Skin Deep: Mind Shift

As I ended the last post in this series I had recently embarked on a path to a career change from educator to nurse. After completing my pre-requisite classes in the spring of 2004 I was accepted into a two year Associate’s Degree Nursing program at Springfield Technical Community College. For clarification I am an RN. At the end of nursing school, Associate’s trained and Bachelor’s trained nurses all take the same licensing exam, the NCLEX, and obtain the same RN license. There is generally no difference in pay as a hospital floor nurse. However, without the BSN it is difficult to move into managerial or administrative positions. I decided that since I already had Bachelor’s Degrees and zero interest in management I would save the money and just do the ADN.

In the fall of 2004 the program began. I was accepted into the evening program with class  from 5pm-9pm. This allowed me to continue working during the day. Cramming a nursing degree into 2 years meant getting off to a running start. Weight wise I was in the 170s which had come to be my baseline. I wore a size 14. I didn’t feel great, but I was used to being this size. This was probably my most common size since age 15. The first semester of nursing school I maintained a vigorous workout routine along with work and classes. My weight probably went from high 170s to low 170s possibly even high 160s. I felt great as long as the numbers on the scale went down. A couple of people I knew in my prerequisite classes noticed the change and commented. Of course that made me feel wonderful, but as usual the feeling was fleeting.

By second semester I had formed a study group with two other women in my class. We became great friends and spent long hours studying in the Barnes & Noble (Starbucks) cafe. A tip for anyone in school, you can spend all day using any study guide at Barnes & Noble. You do not have to buy anything and they will not kick you out! However, I did buy things like lattes and muffins. If you frequent Starbucks and are trying to lose weight do yourself a favor and check out the nutritional values of their products. It’s astonishing. I hadn’t enlightened myself to this information so between the study snacks, my already not so healthy diet, and less time to exercise my weight crept up.

Nursing school was busy and stressful. My program was very competitive and keeping my grades as high as possible was crucial to success. Clinical days were wrought with anxiety of the unknown. This was all unchartered territory for me. I was way outside my comfort zone. My weight fluctuated with these emotions and back into the high 170s I went.

Upon returning to school in fall 2005 after our summer break I had not made any progress in losing weight despite my daily affirmations that today was the day. I had hoped to return to school transformed like a winning contestant on the Biggest Loser, but I returned as the same old, heavy set, awkward, uncomfortable me. Two of my classmates, however, did make stunning transformations over the summer break. They lost a great deal of weight and looked fantastic. I remember congratulating them through gritted teeth. Jealousy coursed through my veins with an angry vengeance. When would I be the one to lose the weight? Why can’t I do it? What’s wrong with me? These were just a few of the thoughts that ran through my mind.

My second year in nursing school was an emotional roller coaster. Classes and clinical were much more difficult. I worked two part-time jobs and did internships during the summer break and winter break between fall and spring semesters of my last year. I ate out a lot, kept a case of Diet Coke in my car at all times and my work outs ceased. By January 2006 my weight was in the 180s. I knew I needed help. So for the third time in my life I joined Weight Watchers in February 2006. I managed to lose a few pounds. I believe I got down to 178 before bouncing back up to 183 in April. I will never forget that weight, 183 pounds.

I was 32 years old in my last year of nursing school. My husband and I decided that it was time to start thinking about having a baby. We had bought a house right at the end of my first year of nursing school. I was feeling ready (and by ready I mean I cried watching a Baby Story on TLC every day!). Our home and hearts were ready for a child.

So on January 1, 2006 I went off the pill. I had gone on birth control pills at age 20 to manage erratic premenstrual mood swings, cramps and heavy periods. It took one cycle to regulate my period after the pill. On Easter Sunday in 2006, I was cranky and whining about how it would probably take forever to get pregnant because I was old and dramatic. Two days later sitting in class looking at my calendar for the week I realized I was late for my period. I wanted to jump out of my seat and race home, but I had to endure the rest of a rather boring cardiac lecture. I bought a pregnancy test on my way home and took it immediately upon arriving home. It was positive. I took another one in the morning to make sure, and just like that our lives changed forever. We were elated, over the moon, but something nagged at me. I wasn’t where I hoped I would be both mentally and physically when I got pregnant.

My weight at my first OB/Gyn pregnancy visit was 183 pounds. In the back of my mind I knew that I would have to take better care of myself for me and my child. As I neared the end of nursing school I felt like a hypocrite. Who was I to be dispensing information about how to be healthy if I couldn’t maintain a healthy body weight?

By the time I graduated from nursing school I was heavier than I had been in a while. I was increasingly uncomfortable in my clothing. I had to wear a white scrub top and bottoms to our pinning ceremony. There is nothing worse than having to wear all white when you are overweight. I felt so self-conscious sitting there in my snug uniform. I couldn’t exactly blame it on baby weight yet.

I was angry with myself that I allowed myself to continue on this path of self-sabotage. I was concerned that I didn’t have the self-control to change my habits permanently. I was sad that I felt so negative about myself. I knew then that I couldn’t keep bouncing up and down like a yo-yo; something had to change permanently. Looking back now I can see that this was the first time my mentality shifted from weight loss to health and wellness. I still yearned for weight loss, but what I wanted more than anything was to be alive for many years to come.

I knew what I wanted and what I needed to do to get it, I just had to believe in myself and do it. This is, of course, easier said than done.

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

5 thoughts on “Skin Deep: Mind Shift

  1. I love your posts so much Aimee, thanks for sharing this.I completely understand the switch from worrying about weight to focusing on healthy and wellness—crazy what a difference that makes!

  2. Hi Aimee! I wish a person didn’t have to go through so much “growth” and just smoothly sail through the years. But I didn’t and you didn’t. I like being my age quite a bit because it seems easier and more satisfying than younger years.

    🙂 Marion

  3. Aimee – I love these stories you share. I have had this bookmarked until I could dive into with full concentration. Day off today, so today was finally the day. Great company for my morning coffee. Thanks for sharing your experiences, I can relate to them all in one way or another!

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