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Will I become very unhealthy in med school due to the time commitment?

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Subject: Career question for you


6 answers

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Richard’s Answer

Time management is key. Between lecture, lab and studying, the first 2 years will be grueling. Make sure to leave time for yourself to exercise and eat right. Hopefully you can maintain a healthy lifestyle.
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M. Cristina’s Answer

Hello, again, Robert!

This is a great question, and I'm glad that you are aware that a career in the medical field is a leading cause of health issues among professionals. This can happen for a lot of reasons. Time, as you said, is a big one; it's also a very stressful choice of career. Some days might be fine, but other days, there may be a steady stream of emergency situations, and you'll barely have time to run to the restroom, much less take a break to have a quiet lunch!

That is the reality of some medical professions. Not every job in the medical industry is the same, but if the kinds of jobs that excite you are the types of work that are high-stress and fast-paced, then it's best to be prepared. Your health is extremely important - and this goes for everyone reading this! - so if you know there are going to be barriers to making healthy choices, set yourself up for success.

1. Nutrition - I don't know if you have any dietary needs, and you are also a young person, so I don't want to tell you anything that may inadvertently harm you. In general, though, eating clean, whole foods is going to keep your body performing optimally over the course of your life. Eat what works for your body. This isn't to say that some food is "bad" and you are bad for eating it; just be mindful of how often you are eating nutritious food vs convenient food. If you become a doctor, you may find that grabbing a quick bite through a drive-through is all you have the energy for, and that's fine, but stick to the healthier options. If you eat a Big Mac every day, you will eventually notice the negative effect on your body. At my house, I just don't buy unhealthy snacks. So when I am feeling peckish, I eat a few pieces of fruit or 1 tbs peanut butter onto a flaxseed wrap. I don't buy sodas, and I only get juice once every few months, but I do have zero-calorie, zero-sugar flavored water if just plain water isn't cutting it. I have plenty of baking materials, so if I do get a craving for a cookie, I have to make it myself. If you set yourself up so that all you have are healthy options at home, then you are more likely to stick to healthy eating habits.

2. Activity - You don't have to lift tons of weights or join CrossFit. Just 10 minutes of any activity to get your heart pumping daily is all you need. I personally enjoy strength training and yoga, but if you want to Tik Tok dance for 10 minutes every day, go for it!

3. Consistency - There will be days when you want to eat an entire cake and sleep all day. It's fine to have "off" days, we all have them, but don't let it turn into an "off" month, "off" year... Every time you fall, get back up. You owe it to yourself to have good health!

4. Community - You don't need to have a huge group of friends/family to lean on; just a few very good quality folks in your life to talk to, spend time with, and to keep you grounded. As a medical professional, your life will be stressful. You'll need a break from that, and who better than a good friend to talk to, see a movie with, or generally forget about work with? Or if you have a rough day, you need some kind of outlet so you don't end up making poor health choices due to your emotions.

It looks like you are very interested in knowing more about pursuing a medical career. That's great! What I recommend for anyone who is curious about a particular career, either because they want to do some career exploration or are unsure how to get into a particular career, is to find someone who is already successful and set up an informational interview.

If you're still finishing up school, you can speak to your guidance counselor (or someone in a similar role) about possibly setting one up. When I was in school, I would ask my doctor and dentist when it was time for my regularly-scheduled checkups. I had also been considering Pre-Med when I was a HS senior but wasn't sure if it was the right fit for me. Listening to your dentist talk about his career path is also a fantastic way to distract yourself from having your teeth cleaned - Bonus! Anyway, by and large, professionals are typically more than happy to share their knowledge with young people who are just starting out, so it's worth pursuing.

M. Cristina recommends the following next steps:

Build a good, healthy routine now and stick to it (consistency is key!)
Opt for nutritious, unprocessed, healthful foods whenever you can
Spent 10 minutes a day doing something that gets your blood pumping (and not due to stress)
Nurture healthy relationships with friends and family, so you have emotional support
BONUS: Set up informational interviews with health professionals to learn about "a day in the life"
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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Robert, both my siblings went to medical school, my sister is finishing up and my brother is beginning residency! To be honest medical school can be very stressful, and you do study a lot to where you may actually lose weight as well. I think it can go both ways; my sister lost a great amount of weight her first semester just because she was studying almost all the time and didn't really focus on eating and would just have light meals. However, there is a concept called stress eating as well, where you can go to unhealthy food options to relieve some of the stress you have in medical school. Just remember though that unhealthy eating is definitely an unsafe mechanism to cope with stress, and will not help at all; there are better options such as exercising, meditating and journaling as well. In terms of time commitment, even if you can go for a short run or 15 minutes of yoga, it will definitely help you stay fit both physically and mentally. I know this from my experience studying for the MCAT and in college as well because I worked three jobs and found it hard to exercise at times. When this was the case though I would resort to eating healthy, which you should always do, but make sure to maybe it give more dedication if you can't find time to move as much as you want. That way you are eating well which can help fuel your brain and body to do successfully in medical school and are staying away from unhealthy coping mechanisms!

Best of luck!
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Riley’s Answer

Not necessarily... As with any stressful schedule you may have in life, it is always important to be mindful of your health. It would of course be easiest to slip into the habit of fast food and not exercising because you don't have a lot of free time for these things; however, you will actually do much better in school if you keep yourself healthy. If you are constantly run down and eating foods that don't fuel your mind and body, you will not be able to reach your full potential because you will constantly feel sluggish.

Riley recommends the following next steps:

Start your mornings with stretching or a quick workout to get your blood flowing!
Sign up for a convenient meal prep kit, like Daily Harvest. This will give you healthy meals without a lot of time needed to plan and cook!
Drink as much water as you can! This always helps keep me more alert and full for longer.
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Estelle’s Answer

The important message is to maintain your priorities, and your health needs to be one of those priorities. Exercise, eat right, quality sleep, and keep everything in moderation. Remember that thousands of students across the nation start medical school every year, and they all face the same fears. It's up to you to keep focused. You are already thinking ahead!
Good luck!
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Hanna’s Answer

As long as you are mindful about the foods you consume, fit in some physical activity in your schedule and take care of your mental health you should be okay! It is great that you are asking these important questions.