Nurses are gaining weight. A study in the International Journal of Nursing Studies shows that the prevalence of overweight among U.S. nurses ranges from 30% to 55%. There are many things that impact a rise of overweight or obesity in nurses including stress in the workplace and shift patterns. In addition, most nurses are not engaged in weight management behaviors.

Maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Here are four simple steps to take to keep a healthy weight.

1. Weigh Yourself Regularly

Weighing yourself daily or weekly provides a sense of accountability and is helpful for maintaining a healthy weight initially. It is a good idea to keep track of your weight so you can plan accordingly and adjust your diet and exercise plan as necessary.

2. Eat Healthy Foods

No matter what shift you take, try to eat your large meal towards the beginning of the shift, which will give you energy to get through the entire shift and to avoid starving yourself. Ensure your meal includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Using online food trackers or apps such as MyFoodDiary or MyFitnessPal are helpful because they enhance your awareness of how much you are really eating. These tools usually provide specific information about how many calories and nutrients you consume. The key to maintaining a healthy weight is getting the right balance between the calories you are consuming and the calories you are spending.

3. Drink An Adequate Amount of Water

Drink water regularly, and before and during meals, which can promote fullness and increase your metabolism. Water can help you burn more calories and also control your appetite if consumed before meals. Bring a water bottle to work and fill it often. Avoid soda and sugary drinks because the extra calories from these drinks can lead to weight gain.

4. Incorporate Natural Exercise into Your Work Days

If you find it difficult to make time to go to the gym or keep up with a regular exercise program outside of work, you should incorporate physical activity into your workday.

Throughout your day, you should try to find as many chances to walk or move as you can, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking around your floor or between buildings, parking your car farther away, and walking during the shift from patient room to room. Hourly rounding to check on your patients, attending to pains, position, and bathroom requests are simple ways to increase your physical activity at work. This also helps to reduce call-bells and improve the nurse-patient relationship.

Nuananong Seal & Mary Wiske

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN, is a nurse researcher and a consultant for health promotion and health prevention research.

Mary Wiske, RN, is a retired community health nurse.

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