Vicki Piper, Employee Wellness Dietitian at Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson, has helped nurses shed up to 50 pounds in the hospital’s own version of the “Biggest Loser” contest.
Scrubs Magazine caught up with Vicki to get her tips on how nurses, especially evening-shift nurses, can lose a few pounds and get that ‘healthy glow’ in time to step in front of the camera.
Scrubs: What are some facts that nurses should know about how the evening shift affects their body clock?
Vicki: Working the evening shift is challenging! Typically, evening-shift workers have complained about fatigue and sleep problems. Investigators have suggested that there might be an association between evening shifts and changes in stress hormone (cortisol), weight regulation hormones (leptin, ghrelin, insulin) as well as melatonin (which regulates sleep and affects immune function), leading to an overall increased risk for disease.
Scrubs: What can nurses do to ensure that they’re maintaining proper nutrition while working the evening shift?
Vicki: Stick to an eating plan. Eat every three to four hours from breakfast through dinner. Eat a healthy, balanced meal of lean protein, veggies and whole grains before you start work. Then, bring healthy snacks with you that you’ll have every three to four hours. Make them portable and easy to grab, such as a Ziploc snack bag containing 12 nuts, or an apple and a cheese stick. A key to eating on the evening shift is to keep it lean and light. Soup and salad with protein works. Lean protein with veggies is great. Minimize any heavy complex carbs (bread, pasta, rice, potato). Large meals can disturb your digestion and leave you with heartburn. Your gut thinks you should be sleeping! Finally, don’t eat a big meal right before going to sleep.
Next: Vicki’s plan for one nurse who was looking to lose 20 pounds, and how you can incorporate it in your life.