Taking a break from the "how to be a super gunner" posts to introduce our new series on staying healthy and fit while balancing a demanding and time consuming career. Meredith was the perfect person to kick off this series because she is a super busy ob/gyn resident AND a health coach. like, what?? She was kind enough to answer my questions below, but ask more! This is a new series and the only way I know what you want to know is if you tell me what you want to know or just ask it yourself!
Tell me a little about yourself. When did you decide on a career in medicine and when did you decide on ob/gyn? I fell in love with biology in high school and was either going to pursue a career in medicine or teaching. I loved learning about how the body systems work, so I gravitated towards medicine. It's funny, the first week of my obgyn rotation in medical school I texted my [now] husband and said "do NOT let me choose this!!" because of how time consuming the specialty is... but over the next 6 weeks I fell in love with taking care of women and doing procedures, and no matter how hard I tried to like other specialties, nothing ever compared.
What about life outside of medicine? Where do you live? Are you married? Kids or kids? Hobbies? Favorite thing to do on the weekend? I live in Grand Rapids, MI, and have been married to my husband for a little over 1 year. He is also a resident [psychiatry]. No kids, but we have black cat named Gucci! My hobbies include cooking, especially with vegetables, and working out. I am a part time health coach as well, so my weekends off are usually filled with coaching activities, spending time with my team, and working out.
Have you always lived a generally healthy life? If not, when did you become interested in health and fitness? I was not athletic growing up, and my family wasn't too adventurous with food either. In college, I started running longer distances and working out often - I even rowed 1 year on the crew team. I took a course on food ecology and my whole world changed-- what we eat and where it comes from became my greatest hobby. By the time I got to medical school I had started a cooking blog and training for marathons.
What made you become a vegetarian and how long have you been vegetarian? I'm actually not a vegetarian! It's a common misconception because my company is called The Veggie Doc, but I eat everything. I just believe that veggies are the most beneficial foods for our bodies and that a diet that is heavily based on plants is best!
How did you become a personal health coach? Tell me a little more about what that means. By the time I got to residency, I needed more of a leadership role in food and fitness, other than my blog. I became a coach in October 2014 after meeting my coach on Instagram through our similar interests. We run a team together, and she's become one of my best friends.
As a virtual health coach, I run monthly groups dedicated to fitness + nutrition. I host these groups on Facebook where I provide daily recipes, motivation, and healthy living tips. The group does the same workout program and is encouraged to share their successes and struggles with the group throughout the month. I offer personalized nutrition coaching to each member of the group, where I work to build a meal plan around someone's own specific lifestyle, likes, and dislikes. Each month I also mentor several new coaches who want to join my team. We have a lot of fun and get very creative with the groups we run! I love helping people learn how to incorporate eating well and working out into their lives and getting to know them along the way.
Take me through your typical day of work, fitness, and nutrition. Wake up at 4:30 am, shower, pack lunches, make coffee and leave for the hospital. I round on patients from 6-7 am, then we sign out the OB patients as a team. Most days I'm inpatient doing C-sections and admitting preterm and high risk patients as the second year resident. We sign out at 5:30 pm, but I'm often here wrapping up until 6 or 6:30 pm. The meals I pack for work are small and easy to grab and eat quickly, because I don't get a lunch break or specific breaks. I eat when I can, and I make it a point to eat well and eat often. When I get home, I get a 30 minute workout in, usually whatever program I'm coaching that month for other people. Then I make dinner, eat with my husband, then get to working on my coaching business for an hour or two. I aim to be asleep no later than 10 pm, earlier if possible!
Do you meal prep? Every Sunday like clockwork. If you don't, eating healthy as a resident is near impossible unless your hospital has really great options.
What tips do you have to balance residency or medical school with a healthy and fit life?
Consistency is key, in every part of your day.
- Have a morning and nightly routine to prepare for the next day.
- Schedule your workouts -- or else you will make excuses not to do them. I'm often tired and sore from work, but I still get the workouts in.
- Surround yourself with positive people who support you and motivate you - residency is stressful, and negative conversations and thoughts will only build resent for the field of medicine.
- Get involved in something outside of medicine, with people who aren't docs - your mind needs a break from medical talk.
- Figure out what healthy foods you like that work with your body. You don't have to be paleo, or vegan, or low carb, or anything specific - everyone's body works different with different foods. Do what works for you. That's the basis of the meal plans I build with people who I coach. You're much more likely to eat the healthy food you packed for lunch if it tastes good and doesn't mess with your digestive system.
What do you struggle with in maintaining that balance? I really struggle with maintaining a consistent routine. My weeks are so different from one to the next, it's why I preach consistency. Once I find something that works well, I just continue to do it, but that's not always easy. When I'm on my game and eating healthy and setting aside time for workouts, I do really well. But one busy call weekend can throw me off. This is the reason I've taken such a liking to coaching residents and medical students on lifestyle during residency. I want to share my failures and successes with others to make their time in residency that much easier.
What are a few of your favorite go to healthy snacks?
- plain Greek yogurt with berries + granola
- apple with peanut butter
- hardboiled eggs and half a grapefruit
- carrots and almond butter
- broccoli and cucumbers with hummus
What's more important - fitness or nutrition? I think everyone has their own perfect balance of fitness and nutrition. A lot of people swear by the 80% food 20% fitness idea. Me personally? I'm 50/50. Even when I'm eating healthy I need to move a LOT to be the best version of me. But if I had to pick one to focus on? Nutrition. Many of the people I train say they have no trouble pushing themselves to workout, but it's much harder to commit to eating well.