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Duke Wellness Champs: Nick Robbins Brings Colleagues Along

A certified registered nurse anesthetist at Duke University Hospital, Nick Robbins has lost 100 pounds

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But over the next several months, as Robbins, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Duke University Hospital, shed around 100 pounds, he found that his journey had value to others, too.

“I went from almost 300 pounds to 185 pounds, so there’s been a big physical transformation that folks can see,” Robbins said. “That will lead to people engaging in conversation with me, asking ‘What are you doing?’”

Robbins, 37, doesn’t mind sharing his story and answering questions from people considering making their own healthy changes.

“It’s a really lovely way to keep yourself accountable to have a conversation with someone inquiring about your journey,” Robbins said. “I think that’s a big element. I’m living a little bit in other people’s eyes, so that makes me want to try and do better every day.”

It’s that willingness to inspire people around him that makes Robbins a Duke Wellness Champ. With the launch of our new series, Duke Wellness Champs, Working@Duke will spotlight staff and faculty who take charge of their overall physical, mental, and/or social well-being. Through each person, we hope to inspire and help colleagues in pursuit of wellness goals.

Abby Niedermann, a nurse anesthetist at Duke, brought Robbins to our attention, noting that he sets a positive example.

A major inspiration for Nick Robbins, left, to get healthier was his new son, Liam, center, and wife, Katie Toy, right. Photo courtesy of Nick Robbins.

“Not only is Nick focused on his mental and physical health goals, he is also incredibly kind,” Niedermann said.

As a runner and triathlete for most of his adult life, Robbins, who has worked at Duke since 2018, led an active life, but, at almost 300 pounds early last year, admitted that he didn’t always make the best choices when it came to his diet. He said the stress and pressure from work, and his busy schedule, often lead to unhealthy eating habits, such as overindulging and poor nutritional choices.

When Robbins and his wife, Katie Toy, an assistant nurse manager at Duke University Hospital, welcomed their first child, son Liam, in December 2021, Robbins felt like it was time to make a lasting change.

“When you become a parent, something switches in you,” Robbins said. “You recognize that, while the priority used to be you, the picture becomes a lot bigger. I’d always thought that when I had kids, I’d want to be an active and engaged parent who was capable of participating in any activity. I just hit a point where I said ‘I’ve got to fix this.’”

Last April, when most employee wellness programs were on pause due to the pandemic, Robbins found an online health management program focusing on long-term lifestyle and habit change which provided meal replacement as well as individualized nutrition and health coaching. He also adopted a new end-of-day routine to help him process stress that fueled unhealthy choices.

The habit isn’t especially defined, it’s simply a commitment to himself to take a period of time each evening – often just before bed – to give quiet, distraction-free thought to everything he experienced that day.

“I like the idea of creating the mental space for you to evaluate and sort of structure yourself at the end of the day,” Robbins said. “I just spend a few minutes in reflection, to think about the good choices and bad choices you may have made throughout the day, what went well and what could I do better.”

Is there an inspiring colleague in your corner of Duke who embraces physical, mental and/or social well-being? Let us know. Write