11 Weight Loss Tips For Insanely Busy Nurses
A nurse’s life is physically and emotionally demanding. The long days, endless nights, and constant chaos takes a toll.
And with work and life both elbowing their way to the top of the priority list, nurses find themselves putting the needs of others before their own. For a nurse, diet and exercise are challenging to say the least, and their own health often takes a back seat.
“With twelve-hour days, zero time, and being forever exhausted, I just don’t see how I can lose weight.”
I understand. Most diets don’t work because they:
- Assume you have time to leisurely stroll through the supermarket picking out fresh veggies and ingredients. (Get real, right?!)
- Want you to climb onto a soul-sucking calorie burning machine AFTER standing on your feet for twelve hours. Or,
- Focus more on slick marketing in an attempt to sell you appetite suppressing patches, magic shakes, or a lifetime subscription to powdered greens. (Just thinking about those greens makes me shiver, gag!)
Diets are frustrating and, at times, eating healthy seems downright impossible. That’s why nurses on the brink of giving up look to surgery as their only hope.
If you feel like you’ve lost hope, I say, Whoa! Let’s tap the breaks. There is a program that will work for even the busiest nurse.
A “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t for you. What you need is a custom plan built for a CPR crushing, 16 gauge sticking, life-saving superhero.
In this post, you won’t read lame tips like:
- “Sneak in 30 minutes of exercise on your lunch break.” We know you don’t get a lunch break! Or,
- “Why not walk to work?” You’ve got to be kidding! You logged over 20,000 steps last night, and some random article wants you to WALK home?
Instead, we’re going to give you proven strategies. We’ve been at this for over a decade, and we know what works and what doesn’t.
Let’s dive in!
My Weight Problems Started In Nursing School
For many nurses, their struggle began in Nursing School. Day after stressful day followed this pattern:
Eat, Nursing School, Sleep, Repeat.
(And I’m betting there were plenty of days where you didn’t sleep.)
The pressure to maintain a high GPA or get cut from the program is enough to put weight on the best of us.
I had a nurse describe school to me like this,
“It’s a lot of stress, and it’s a lot of stress eating. It’s late-night studying and late-night pizzas. You don’t have time to make food, and it’s very, VERY easy to drive through McDonald’s.
People say if you’re stressed, then why don’t you exercise? But where’s the time?
I’m working part-time AND trying to study. And if the decision is to study or exercise, guess which wins?
And here’s the kicker…
Nursing students think, All I’ve got to do is make it through school. Then, I’ll get my life back.
But that’s just the beginning! Once you graduate, you’re actually a nurse. It never ends!”
Weight Gain As A Nurse
And if four grueling years wasn’t enough, your job piles on even more challenges.
Nurse’s have to contend with:
- Time. There’s no time to eat. There’s barely enough time to go to the restroom, let alone sit down to eat baked chicken.
- Schedule. Twelve-hour shifts and irregular schedules make sticking to any diet nearly impossible.
- The break room. Oh boy, the break room. It’s the birthday cakes, donuts, Taco Bell, and pizza. It’s easy to hold out at first, but after 8 hours, all those sugary and tempting foods start calling your name.
- Convenience. Cooking and packing a meal takes time. But ordering a cheeseburger is easy, so is grabbing a Snickers or Pop-Tart from the vending machine.
- Coworkers. They’re with you on the front lines and you love them, but it sure feels like they’re expert diet saboteurs.
- Emotions. Every shift is an emotional roller coaster. You experience the highest highs and the lowest lows. And when it’s all said and done, food helps you cope.
In fact, a nurse’s day is a perfect storm sinking any attempt to keep on the straight and narrow.
In the face of all this, how can a nurse eat healthy?
11 Weight Loss Tips For Insanely Busy Nurses
1.) Ditch the diet mentality.
The diet mentality revolves around what foods you can eat and those you can’t. You can have grapefruit, but not bacon. Pork rinds, but not bread. And carbs, those are out of the question.
In essence, the diet mentality is all about rules with an “Eat This, Not That” slant.
