Why Are So Many Nurses So Fat?

If you have visited a hospital lately as a patient or a guest of a patient you might have noticed there are a lot of fat nurses.
As a nurse you're aware of the importance of the Waist to Hip Ratio for determining risk for chronic disease, and as a nurse your own waist to hip ratio is negatively affected.

As a nurse you’re aware of the importance of the Waist to Hip Ratio for determining risk for chronic disease, and as a nurse your own waist to hip ratio is negatively affected.

One study found that 55% of nurses are overweight or obese. It’s also been discovered through research that nurses who work night shifts tend to be fatter than their daytime colleagues. Why?

Nurses give help; they make others their project.

Nursing is a profession that calls to the people who are willing to put their needs aside to take care of others. It’s my observation that that personality trait is what allows our current system to exploit them.

They are given long hours, few breaks, too much overtime, and too much to do in a single shift. Many of them are taking care of families and homes as well as their patients. Something’s got to give.

I’d like to be able to fix the mess that is health care in the US today. I can’t.

I can’t change the circumstances under which nurses must work. I am extremely grateful for all nurses do for us and appreciate their sense of duty and sacrifice.

As a Weight Watchers leader I’ve tried to help many nurses lose weight. Nurses are among the toughest group of people to help. It’s not in their nature to accept help or to make themselves a priority.

Nurses are good at telling people what to do to take care of themselves and how to make themselves better. They rarely take their own advice.

So for all of you nurses who know that losing weight would make you feel better, happier, more effective in all aspects of your life – both professional and personal – I offer these 5 simple steps that even you, the world’s most devoted caregiver can follow!

1) Get 7 hours of quality sleep in every 24-hour period.
No, this doesn't count as "quality sleep."

No, this doesn’t count as “quality sleep.”

People who are continuously overtired tend to eat more to try to get energy. Lack of sleep can also increase stress hormones which can lead to weight gain.

“If you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to be overweight, and if you’re both, you’re more likely to be at risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular complications.” – Sleep Deprivation and Weight

One of the more interesting ideas that has been smoldering and is now gaining momentum is the appreciation of the fact that sleep and sleep disruption do remarkable things to the body — including possibly influencing our weight,” says David Rapoport, MD, associate professor and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

While doctors have long known that many hormones are affected by sleep, Rapoport says it wasn’t until recently that appetite entered the picture. What brought it into focus, he says, was research on the hormones leptin and ghrelin. First, doctors say that both can influence our appetite. And studies show that production of both may be influenced by how much or how little we sleep.

In fact, have you ever experienced a sleepless night followed by a day when no matter what you ate you never felt full or satisfied? If so, then you have experienced the workings of leptin and ghrelin.” - The Dream Diet: Losing Weight While You Sleep

2) Eat nutrient-dense foods

Fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains provide more of the essential nutrients for fewer calories than many of the processed foods with added fats and sugars. In addition to more nutrients and fewer calories these foods help stabilize blood sugar levels. That means they help you “get more mileage out of a full tank.” In other words, they help to avoid those drops that drain energy and make you feel hungry sooner.

3) Treat yourself.

Love chocolate? Go ahead and indulge in the most delicious piece of chocolate you can find every day. All you need is a little. It’s okay to have a piece of cake or pie occasionally and no need to feel guilty that you ate an ounce of potato chips with your sandwich. Allowing yourself little treats and enjoying them in balance and moderation is empowering. It helps you to keep guilt at bay and guilt is one of the most fattening things known to all mankind.

4) Forget about the gym.

If you go to the gym regularly and you love it, ignore this bit of advice! The gym can be a good place to work off tension and stress. It can help you to sleep better and it can even influence you to make more healthful food choices. So if you’re a gym rat, don’t stop. Ignoring the gym is for those of you who “know you should go, but never seem to be able to make the time to actually get there.”

If you have a gym membership and you never get there and you are burdening yourself with an enormous amount of guilt, cancel your membership. Guilt drives you to eat and guilt keeps you awake and those are two things responsible for making you fat.

5) Challenge the nagging, negative, voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, “Negative Nurse Nancy” or Negative Nurse Nate (I know all the fat, overworked nurses are not women!)

Nagging, negative nurse Nancy or Nate isn’t helping you by reminding you of how many times you tried to lose weight in the past and failed. When s/he says mean things to discourage you from taking care of yourself, talk back. Tell him/her that you can’t do a good job of caring for others if you allow yourself to feel worn down, sick, fat, and unhappy!

Give your best bedside manner to the most important person of all - YOU!

Give your best bedside manner to the most important person of all – YOU!

Instead of listening to negativity in your head, give yourself encouragement and coaching by giving yourself instructions:

  • practice portion control,
  • eat slowly and mindfully

GIve yourself motivational self-talk, “not only do you deserve to take care of your own needs, you must take care of your own needs if you’re going to be able to do your best to care for others.

Think of the instructions flight attendants give you before every flight – “Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others with theirs!”
Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.