the day was exhausting. She was overweight and unhealthy. She didn’t want to live like that anymore.

So she pulled the trigger: She joined Weight Watchers. She chose the program because it offered the support she needed to stay on track.

Within a few months, her terrible heartburn went away. Her blood pressure improved. And the weight started coming off.

Seeing these wins gave Denise the motivation to do more. She decided to cut out processed foods, which eliminated her migraines. She went on walks with her high-energy dog, eventually building up to 8 miles a day.

Hitting (and Overcoming) the Plateau
Soon enough, Denise went through a 6-month weight loss plateau. Her habits were helping her maintain her weight, but she wasn’t losing any more. To see progress, she had to make another change.

That’s when a friend suggested she switch to a plant-based diet.

“I thought the foods would be disgusting, but they were actually really good,” said Denise. “I cut out all animal products and sugar. I lost 16 pounds in the first month and had so much energy.”

Since 2011, Denise has lost a total of 235 pounds and continues to live a healthy lifestyle.

Hitting the Bumps in the Road
Denise has seen much success with her lifestyle changes, but success doesn’t come without challenges. Her mind played tricks on her like feeling overweight despite extraordinary weight loss. She’s dealt with binge-eating, thinking, “If this is where I’m going to be, I might as well treat myself.”

At one point, she even regained 30 pounds. But she got back on track.

“I had to learn to be happy in my journey, to be happy along the way,” said Denise, “instead of only finding happiness in the end goal.”

A Lifestyle and Career Transformation
Prior to changing her lifestyle and losing weight, Denise wasn’t a nurse. Getting healthy motivated her to go to nursing school and help others get well.

Now she’s a health coach, too. Both at her nursing job and as a health coach, Denise tries to motivate others with her story.

“I see people coming in for a heart catheterization, and I tell them, ‘it doesn’t have to be this way,’” she said. “I plant the seed and show my before-and-after photos, which are really powerful.”

She’s even helped educate patients and coworkers on her plant-based diet, sharing delicious recipes and offering advice.

“I always tell people, focus on adding in the good stuff,” said Denise. “Do more than you did yesterday, add in more good, and eventually if you keep doing that, it’ll crowd out the bad.”

Denise Norris is a plant-powered RN and health coach. She works as an RN at Reid Health in Richmond, IN.

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Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on May 15, 2019 10:10 AM CDT

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Hi Nurse Hill,

Elizabeth gave you a great response and told you most of the things I would've suggested.  I would also add that Forks Over Knives has an app with recipes, meal planner and grocery list.  The most important thing I would say to you is to not focus on what you shouldn't eat anymore (animal products, processed foods, sugar, soda, etc.) but to focus on adding in the good stuff (fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, etc.).  Be patient with yourself and just try and do a little better each day.  Eventually it will add up to Big Changes! 
  • Posted Fri 17 May 2019 06:39 PM CDT
Hi there, congratulations, Ms. Norris, I practice a whole food plant-based (WFPB) way of eating and speak of its health benefits daily.  Nurse Hill, I support you in your desire for a lifestyle change.  I recommend Forks Over Knives - the film - I believe it is on Netflix or Amazon Prime. There are multiple resources on the web. There is an app you can download from Dr. Michael Gregor's nutrition fats.org called the daily dozen.  For individuals who want to reverse chronic disease like HTN or Type 2 diabetes, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn advocates a whole food plant based diet - with no sugar, salt, or added oil.  His son Rip wrote the engine two diet, and "My Beef with Meat."
WFPB seems restrictive at first; however, the further away you get from these empty calories, the more your palate will adjust.  Dr. Esselstyn and others ask us to eliminate added oil because it is calorie dense - not nutrient dense. Aso avoid nuts, nut butter, and dried fruit because they also are calorie dense.  Eat the olive, not the olive oil! Processed and refined foods are minimized in this way of eating.  You can google whole food plant-based recipes, "power bowls," "overnight oats," etc.  There are facebook support groups for forks over knives and whole food plant-based lifestyle, which I find helpful and very supportive.  Also, look up/search Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Gregor, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Colin Campbell, and Dr. Kim Williams. They are on youtube and there plenty of podcasts on food as medicine and how to use food to heal and get well.  One of my favorite meals is a roasted sweet potato with fruit salsa on top. I can answer some questions you have, this is my passion.
 
  • Posted Fri 17 May 2019 03:24 PM CDT
The plant based diet by Denise Norris is so inspiring. I need all the help I can get. Please share with me how to get started.I need to break away from the hot cakes and sausage routine. I'd welcome meal plans, receipes, whatever. I need to drop 100 lbs and get my blood pressure and life under control.

Nurse Hill
  • Posted Fri 17 May 2019 07:47 AM CDT

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