Now don’t get me wrong, “food only” diets can and do work, but success is often short-lived. Why? Because you can only stick to a food only diet for so long. It feels like holding your breath underwater. You might make it to the opposite edge of the pool, but eventually, you have to come up for air.
Before you start any diet, ask yourself this question, Do I see myself eating like this five years from now?
If the answer is, “No,” then this diet won’t last.
When you have the right diet and exercise plan, you know. It’s tough at first, but you know this will last.
If the focus is only on food, you can’t wait to hit that magic number so you can finally breathe again.
2.) Keep an eye on your MPH.
We’re not talking about how fast you’re going, MPH is all about Mindset, Psychology, and Habits.
If I had a magic wand and could wipe away any diet myth, it would be the misconception: to lose weight you need willpower and motivation.
Have you ever said these?
- I need to buckle down!
- I need to try harder!
- I need more willpower!
Relying on willpower and motivation is a terrible strategy. Why? Because they’re never there when you need them most. Motivation is a powerful wave, but lasts only a moment before crashing on the shore.
A much better approach is to:
- Change the way you think about food (Mindset),
- Understand what influences us to make the decisions we do (Psychology), and
- Build easy and healthy responses to everyday triggers (Habits).
Let’s look at Mindset for a moment:
Why is cake so dang tempting? It’s because we see it as a reward, a moment of pleasure, a way to feel better.
When you see a sugary snack as pleasure, and you deny yourself, what you feel is deprivation.
Imagine for a moment you didn’t see treats as well…a treat. Would you still crave it? Not at all. In fact, you’d have no problem walking past without giving it a second thought.
But to get to that point, you have to change how you think about food. Changing your mindset takes practice, but when you do, you quickly see there’s no willpower required.
3.) Master emotional eating.
When you read the words “emotional eating” what comes to mind?
Does it conjure images of a couch set in a dark living room lit by the red glow of Netflix? When you look closer you see a sad individual, head down, wrapped in a blanket. They’re curled up with a pint of ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other.
That’s what I pictured, and exactly why I never considered myself an emotional eater.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong. There’s a world of emotions. Of course, sadness and loneliness occupy a spot on the bench, but right alongside sit pleasure, enjoyment, and excitement.
Emotions are eating triggers, and before you take the first bite, learn to ask yourself, Would I eat broccoli right now?
If the answer is “No”, then you are not actually hungry for food. You are hungry for something else (stress relief, a distraction, a quick escape).
Read more about what emotional eating is and how to overcome it in “The Broccoli Test: How to Stop Emotional Eating.”
4.) Harness the power of accountability.
“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.” – Bob Proctor
Do you remember a time you started a diet or workout plan with a friend? It added a level of accountability to it all. They were counting on you, and you were relying on them.
There was someone there to make sure you ate on plan and made it to the gym. It was an amazing and powerful motivator, wasn’t it?
What if you had that level of accountability each and every day? It’d be a life changer, wouldn’t it?
That is what you get with a weight loss accountability coach. Daily accountability and support! Weekends, holidays…every day.
If you want to turbo-charge your weight loss motivation, there is no better solution than adding accountability into your life.
5.) Don’t drink your calories.
When you’re on hour nine of a twelve-hour shift, you feel like you need a quick pick me up! But before you feed a dollar into the machine, let’s opt for something without the added sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day, but the average American consumes nearly 20 teaspoons every day!
Let’s do some quick math:
20 teaspoons X 365 days = ~66 lbs. of added sugar per year!
If you want to see a massive change, let’s start by dropping those Triple Mocha Frappuccinos, Cokes, and Mountain Dews.
Instead, let’s bring a water bottle to work and sip on it throughout the shift. I think you’ll find that’ll do the trick! It’s still okay to drink coffee and caffeine, but low sugar is the way to go.
6.) Build a work survival kit.
Building a work survival kit is likely THE single best tip for a busy nurse. Now, when we say survival, we’re not talking about prepping for the zombie apocalypse (although, work can feel that way sometimes). What we’re talking about are easy, zero-prep foods we can bring with us, and if you have a locker, something you can stash away and grab quickly.
