There’s been some recent research that suggests nurses are more likely to be overweight as compared to the general population. Maybe you struggle with maintaining a healthy weight yourself. If so, that’s bad news for you personally, and for your patients, who seek good role models for healthy living.

One way to change poor health habits is to take a cold, hard look at why they exist in the first place. That will make it much easier to develop behavioral strategies to address those problems.

When nurses try to explain to themselves why they’ve packed on the pounds (or can’t seem to shake them), here’s what they often say:

“I’m working 12-hour shifts, eating late or at weird times, and you’re starved when you get off work.”

“We spend so much time taking care of others we don’t leave much energy to take care of ourselves.”

“Our job is not only physically demanding but also mentally and emotionally challenging at times. I’m a stress eater.”

“It’s the shift work. When I switched to the night shift it changed my whole eating pattern.”

“It’s the type of nursing. When working on the surgical floor, my stress level can be through the roof.”

“Working 12-hour shifts doesn’t allow me to get the proper kind of exercise. I’m too tired to get up earlier than usual before my shift to work out, and too tired after my shift to fit in a session.”

“I don’t get the proper amount or quality of sleep, especially when I’m working nights. Lack of sleep and fatigue slows metabolism.”

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“Eating goodies on the run during our shift (brought in by doctors, administrators, and families), then eating a full meal later because it doesn’t feel like we ate.

“Sometimes I eat too much just before my shift because I never know when I’ll get to eat again. I never get a break. I’m lucky if I can take five minutes to go to the restroom.”

“I feel I need – deserve! — comfort food when I do ‘bad’ shifts. Shift work is a definite cause of overeating and overweight.”

“I barely eat all day, then come home late, and am so hungry that I eat a TON right before bed!”

“My young kids only want to eat a few things (like fast food) that are not the best for them or me!”

“I gain weight because of anger. I am all for giving my all to everyone else, but in a 12-hour shift if we actually get 30 minutes for lunch it’s a miracle.”

“My hospital’s cafeteria is a nightmare! The salad bar is the only healthy choice, and it’s all slimy or dried out at the end of the night. I usually end up just getting a cheeseburger at the grill.”

“The holidays are the worse! People bring in chocolates, and cookies and cakes and my resolve gets weaker and weaker as days go by.”

“I rely on lots of carbs and caffeine to stay awake during night shifts, or to keep going without breaks, or to stay awake during a long commute after a 12-hour shift.”

How about you? Detail your weight challenges today and tomorrow we’ll cover some possible solutions.

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Jebra Turner is a freelance health writer living in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her at




Jebra Turner
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