The Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners says that greater than 50% of nurses are overweight/obese. The same study also supports previous research in that there is a relationship between nursing shift work and obesity. It also suggests that modifiable contributors such as poor diet, smoking and sedentary lifestyles were a greater risk factor for obesity than the actual night shift work alone. So what can shift workers do to maintain their weight?
- Eat your larger meal closer to the beginning half the shift
We’ve always heard don’t eat a big meal before bed. However, when you’re a nurse coming home in the morning from night shift work, the first place you’re heading for is the kitchen. Try to limit smaller meals when you come home such as soup or light salad before going to bed. Eat a larger meal during the ½ half of your shift during then night.
- Increase Activity
It is recommended for people to exercise three times a week for 30-60 minutes for optimal heart health and weight loss. No time for the gym? Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator or choosing a farther parking spot. There are many ways to increase activity for those who are low on time.
- Limit Caffeine
This one was hard to type because I LOVE coffee. However, sleep is essential to a healthy lifestyle and for weight loss. Limit caffeine to one cup and only prior to midnight when working night shift. Therefore, you can have a more restful sleep once you get home in the morning.
- Proper Diet
Avoid any starvation and/or unrealistic diets because the effects are not long-term. Do not skip a meal, especially at work. Have healthy snacks on hand to get you through the night. Fruits can provide a healthy night shift snack and it also will give an energy boost. Avoid any processed foods or sugars. Maintaining a diet that is low in carbs and high in protein is the best type of diet for health and weight loss.
- Be A Role Model for your patients
Our last and most important tip is to be a role model for your patients! You can’t preach to patients about changing their lifestyle if cannot do so for yourself either. Changes in lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of obesity in nurses. Although shift work has some relationship to being overweight, those who live healthy lifestyles aren’t as affected by shift work as those who have other risk factors. We hope you try implementing our tips for maintaining a healthy weight while working your next night shift!
-Author: Alice Charitable, Co-owner of Graceful Med Boutique
** Miller, S., Alpert, P., & Cross, C. (2008). Overweight and obesity in nurses, advanced practice nurses, and nurse educators. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 20(5), 259-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2008.00319.x.