How do you maintain a healthy weight?


Photo of Hannah Young


By Elizabeth Scala


Lately at work, colleagues and nurses have been talking about weight loss.  I can see how this is appropriate as with the holidays passing us by and the New Year ahead this is the time of the year when folks start to reflect upon their bodies.  What I have heard more and more than usual is that people are “doing” so much to try and lose the weight, but are not achieving the results they desire.

I talked with one nurse who questioned everything she was doing saying, “I am eating practically nothing and working out every single day!  Why can’t I lose any weight?”  I overheard another group in the bathroom having a similar discussion, contemplating getting their thyroid checked to see if their body could be contributing to their lack of results.

Recently I saw a fabulous documentary, Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat, which shared more than just the fact that the food we eat can be causing us to gain weight.  One of the things that resonated with me the most was the linkage between stress and weight.  Now I have heard of and read about this issue before, but it struck me… could this be why the nurses I come in contact with -who are exercising and eating well- are still struggling with losing and maintaining their weight!?  Could it be that they are doing everything that they can, but their own lifestyles are getting in the way?

Here are some ways that the stress you are feeling might be impacting your weight:

  • Metabolism: When we are stressed our body produces and releases too much cortisol.  That cortisol builds up within the body.  This can slow your metabolism, causing weight loss to be difficult.
  • Cravings: Nurses experiencing stress, pressure, and tension are more likely to crave more fatty, salty, and sugary foods.  These types of foods are less healthy and lead to weight gain and/or the lack of weight loss.
  • Fat storage: Excessive stress affects where we tend to store fat.  Greater stress levels are linked to greater levels of abdominal fat.  And as nurses we know, fat around the abdominal area is linked with greater health risks.

So what can you do to ensure that you are reducing stress… and consequently maintaining a healthy weight?

  • Cook your meals: Many times when people are rushed and stressed they opt for the perceived “easiest” choice: fast food.  When you can, make time to prepare healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at home you will be able to have more control over your weight.
  • Measure your portion of food: A lot of the problem is that when we are stressed we tend to overeat.  We are angry, sad, or worried and so we sit unconsciously just eating out of the chip or candy bag.  Instead read the label and measure out the portion size.  Put the bag away and take just the portion to where you are going to be eating at.
  • Ensure proper and adequate rest: One thing you can do to release stress is get enough quality sleep.  Sleeping between the hours of 10pm-6am is ideal, but as nurses working shift work sometimes that is tricky.  If you can find a way to get on a sleep routine, cut out distractions as you rest, and ensure ideal sleeping conditions this can help reduce stress.
  • Practice awareness: Take a few moments out of your day, even if it is just 5 minutes, just to sit and breathe.  Observe your breath and let go of any thoughts.  Practicing mindfulness in this way is a mental and emotional exercise.  Doing this can help you release tension and stress and help with relaxation.
  • Identify your supports: When we have people we can go to for help life becomes much easier.  Instead of trying to do it all reach out for and receive assistance.  Find family, friends, co-workers, or even a support group to go to when you are feeling unable to cope with all the stressors of life.  These resources are available to us… we just have to know where to find them, ask, and then be open to receiving.



Elizabeth Scala is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and Master’s degrees in both Business and Nursing. You can find all the services she offers on her website Living Wellness Sublime. You can contact her via email at , facebook, twitter or subscribe to her blog.