Duke Nurse Says, “It’s Your Butt; Move It!”

May 9, 2017
By: Karen E. Butler, Director of Communications, DCI

Paula Hocutt, RN, adjusts Tracey Johnson's infusion. Johnson, of Benson, North Carolina, is battling metastatic breast cancer. As the years accumulated for Paula Hocutt, RN, so, too, did the pounds. It wasn’t until she attended a health fair organized by Live For Life that Hocutt, an infusion nurse at Duke Raleigh Cancer Center, stepped on the scales and declared, “Oh my stars!”

“I had no idea that I weighed 177 pounds,” said Hocutt, 54, the married mother of two grown sons. “At the time I was commuting 50 miles each way to and from our Durham campus. I had also been caring for my husband who was dealing with an extended illness. My focus just wasn’t on my own wellbeing.”

Hocutt, who lives in Clayton, North Carolina, credits Live For Life, Duke’s employee wellness program, for helping her to think about her own health. Live For Life coordinators provided Hocutt with a health assessment and guidance and tips for fitness and nutrition. She even joined Duke Health and Fitness Center where she began working out on weekdays. A year later Hocutt had lost 10 pounds. A heavier Paula Hocutt poses with Santa Claus. She has since lost more than 30 pounds.

“I needed to up my game — a way to lose those last few pounds,” said the 5-foot, 8-inch nurse who after nine years at the Durham campus had transferred to Duke Raleigh. “My niece had recently lost 96 pounds; I asked her how she had achieved her weight-loss. She told me she had joined an online fitness program that promoted portion control and provided daily instructor-guided workouts.”

Hocutt signed-on, faithfully getting up every day at 4:30 a.m. to exercise. She also began to keep an eye on her portions at mealtime. That’s when the weight-loss “really picked-up.”

“It’s not about dieting—it’s the way you look at food — the way you look at exercise,” Hocutt shared. “This is definitely a lifestyle change — one well worth it.”

Hocutt wears a FitBit at all times. There is never a day that she doesn’t make her 10,000-step minimum. Hocutt also daily climbs 10 flights of stairs, burning at least 83 calories in the effort. Her daily workouts include 15 minutes of cardio exercise and 15 minutes of weight training. Within a year Hocutt was able to lose another 25 pounds.

“Focusing on healthy living requires a bit more planning,” Hocutt admitted. “These days I do a lot more cooking at home. Adopting a healthy lifestyle involves some forethought, but the rewards are numerous.”Taking a break, Paula Hocutt gets some steps toward her 10,000 while taking a walk in the garden next to Duke Cancer Center Raleigh. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, Hocutt has lost more than 30 pounds.

According to Hocutt, virtually any food is permissible. However, she supervises the amount of food she consumes.

“Whenever I eat out, I immediately pull out a container I’ve brought from home,” she said. “I then put half of what’s on my plate into the container for another meal at a later time. There’s no calorie counting. There’s no guilt. And I don’t feel like I’m on a diet.”

Hocutt, who’s been in nursing for 36 years, encourages other nurses to take responsibility today.

“In years past, my husband and I would talk about exercising, but we’d always end up saying, ‘Tomorrow,’” she recounted. “It wasn’t until I took responsibility for my own health, not waiting for others to join me, that I encountered real change. I’ve never felt healthier. I recently saw a motivational post on Facebook. ‘It’s your butt; move it!.’ And that pretty much sums it up for us all.”

Live For Life offers a variety of programs and services, including health assessments, education, smoking cessation programs, fitness and nutrition activities. The program is available to most Duke employees. For more information, call 919.684.3136 (Option 1) or visit Live For Life.

May 6 through May 12 is National Nurses Week. For a complete list of nurse appreciation events at Duke, please visit National Nurses Week At Duke. The American Nurses Association has designated 2017 as The Year Of The Healthy Nurse. To learn more, visit ANA.