Epi 18: Is Your Job Making You Fat?

Epi 18: Is Your Job Making You Fat?

August 02, 2019


Today we will talk about why some nurses are fat due to their work and the outside environment. 

Psilocybin for Depression

But first, we will talk about the Current health News: Magic mushrooms could replace antidepressants within five years, says new psychedelic research center: People on antidepressants long-term say they feel blunted with psychedelic therapy it’s the opposite, they talk about an emotional release, a reconnection

The number of Americans who say they've taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014, a new government survey finds.

By 2014,  about one in every eight Americans over the age of 12 reported recent antidepressant use, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Carhart-Harris et al., (2017)

The study took 19 depressed patients and prescribed a microdose of psilocybin. 100% of the patients had a decrease in depressive symptoms at 1-week post-treatment and 47% had decreased depressive symptoms 5 weeks out. A small study has shown benefited results. 

In this NYU study¹, researchers assigned 29 patients to receive either a small dose of psilocybin or a placebo that seemed to create a hallucinogenic experience.

About 80 percent of the patients were less anxious and depressed by the next day. The participants also reported feeling more spiritually fulfilled and fearing their deaths less. There were still signs of the improvement more than six months after the dose.

Long-Term Effects of Antidepressants: What People Say

In 2016, the medical journal Patient Preference and Adherence published a paper looking at what people taking antidepressants long-term had to say about the side effects that they've seen.

The main side effects they complained about included:

  • Sexual problems (72 percent), including an inability to reach orgasm (65 percent)
  • Weight gain (65 percent)
  • Feeling emotionally numb (65 percent)
  • Not feeling like themselves (54 percent)
  • Reduced positive feelings (46 percent)
  • Feeling as if they're addicted (43 percent)
  • Caring less about other people (36 percent)
  • Feeling suicidal (36 percent)

Weight Gain in Nursing

What we hear nurses say often when it comes to weight gain:

  • “We spend so much time taking care of others we don’t leave much energy to take care of ourselves.”
  • “I’m working 12-hour shifts, eating late or at weird times, and you’re starved when you get off work.”
  • “Working 12-hour shifts don’t allow me to get the proper kind of exercise. I’m too tired to get up earlier than usual before my shift to work out, and too tired after my shift to fit in a session.”

One way to change poor health habits is to take a cold, hard look at why they exist in the first place. 

We understand a nurse’s life is physically and emotionally demanding. The long days, endless nights and constant chaos takes a toll.

Let's take a look where this might have all started for the nurse.

Nursing school 

Eat, Nursing School, Sleep, Repeat.

The pressure to maintain a high GPA or get cut from the program is enough to put weight on the best of us. How did you cope when you were in nursing school? Maybe you stress ate all the time without realizing it and you made it into a habit without consciously being aware of it. 

Nursing students think, "All I’ve got to do is make it through school. Then, I’ll get my life back.”

But that’s just the beginning! Once you graduate, you’re actually a nurse. It never ends! It actually gets crazier!

As if the four grueling years in nursing school wasn't enough, your job piles on new challenges.

Things Nurses have to deal with

  • Time- There’s never time to eat. Especially without a relief nurse when do we have the time to enjoy a meal away from our nursing environment. There’s barely time to go to the restroom. 
  • Schedule- 12-hour shifts and irregular schedule makes sticking to any diet nearly impossible. Working night shifts on top of this totally kills any routine. 
  • Breakroom- We all know that patients like to always treat us to cookies, donuts, and any finger foods that provide no nutrition. If not that, you can always hit the vending machine.
  • Coworkers- They’re on the frontlines with you but don’t always have their own diet in check and will try to sabotage yours. 
  • Emotions- Everyshift can be an emotional roller coaster. Stress eating can be a way to cope as it feels good, releasing some temporary dopamine. 

