Karla Rodriguez, DNP, CNE, RN
As nurses, I like to think we realize that there is a strong relationship between lifestyle and health. I have been a registered nurse since 1999, and yet, I have seen a surge in chronic health conditions, all of which, for the most part, can be prevented with dietary approaches. Although there were good intentions, it did not help that when I was a bedside nurse, we would always receive treats or foods from the patient's family or compliments from the hospital that were not necessarily healthy for me.
I always dealt with weight issues growing up (my highest weight was 160 pounds) and I know that I would have already been on my way to becoming a diabetic along with cardiac problems since I have a family history of that. In 2014, I had a gallbladder attack and a cholecystectomy was warranted. I was vegan at that time, but again, I was consuming processed vegan foods which were not healthy for me. Luckily, this was a warning call to make a change in my lifestyle habits as I still wanted to continue being vegan and I was now entering a phase where I was staying vegan for ethical reasons as well.
I tried all types of diets in the past and ended up sustaining on a plant-based diet to date. I was a vegan on and off before becoming plant-based and the difference is "vegan" foods can also consist of processed foods devoid of animal products, such as diet soda and Oreo cookies. I found that there can be just as much junk foods in the vegan family as well. I switched to plant-based which consists of potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables where minimal oils are used. I found that what works for me is to consume a plant-based diet which minimizes use of oils, sugar, and salt. It involved a reprogramming of my taste buds as I had a proclivity for sweets and foods with oils.
As an educator, we speak about patient education and how lifestyle is a major role player in taking care of oneself. I acknowledge that there is more than one dietary approach for everyone based on preference. I found that a plant-based diet works for me as I have luckily been able to sustain my weight with a 40 pound weight loss along with getting to the root of the cause of my proclivity for high processed foods. Incorporating a lifestyle of yoga, exercise, and meditation also helped me become a more productive person.
Karla Rodriguez, DNP, CNE, RN is a Clinical Assistant professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing in New York, NY.
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