What goes in our survival kit? Anything quick, simple, and doesn’t take time to cook. Here are a few tasty and healthy snacks you’ll love: almonds, sunflower seeds, low-sugar protein bars, dried berries or fruit, jerky, peanut or almond butter, or small bags of air-popped popcorn.
7.) Survival kit, Part II.
Let’s take the survival kit idea a step further and stash one away in our car too. Why? Because if you don’t get lunch, a break was out of the question, AND couldn’t make it to our work kit, then we’ll need something in our car.
By the time you give report and make it to your car, you haven’t eaten in twelve to thirteen hours. You are absolutely famished and McDonald’s is starting to look pretty tempting!
Have you ever heard, “Don’t go to the grocery store hungry. You’ll make bad decisions.”
When we’re ravenous, we’re irrational and that’s the situation we’re trying to avoid. With a healthy snack we can curb those tempting drive-thrus and stop the urge to binge when we get home.
Think of a car survival kit as a backup plan for our backup plan!
8.) Have a healthy meal ready when you walk through the door.
Imagine you just ended a grueling shift. You are absolutely starving when you unlock the door to your home, and that’s when you’re greeted by the scent of a healthy, wholesome, home-cooked meal. That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? And how easy would it be to eat healthy if that’s what you had to look forward to after work?
Let me introduce you to the magic of a slow cooker. Cooking can be as simple as tossing in a meat, a couple choices of veggies, and a can of soup. Then, just set a timer and let the magic happen.
Does it meet busy nurse criteria?
- Is it convenient? Check!
- Easy? You bet!
- Delicious? Without a doubt!
If you’re looking for some healthy recipes, here are 77 Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes sure to make you excited to be home!
9.) Make exercise fun.
Did you just say exercise and fun in the same sentence? Ha, yes! The key to making exercise fun is to find something you actually enjoy.
Don’t like waking up at 5 am to go for a 3-mile run? Great, let’s cross that off the list! I promise we’ll never talk about it again.
What is fun? It could be going to a Zumba class with another nurse or walking around the baseball field or dance studio while your children are at practice.
Too many people think they have to spend hours torturing themselves on an elliptical machine to see progress, so they avoid exercise like the plague. That’s not us though.
It’s the fun workout that keeps us going and it’s the fun that keeps us coming back.
10.) Stop stressing over the scale.
“The scale was not nice today!”
The scale gives us instant feedback for how the previous day went. Well, for most of us. For a nurse, the scale can seem like it’s taunting you every time you step on. Why? Because your work and sleep schedule is so irregular, it’s difficult to get an accurate reading.
Weight can fluctuate several pounds during a day, depending on how much you’ve had to eat, how long you’ve slept, or how much water you drank. And for nurses, what seemed like a terrific eating day yesterday can look like a two-pound gain today. It can make you feel all your work was for nothing.
Your game plan is to detach emotion from the numbers on the scale. The data is invaluable, but only if we use it correctly. Instead, weigh yourself daily, but use the average of three or four days as the number to compare against.
If four days of weigh-in are 152, 150, 154, and 151, then the weight we will use is 151.7. Now, we can compare that number with the average of the next four days.
Don’t let the scale destroy your motivation. Use it in a way that accounts for your busy life and schedule.
11.) Be the leader.
Let me be clear: losing weight isn’t easy for anyone. In fact, it’s doubly hard for nurses. And to make matters worse, your coworkers are tempting you with Taco Bell and KFC. It is these moments you realize the true influence those closest to you have.
But what if you turn those accomplices into allies? You’ll have a support system in place to keep you on track.
The problem is: most nurses in your social circle want to eat healthier and exercise, they’re just waiting for someone to take the lead. Someone to give them inspiration.
Be the one to take the lead, and others will follow. Not sure if you can do it on your own? I understand. That’s why we’ll give you the daily support and motivation you need to make a lasting change. To be the example others will follow.
Looking for a place to start?
If you’re looking for a place to start, join our free 7-day mini-course. In this course, we’ll dive deeper into the same concepts covered in this article: emotional eating, the power of accountability, and building a plan you can actually stick to.