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10 weight-loss tips and calorie-saving secrets

Image: Somos Photography | Veer

Weight loss is a perpetual topic at the nurse’s station. It’s something that we all think about, even if we don’t mention it out loud.

Whether you’re vocal about it or it’s an unvoiced wish, if you want to lose some unwanted weight or maintain your goal weight, here are smart recipes from nurses who’ve beaten the “battle of the bulge (they’re featured in the Fall 2010 issue of Scrubs), plus tidbits on how to count calories the smart way.

1. Like the Boy Scouts, be prepared.
The #1 reason for not losing that unwanted weight is not being prepared to do it. Prepare what you will eat in the coming days (or weeks) and have it on hand. By planning a week’s menu, shopping for it and sticking to it as much as possible, you control what comes into your kitchen. This helps you think more about what you’re eating, how you’re eating it and, importantly, why you’re eating it. Regardless of the shifts you work, planning ahead will ensure you’re always prepared. If you work on call or PRN in particular, planning ahead will allow you to have good, healthy food on hand and you’ll be ready to go.

2. Use smaller plates.
Once you’ve started to lose weight, hitting a plateau can be demoralizing. After all, you’re trying hard to change your life and now you’re stuck at a number that’s not as low as you want it to be. There are many suggestions to help nurses conquer a weight loss plateau, including this very effective trick: Instead of putting small portions on a large dinner plate or a serving of soup in an oversize bowl, use smaller plates and bowls that accommodate the appropriate servings. It will seem as if you’re getting more food.

3. BYOM (Bring Your Own Meal).
Buying food at work can be your downfall, no matter how careful you are. There are three major ways for nurses to lose weight: It’s recommended that you bring your own food, control what you’re bringing to work and how much you bring. In fact, if you don’t bring any money to work, you can’t hit the hospital cafeteria, check out the vending machines or pop out to the local restaurants!

4. Forget the spot-reduction myth.
If you believe in the spot-reduction myth, it’s time to let that go. Losing weight one spot at a time isn’t really possible, despite the numerous ads that bombard us on a regular basis. And those sit-ups that are supposed to get you that flat tummy? It’s one of the biggest fallacies of all. Of course, some parts of the body do lose fat more quickly than others, but that’s merely due to the body’s natural fat loss sequencing. Getting educated on how the body reacts to fat loss can help you let go of things you can’t control and embrace your body’s natural processes.

5. Stop skipping meals.
It’s tempting. You want to lose weight because your scrubs are tighter than they should be, or you want to buy a new dress—so you start skipping meals. Nurse-blogger Sean Dent has many convincing reasons why dieting just doesn’t work. It may seem that if you don’t eat breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can kick start your body into shedding pounds fast. However, if you don’t eat meals, your body goes into starvation mode and thus begins storing any food you eat, in order to be sure you’ll have it later.

6. Don’t give up!
Okay, so you haven’t lost weight for the past couple of weeks or—gasp!—you’ve even gained back a pound. You feel guilty because things aren’t going the way you wanted. Don’t worry about it. Don’t declare your diet a failure. Find out what can nurses can do when we feel fat.

For instance, take a critical eye to your recent efforts. Have your servings been the sizes they should be? What have your snacks been? Are you helping yourself to just one more bite or two a little more regularly? Even if you haven’t been cheating, weight loss sometimes plateaus for a while. If you want to lose weight and you’re doing so safely, don’t give up when things seem to slow down.

7. Set your sights on permanent changes.
Nurses who need to lose weight are like most everyone else who does: They want to lose weight quickly; they want to see instant changes. But the only “diets” that succeed are those that are focused on permanent lifestyle changes. If you’re thinking “I need to lose weight!” and you’re overeating or eating the wrong types of foods, this is often a lifestyle issue more than anything else.

If you know you overeat because the plates you order at restaurants are too full, ask for half sizes or child-size portions. If you snack while you watch television, choose a healthy option like carrots or unbuttered popcorn. Do you eat while at the movie theater? Eat a meal just before going to the movies and buy a bottle of water if you feel you need something to drink. Diets may work to help you lose weight initially, but if you want to keep the weight off, you need to take a look at overall permanent changes and not a quick fix.

8. Don’t let the night shift be your downfall.
Nurses who work nights know it’s especially difficult to eat properly—the night routine and day sleeping (if you can sleep) present extra challenges. If we’re told the key to weight loss and good weight control is eating regular meals, what’s a vending machine-dependent night-shift worker to do?

Take heart in learning that it’s not all about you when it comes to weight loss and working nights. Scientific American advises that since we metabolize food differently depending on the time of day we eat it, the trick may be to shift your heavier snacks and heavier meals to times when the body is geared to metabolize better, rather than trying to mimic the day-eating pattern during the night.

9. Is there a right time to eat a jelly donut?
While we may be metabolizing our food at different rates at different times of the day, what’s also important in addition to when you’re eating is what you’re eating. Do you need help to curb eating after curfew? Here’s one piece of advice: Your “fret” level should be different depending on whether you’re eating healthy food (fruits and vegetables) or, say, a jelly donut, be it at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. Healthy choices will always leave you feeling and looking better in the long run.

10. Be smart about night-shift noshing.
The night shift can make it difficult to lose weight. Here’s how to stay healthy during the night: Avoid heavy carbohydrates during your night meal break. You don’t have to eliminate them; just cut down the type of carbs you consume. Also, drink plenty of water. It will fill you up and keep you from drinking fluids that may not be good for you.

Here, some recipes from four nurses who beat the battle of the bulge! See their stories, and remarkable transformation, in the Fall 2010 issue of Scrubs magazine.

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