Lataya De Jesus, BSN, DNPS
Nurse uses a plant-based diet and daily exercise to set an example
Every nurse is a personal example to their patients, whether they want to be or not.
That’s one of the motivators for Lataya De Jesus, BSN, DNPS, as she pursues healthy lifestyle choices every day. A relationship with God, nutrition, physical activity, and sleep form the foundation of health and wellness for Lataya and her family.
Her journey with food has evolved over the years, first beginning as a pescatarian (fish but no other meats), then moving to a vegetarian diet (no meat or fish) for a few months. As Lataya grew spiritually and became a Seventh-day Adventist (a Christian denomination known for practicing a healthier lifestyle), she made the move to a vegan, whole foods, plant-based diet (no animal products or processed foods) which she still follows today. Her go-to meals and snacks include:
- Soups with lentils and split peas
- Vegetables like brussels sprouts and zucchini
- Fruits like berries and mangoes
Lataya genuinely enjoys this lifestyle and has even shared its benefits with her children. The family often cooks meals using ingredients from their home-grown garden, where she uses vegan fertilizer. Her older children, who are learning to cook, love to pick fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the garden and help create a healthy meal.
After years of practicing a vegan diet, Lataya notices the health benefits. Her mental health and clarity improved, and her physical endurance and strength increased. The diet has also helped strengthen her immune system— she hasn’t gotten sick since transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.
Exercise for Health
Lataya also prioritizes plenty of physical activity. She and her family set aside Sunday mornings for a group workout for about an hour. The family spends time together outside, jumping rope, swimming in the pool, or doing strength/resistance exercises. In the evenings, the family goes back outside to play volleyball, dodgeball, or other heart-pumping games.
“We’ve had a lot of sedentary time because of COVID-19, being stuck inside doing schoolwork on the computer,” said Lataya. “We really try to get outside and get moving whenever we can.”
In addition to her family workouts, Lataya exercises on her own in the evenings at least twice a week.
Despite the positive lifestyle habits Lataya practices with her family, there are challenges and temptations. Her biggest challenge is time management. Lataya’s kids are currently homeschooled, and the youngest need a lot of one-on-one help to get the schoolwork done. And since Lataya herself is pursuing an advanced degree, she’s got her own schoolwork to get done, too. That takes time away from exercise and other self-care activities.
Lataya combats the time management challenge with prayer and an organized schedule.
“Prayer allows me to seek God’s guidance in my daily activities and refocuses my attention to the things that are the greatest priority: my health,” said Lataya. “And if I schedule things, they’re more likely to get done on time,” said Lataya. “Having it all written down helps.”
As part of maintaining an organized schedule, Lataya does her best to prepare in advance when possible. For example, when she knows she’s on the docket to cook dinner, she meal preps in advance. She also follows a cut-off time for schoolwork — that means by a certain time each day, Lataya closes her computer and turns her attention to other activities. That includes getting to bed at a decent time to ensure a full night’s rest.
Despite the hurdles in time management, Lataya keeps her motivations top-of-mind. The first motivator is her health. From her understanding of biblical principles, she knows that God wishes “above all things that [she] may… be in [good] health,” 3 John 1:2. Her health has drastically improved since changing her lifestyle for the better.
The next motivator is her children, since she knows she’s setting an example for them. Lastly, but not least, Lataya thinks of her patients, who also see her as an example of how healthy choices can create positive results.
As one of the most trusted professions, nurses have a great deal of influence over their patients. When it comes to setting an example through healthy living, Lataya recommends:
- Making your health a priority: You’ve got to take better care of yourself — and not feel guilty about it.
- Finding the right balance: You only have so much time in the day to focus on you. Figure out what works best for your schedule and your family.
- Including your family in wellness: You and your family are a team. Having this support system (and creating an environment of wellness for them in addition to yourself) reminds you that you’re not doing it alone. You are in this together.
- Creating a plan and committing to it: Make rules for yourself and stick to them. For example, it’s easy to lose track of time, so schedule a time limit for using electronics on activities not related to work.
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