As the New Year is upon us many of us women doctors are gathering our thoughts and writing resolutions for 2019. I hope one of your goals will include making your own health, fitness and wellness a priority if you haven’t already done so.

Outside of being a practicing emergency physician I am also an online health, fitness and nutrition coach to busy, professional women. I stumbled upon coaching after embarking on my own fitness journey which helped me banish 35 lbs of pregnancy weight for good and feel my strongest in over 10 years.

Many of the ladies I work with are also mothers and lead very hectic lives juggling work and family life too. But what I have seen time and time again is that if we don’t take time for ourselves to fill our own cups then we burn out, feel unappreciated and resentful and deplete ourselves of the vitality and healing energy we are trying to give to others.

Here are NINE TIPS that I share with busy women doctors to help them incorporate fitness and wellness into their lives and make it a lifestyle for good.

  • Stop feeling guilty about self-care. It’s okay to work out, attend hot yoga, prepare healthy meals, or go get a massage. You deserve it and the goal should be to fill your cup so much so that you give from the overflow.  Your patients will be so much better off being cared for a by a doctor who is rested and happy and overall takes time for her own wellness. And so will your family. I love this quote by Joyce Meyer, “I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.” Think about it. When you are healthy and feeling your best, you are an asset to your family, patients and community as opposed to a liability who needs to be taken care of by others.
  • Have a healthy outlet for stress. Working in healthcare is stressful; there is no doubt about it. Between saving lives, following protocols and keeping patients and their family members happy, we leave work a bundle of stress. We all know some people in healthcare turn to alcohol, smoking, drugs or even food to manage their stress. But none of those are healthy or productive ways to manage stress. For me, exercise is my go-to stress reliever. It gives you a natural high and has wonderful side effects for your waistline, strength and stamina. Try to find a type of exercise that you enjoy and relieves stress.
  • Get an accountability partner or join a group of other women working on their fitness. As women we are naturally drawn to being in groups and collaborating with others. Also, we tend to stay more committed if we know that someone else is counting on us to show up. For example, if you promised to go to party and pick up your friend, you are not likely to back out no matter how tired you are when Saturday night rolls around only because you had told your friend you would pick her up.
  • Have a plan to follow and set specific goals. When it comes to fitness and nutrition, I can’t tell you how many people I see just winging it. Signing up for a gym membership or buying workout DVDS is not enough. Decide on what your specific goals are (I will lose 10 pounds by Feb 1. I will get back into my size 6 jeans by Spring Break) and chose a workout and nutrition plan to help you achieve those goals. Without a plan you will feel lost. Decide how many days a week you will you work out? For how long? What exercises will you do? What time of day will you work out? If your work schedule is variable, schedule your work outs in your calendar at the beginning of the week. And make sure you keep those appointments with yourself. They are as important as the ones you make for patients!
  • Start doing home workouts.  I love home workouts because they save me time and money. Also with my odd schedule, I used to miss my favorite group workouts at the gym. Or the gym wasn’t even open when I was able to schedule my work out. (Super early or super late at night.) Furthermore, as a mother of two, getting to the gym and to my workout was sometimes a production. Sometimes the kids wouldn’t want to go into the gym daycare, and I often felt bad dragging them there leaving them with daycare staff I didn’t even know. The home workouts I follow come with a specific workout calendar so that I don’t have to come up with a plan myself. And once I started following the workout plan I started seeing way better results compared to the haphazard plan I devised for myself on the spot at the gym. The workouts themselves were pretty short, 20-30 minutes long, and in the time it took me and my kids to get to the gym and back I could have my workout completed. 
  • Nutrition matters more than working out. We often think that getting more movement in is all it takes to lose weight or get in shape. Experts say 80% of your results actually come from your nutrition and what you are putting in your mouth. Also its easy to overestimate our calorie burn from exercise and underestimate the number of calories that we are eating. So be sure you have a nutrition plan to follow. Whatever nutrition plan you decide on make sure its one that you can stick with for life. Ask yourself can I really go the rest of my life without ever eating a carb again, or keep on the keto diet forever? Am I someone who can intermittently fast for the rest of my life? (I know I can’t because I get hangry very easily.) Also make sure you are addressing the emotional side of eating and weight loss. Do you eat to fill a void? Do you stress or emotional eat? How do you react when your food portions or food options are limited? Without addressing those issues, it’s difficult to achieve the results you are hoping for at least for the long term. Remember food is fuel and nourishment, not comfort or a reward for making it through a stressful day. Focus on the quality of the foods you are eating and giving the cells of your body dense nutrition.
  • Make this a lifestyle, not a quick fix. I don’t need to tell you women doctors that its all about making long term healthy lifestyle changes. There are no quick fixes. Extreme, short-term diets and fads don’t give you long term results. And yo-yo dieting usually results in gaining MORE weight in the long term and also creates an unhealthy relationship with food. Whatever nutrition plan you chose to follow look at after results from 1 or 2 years out. Did the people who followed that particular plan maintain their results for 1-2 years or more? If they gained back the weight and then some after 6 months, that should be a sign that it’s not the plan for you. Ask yourself what you need to do to make sustainable changes. The answer is not going to be something extreme. Also ask yourself if you are the type of person who likes to make small step wise changes instead of a complete overhaul.
  • Put some pants on. Some of us wear scrubs to work every day, but don’t wear them or yoga pants on your day off too. On your days off be sure to put some pants or jeans on. Zipping up and buttoning pants are a great way to monitor yourself and check to see if you are putting on inches. Scrubs hide a lot and the waist expands so we can get really comfortable in them and not even notice that we are gaining inches.
  • Sleep more and drink more water.  Many of us women doctors run on little sleep. But in 2019, let’s make getting more sleep a priority. You will feel happier and will also notice better results with your new fitness and nutrition plan. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to higher cortisol levels and cause you to carry extra weight. Also be sure to always keep a water bottle with you and hydrate all day long. When you feel your energy slump instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, drink 10 ounces of water and see how you feel. Also, drinking more water especially before meals will help you curb your appetite and help you see better results along your journey.

I hope you have found these tips useful!

If you need help finding a fitness or nutrition plan to reach your health and fitness goals or are looking for a fitness accountability group to be a part of, reach out to me by going to my website and filling out this form .

Archana Shrestha, MD is a practicing emergency physician in Chicago. She is coauthor of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” and Cofounder of WomenInWhiteCoats.com. She is also an online health and fitness coach. Her healthy living lifestyle blog can be found at MightyMomMD.com and she can be followed on Instagram @MightyMomMD

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