Megan Painter knows she feels better when she fuels her body with healthy food and keeps it strong with regular exercise and she is eager to help others find that same feeling.
Painter, an emergency department nurse at St. Luke’s Nampa, wants to inspire individuals to understand and appreciate what an incredible gift their body is and the importance of keeping it as healthy as possible.
The Nampa emergency department has benefited from Painter’s tireless crusade to eliminate unhealthy food and beverage options, such as the soda fountain machine that was available to staff members and patients in the unit.
Painter and the Nampa staff also have spent time planning and collecting donations to help fund an on-site fitness room for employees to use.
Initially, Painter and her peers weren’t sure whether staff would be willing to pitch in and support such a facility or whether it would even be utilized. They were wrong – very wrong! They not only hit, but exceeded their goal of $35,000 to “fill the room” with exercise equipment. Employees can use the fitness room free of charge.
The Nampa fitness room is located on the third floor of the medical office building and has an adjacent bathroom and showers. Thanks to the employee campaign, it should be outfitted with both cardiovascular and strength training equipment by mid-March.
She hasn’t always had a passion for health and fitness.
Painter was once “blissfully unaware” that she wasn’t blessed with a magical metabolism or DNA that would protect her from experiencing any sort of health fallout.
During high school and early on in college, Painter’s physical activity was non-existent and she wasn’t aware of the benefits of good nutrition.
“My eating habits were terrible,” she recalled.
When she took a job as a wildland firefighter during her summers in college she discovered the toll her “subpar health habits” were taking on her body. The vigorous physical demands of the job made her realize she could not continue along the path she was on.
She began to make changes in her food choices and increased her physical activity. As she introduced those changes into her life she started to realize what her body was capable of doing and noticed she was “happier, more confident and felt more independent.”
As she focused more on nutrition Painter said she was particularly challenged by building a routine around healthy eating.
“I didn’t know how to cook meals that didn’t come in some sort of pre-packaged form,” she said. “I had never cared much for vegetables or healthy foods and thought, like many, they were boring and unappetizing.”
Thanks to her fire crew comrades, she was exposed to people who had the passion and talent for cooking a variety of foods.
“I dedicated myself to learning how to cook and actually enjoy healthier foods,” she said.
Now she’s confident that she can try almost any activity – even if it’s brand new – without questioning her capability.
Since making health her top priority, Painter has experienced more success in other aspects of her life and feels content “both physically and emotionally.”
Today, Painter tries to encourage and motivate others to make small changes that will impact their health over time rather than latching onto fad diets or exercise routines that leave them feeling discouraged and defeated after a few weeks. The new fitness room will help further her mission while giving employees an opportunity to maintain their own healthy habits.“I’m so proud of this group’s dedication and the overwhelming support this project received from staff members in every single department,” Painter says.
Mary Poell is a wellness coordinator for St. Luke’s Occupational Health & Well-being.