The secret to weight loss? Nurses, you already have it


Losing weight isn’t easy for anyone. Yes, someone can drop 100 pounds in the course of a television season, but a typical nurse isn’t going to have a slew of weight-loss gurus following her every move…and her every pound. In fact, the combination of shift scheduling, eating on the run, high stress and constant caregiving can make us poster girls (and guys!) for what NOT to weigh.
But here’s the secret: As a nurse, you already have the one major skill you need to shed pounds. You see, to be a successful nurse, you’ve needed to think ahead in order to troubleshoot, multitask, analyze problems and implement patient care. Now, you just have to think ahead to lose weight!

When it comes to food, be prepared.

  • Breakfast: Yes, breakfast is obviously important. The message is beaten into you continually, and you probably pass it on to your patients. But are you living it yourself? Are you waking up in time to eat a healthy, filling breakfast or are you just drinking coffee on the run? Be prepared. Wake up early enough so you have time to fuel your body for the day.
  • Lunch and dinner: You know that the brain needs a constant supply of good carbohydrates—the starches and sugars that you find in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. But are you getting healthy carbs when you’re depending on vending machines or microwavable instant meals for sustenance? Now this is where you’ll really need to turn those nursing “think ahead” skills into diet-planning skills: Pack a healthy lunch, dinner and snacks so you have control over the quality of food you put into your body.
  • All meals and snacks: When choosing food, pick organic, local and fresh, followed by frozen, then canned. Also, keep your diet low in fat by choosing lean meats. This helps you sustain lean muscle and decreases your chance of accumulating excess body fat.

Plan a workout.

  • Exercise: Fitness for nurses is another challenge. We know that exercise increases energy levels and gives an overall sense of well-being. Where do we fit this into our already busy schedules? Well, we could start by being kind to our bodies and doing our best to get out of bed a few minutes early to go for a brisk 10-minute walk, either outside or on a treadmill.
  • Add an extra stroll: Listen to the news on your commute instead of watching it on television (now you have more time to pack that lunch!). Once you arrive at work, try to park a little further away from your building of employment. Using the stairs is another inexpensive and time-saving way to get a workout in during the day.
  • Track yourself: Purchase a pedometer and add some extra footsteps to your day if safety allows. When you wear a pedometer, you’re apt to increase your physical activity; it’s all about being self-aware. Just implementing small bouts of cardiovascular activity into your day will make a big difference to your body and your mental outlook.

Keep on it during your days off.

  • Buddy system: On days off from your busy nursing schedule, plan to meet with a fitness buddy. Make a contract together to stay fit. Join a fitness group or class so you can find support in reaching your fitness goals.
  • Mix it up: Do your best to combine cardiovascular exercises with resistance training and stretching such as yoga.
  • Get serious: If you need more help, seek out a fitness professional such as a certified group fitness instructor or a personal trainer to help you devise a fitness plan that keeps you accountable and on track.

As nurses, we should do our very best to practice what we preach. We preach health and wellness, and don’t want to be met with a snicker when we do. You can be the example for your patients—and for your fellow nurses—if you do what makes you successful in the workplace: Plan ahead.

What’s your weight loss IQ? Take our quiz!

1. A virus may trigger overeating. True or false?

2. Staying in a climate-controlled environment will help speed weight loss. True or false?

3. Keeping track of the food you eat and the steps you take is a good strategy if you want to lose weight. True or false?

4. Treating obesity boils down to this: Eat less, move more. True or false?

5. Weighing yourself every week has been shown to help individuals maintain or lose weight. True or false?


1. True

Research indicates that a virus known as AD-36 
may cause an infection that triggers overeating and prompts fat cells to multiply in both number and size. Obesity research suggests only 15 percent of people are infected with the virus, but they were usually the heaviest and the most resistant to weight loss.

2. False

Indoor heating and cooling systems keep us in the “thermoneutral zone,” a temperature range where the body no longer needs to regulate body temperature for itself. Some scientists believe this causes us to cling to our body fat more tenaciously since we no longer need to burn additional calories to stay in the zone.

3. True

A Kaiser Permanente study found that dieters who kept a weight-loss diary lost twice as much weight compared to folks who didn’t. Other studies show that tracking your movement with a pedometer increases the number of daily steps you take, which can help you shed pounds and may be just as effective for long-term weight loss as going to the gym.

4. False

That simple formula makes sense, but it’s too simple. Obesity is a complicated disease with a multitude of triggering factors. A one-size treatment does not fit all. That said, according to research from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR)—the longest prospective investigation long-term weight-loss success—98% of its participants modified their food intake to lose weight and 94% increased their physical activity. So eating less (or better) and moving more is a good place to start.

5. True

Multiple studies indicate that a weekly weigh-in can help you fight the battle of the bulge.


5 out of 5 correct: You’re a weight-loss genius (at least, according to our test).

4 out of 5 correct: You’re not quite a genius, but your weight loss IQ is impressive.

3 out of 5 correct: Your weight loss IQ is about average.

2 out of 5 correct: Time to brush up on your weight loss facts.

1 out of 5 correct: You need a remedial weight loss course.

0 out of 5 correct: You’ve defied the odds (and not in a good way) by getting 0 out of 5 correct.

Ann Davison Liotino, RN
Ann Davison Liotino, RN, is a registered nurse in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing and is continuing her nursing education at Widener University. She has been involved in the field of fitness since 1996. Ann started as a certified personal trainer and advanced to a group fitness instructor in 2000. She is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and holds certifications in prenatal and postnatal fitness through the American Aerobic Association and Maternal Fitness in New York City. Ann is also a Baby Boot Camp franchise owner and instructor, is certified to teach Spinning and is on the path to pursuing her YogaFit certification.

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