That’s not who I am. I’m not mildly obese.
These thoughts raced through Nikolay Zuyev’s mind after an assessment from his primary care physician. As a registered nurse and graduate student at New York University, he didn’t like what he heard. And that dislike was exactly what kickstarted his health and wellness journey.
The “mildly obese” label was a call to action.
He decided to change his diet, first cutting down on the amount he would eat and substituting processed snacks with fruit. Then he cut out red meats, alcohol, chicken, and fish. It wasn’t long before Nikolay had made the full adjustment to a vegetarian diet.
The health benefits — namely weight loss and increased energy — followed. Over a span of four years, Nikolay lost 65 pounds.
It was a long process, and there were times when Nikolay says he wanted to return to his “comfort zone” of snacks and alcohol. But the health benefits he was experiencing from his new diet kept him motivated. He knew he wanted to continue feeling good, and going back to old ways would limit that.
Changing a Lifestyle
Nikolay says getting healthy isn’t just about the physical choices you make. It’s about your mindset. You have to train yourself to think differently.
For example, in modern American society, we’re engrained to believe you should eat everything that’s on your plate. That includes large portions and unhealthy ingredients. And most of us don’t discriminate between what’s good for us and what’s not. If it’s on our plates, we eat it.
But focusing on a healthy diet requires more observation and thought. It requires self-control and moderation. Every day, when faced with the societal “norm,” you must remind yourself that you feel better when you break the norm.
“I used to work in an office as a case manager. It was hard to resist the potlucks, donuts, pizza, and sandwiches,” said Nikolay. “But now that I’m a visiting home health nurse, I’m in my own silo and don’t have to be around the temptation as much.”
Not only has drastic weight loss changed Nikolay’s life, but his approach to patient care has changed, too. First, he observes the dietary aspects of the patient’s life, then he shares what he’s learned from his own successes and challenges.
“When I go to patient’s house and get to know them, I see that almost every patient has some kind of dietary problem,” said Nikolay. “Not enough attention is paid to diet in terms of the relationship between health and diet. A lot of our health has to do with what we eat.”
While Nikolay has seen great success from his diet alterations, it hasn’t been without challenges. He witnesses other nurses facing similar challenges when it comes to health and wellness. Learned through his own experiences, he urges other nurses to:
- Take at least 5 minutes for yourself every day.
- Educate yourself, especially when it comes to a weight loss goal. Information is power, and it can help change the way you think and do certain things.
- You have to start somewhere. Decide what you really want to do, find the information you need, and do it.
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