Weight & Mind Management on a Nursing Conference Trip
This week, my hospital graciously supported my attendance in this year’s annual ANCC Magnet Conference in Denver, CO. This was my first time attending a nursing conference in a little over a year, so I was very excited to attend! In case you are not familiar with Magnet, the process of attaining “Magnet Status” at a hospital is like getting exceptional reviews (basically 5-stars) on Yelp for providing excellent nursing care, and being recognized for it. The Annual Magnet Conference is where hospitals are celebrated for attaining Magnet status, and also where nurses from all around the world share their programs, tools, and research with others to help improve nursing practice and promote nursing excellence.
My hospital is in the process of attaining Magnet Status (woo!), so it was a great experience attending this year’s conference with so many of my co-workers. All of us work hard on our unit to enhance practice, promote patient safety, and improve nurse satisfaction.
I love going to conferences because I get to learn what other nurses are creating and implementing to make the world a better place, for both their patients AND their nursing staff. I also love going to conferences to have a moment to reflect on our current nursing practices and to gather ideas that I can bring back to the unit.
But with every conference comes a few challenges that can make weight loss & mind management a tad tricky. Because conferences last a few days in a city that is typically out of state, I personally face the following obstacles:
The discomfort of being out of my daily routine
Constantly deciding what food to eat and not to eat
Constantly deciding if I should workout or not
Lack of sleep due to being in a different environment
Deciding if I should do what is “acceptable” to “fit in”
Everywhere I turned, there was literally food, snacks, and drinks offered. There was also a huge welcoming ceremony with drinks and food stations just like this:
Firstly, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have an urge to eat these foods. It was a very unique experience for me to come into a nursing conference with the intention of not eating all the things. In the past several years of attending conferences (I’ve been attending nursing conferences since I was a new grad in 2011!), I realized that I never set intentional limits on my eating at those events. I do make it a habit to work out whenever I am traveling; working out is not difficult for me to commit to when I’m away from home.
However, this was my first time coming into a conference with an intentional eating plan to keep both my workout routine AND my eating habits in alignment with my weight loss goal (which was to NOT gain weight on this trip!). I learned that I still had urges to eat the appetizers in front of me and that I was fighting/resisting those urges. Resistance against food is a fight you will never win in the long run.
Secondly, I was uncomfortable with being “different”. I learned that this is still something I struggle with (which I did not know!), and that this was an opportunity for me to see that I sacrifice my intentional eating plan to avoid the discomfort of being “different”. I say this because I had lunch with a group of my nursing colleagues after I had not eaten food for probably 22 hours (yes, 22 hours). I was very hungry at this point (as you can imagine) and I went into the restaurant with a plan of eating meat, veggies, and fat (my typical meal).
We were a large group, however, and I did not want to “trouble the group” with my different meal choice. Especially because we were in an Italian restaurant were many meals were high-carb and low-protein. As a result, I completely ditched my intention to eat meat, veggies, and fat and decided to eat pasta instead.
A learning opportunity.
So, what did I do to manage my complaining/whining/pushy brain during these times? I used the following strategies to help me stay intentional with my eating AND keep my weight loss goal in sight/.
Eat only when you’re hungry. Stop eating when you’re full.
Everyone has a “hunger scale” that is unique to them. Get to know what if feels like for you when you’re truly hungry, and what that feels like for you when you are truly full. Look into your stomach first before paying attention to your brain chatter. If you take a minute to stop and pay attention to your stomach instead of your brain telling you to eat, you will actually realize that you are full and don’t need to eat.
Accept your mistakes. Learn from them. Move on.
I learned that I still feel like I am “missing out” if I am not eating the #1 Yelp recommended meal, or if I am not eating dessert that everyone else is eating. So I still ate at times when I didn’t intend to (particularly when I was eating in a group setting or in a party). This is amazing to know because now I know how to prepare for this in the future!
Let the sucky feelings in.
It sucked to not eat the donut holes with chocolate, sprinkles, and coconut flakes. It sucked to not eat the warm, crispy churros that were fresh from the kitchen. But I let the sucky feelings in. I allowed myself to feel them, as if I were wearing a heavy purse. I described the physical sensation of the “suckiness” in my body — where it was located, what color it was, what texture it was, temperature, texture, and more. I described the sensations as detailed as possible so I could know it, feel it, process it, and allow it. Without the fight, the “suckiness” passed through my body on its own.
Be willing to be different.
I had to ask myself so many times a great question that helped me make decisions from my evolved, planning brain (not my reactive, caveman brain that wants to eat everything!). When I wanted to eat off-plan, I asked myself this: “Who do I want to be at this moment?” Do I want to be someone who does not gain weight on a nursing conference trip? If so, how do I think, feel, and act to be that person? This question was a game changer for me and helped me stay focused, intentional, and deliberate on this trip.
I’m so glad I went on this trip. Not only did I get to celebrate with my fellow nurses and learn from so many amazing people, but I learned so much about myself. I learned that weight loss challenges will always be there, no matter how much weight you have lost or how many years you have kept the weight off. BUT with consistent mind care, a genuine interest in learning, and compassion for yourself, you CAN and WILL be able to lose the weight and keep the weight off for good.
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