The importance of a healthy weight cannot be underestimated. Yet within the life of a busy nurse – in between performing examinations, administering medications, and providing the best patient care - maintaining the right Body Mass Index (BMI) can fall down the list of priorities.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) believes that nurse health must be put high on the agenda, with weight being just one aspect of the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ initiative. When nurses are supported to be healthy, patients receive care at the highest levels, and nurses benefit from a better quality of life.
The basics of a healthy weight
We might associate a healthy weight with restrictive (and often unpleasant) dieting. However, healthy weight is a not a short-term fix, but a lifestyle that leads to improved overall health, increased energy, and improved self-esteem – while still eating what you enjoy.
Simple steps to take:
- Eating a balanced diet with whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables;
- Enjoying sweets, fats, and alcohol in moderation;
- Reasonable portion sizes (which, in our “more is better” world, seem small at first);
- Less snacking;
- Drinking more water and less sugary drinks – including fruit juices;
- Moving more and sitting less; and
- Less screen time.
Ultimately, it is a balance of energy in (nutrition) and energy out (fitness).
What else nurses can do?
Nurses are particularly vulnerable to weight gain, due to both shift work and the sheer physicality of the job which inclines them to eat more and exercise less. In addition, research has also has shown that shift work disrupts a person’s body clock and can lead to a less healthy lifestyle, increased blood pressure, and diabetes.
However, a healthy weight is still a realistic goal for nurses, and there are many strategies that nurses can adopt for greater wellbeing. By being aware of your routine, bad behaviors can be overcome. For shift workers this is particularly important, as regular meals and prioritizing sleep can have a big effect on the body’s metabolism.
Other habits can easily slip into our lives, but can be easily addressed once they are recognized. This might be your daily vending machine visit, using the elevator over the stairs, or making poor food choices when under stress.
Benefits of maintaining a healthy weight
Keeping a healthy weight is one of the easiest ways to improve your overall health. By achieving your optimum BMI, you can prevent and control many diseases and conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, gallstones, respiratory problems, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
If you are a numbers person, a healthy weight is a BMI of between 19 and 24.9. It is important to note that a BMI is just one screening tool and does not factor in other important health assessments such as skinfold thickness measurements, waist circumference, family history, and evaluation of nutrition and physical activity.
Ultimately, healthy weight is about maintaining your health, feeling good about yourself, and having more energy to enjoy your life.
ANA healthy weight resources
National healthy weight resources
- Adult obesity information
- Aim for a Healthy Weight. BMI calculator and toolkit.
- CDC's Smart Food Choices toolkit
- Choose My Plate. Interactive toolkit, replaces “food pyramid.”
- DHHS and USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines
- Eat Healthy-Be Active Community Guidelines. Fun facilitator guide to six one-hour workshops based on the Physical Activity Guidelines and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Healthy People 2020. National health benchmarks.
- HealthyPeople.gov. Tips to meet the national health benchmarks.
- Navy “Fitness and Fueling” information sites
- Super Tracker
- Physical Activity Basics
- Sodium Reduction
- Physical Activity
- Get the Facts: Drinking Water and Intake
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