Time: If you work in a nursing home, a med-surg unit, or some other fast-paced and understaffed facility on a full-time basis the job consumes you. An 8-hour shift quickly becomes a 10–11-hour shift once the paperwork is complete. A 12-hour shift becomes a 14. If the second shift nurse doesn’t show up, oftentimes you are the second shift nurse. On your day off your phone blows up to see if you can come in.

Time: When you are doing all this, your motivation to exercise goes out the window. When you have to eat on the run, your eating habits are horrible. Throw in being on call where you are sleeping with a pager in your hand and one eye open. It adds to the whole cocktail of overwork, bad eating, and especially the sleep deprivation. Cigarettes, caffeine, and sugar are a poor substitute for sleep and exercise. What else goes well with a high-stress job? Alcohol.

Every place I have worked at, you could spot the “lifers”. The ones that have devoted their whole lives to their jobs. It was most prevalent in Med-Surg and nursing homes. Especially in nursing homes. They all looked many years older than their actual age. The charge nurses looked the worst.

You would think that seeing patients die from obesity and smoking-related illnesses would have an effect on them. Nope. They would come to work marinated in cigarette smoke. Donut in one hand and coffee in the other.

Fang L et al., (2018)¹

OBJECTIVES: This study explored the associations with female nurses' work stress, social support, and overweight/obesity, and tried to find predictors of the female nurses' overweight/obesity.

FINDINGS: The results of this study showed that "regular exercise frequency lower than or equal to 2 days a week", "rotating night shifts greater than or equal to 4 times a month", "nursing working hours higher than 44 hours a week", "high work stress", and "low social support" were the main predictors of "overweight/ obesity".

The Link Between Stress and Cortisol

Stress triggers a fight or flight response in your body. This response releases hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenal prepares your body to take action and minimizes your desire to eat.

Once the adrenaline effects wear off, cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, hangs around. Cortisol temporarily suppresses functions that are non-essential, such as your digestive, immune, and reproductive responses.

When you have more cortisol in your system, you may crave less healthy food options like snacks containing high sugar and fat content. Your stress response is still going on after the adrenaline has worn off and your body is thinking it needs quick energy, like sugar and simple carbs.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follow can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with your life stressors.

Metabolism Speed 

A 2015 study¹ conducted by researchers at Ohio State University found that stress was linked to a slower metabolism in women.

Researchers questioned women about the previous day's stressors before feeding them a high-fat, high-calorie meal. Then, the scientists measured their metabolic rate and examined their blood sugar, triglycerides, insulin, and cortisol levels.

They found that on average, women who reported one or more stressor during the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than the non-stressed women. That difference might mean a weight gain of almost 11 pounds in one year.

Stressed women also had higher levels of insulin, which contributes to the storage of fat. They also had less fat oxidation, which is the conversion of large fat molecules into smaller molecules that can be used as fuel. The fat that is not burned is stored.


Your belly fat cannot be fully attributed to just your stress and habits at work. Your lifestyle outside of work is a key proponent on your weight gain. Your coping habits have just as big of an impact as your nutritional intake and activity. Be active, eat clean, and manage your stress properly.

Time and Money

Nurses oftentimes graduate heavily in debt. So, when they start working in busy, understaffed facility overtime becomes a way of life. They work 70 hours a week and suddenly they are making 6 figures for the first time in their lives. They get the car and home they always wanted. Now they are owned. Some decide they shift differential pay is worth it and next thing you know they are working from 7 pm to 7 am. Some do it to be able to shuttle their children to and from school. Then, they try to get stuff done during the day so they only get 4 to 5 hours of sleep at the most. What's the best way to get fat? Consistently lose sleep.

So How Do We Stay Healthy as a Nurse?

Relying on willpower and motivation is a terrible strategy. Why? Because they’re never there when you need them most. Motivation is a powerful wave but lasts only a moment before crashing on the shore.

Change your relationship with food 

  • We understand that cortisol makes you crave the unhealthy snacks that are filled with sugar and simple carbs. Cortisol makes you crave food that is easy to breakdown because it makes your mind think you need energy now. 
  • It is easy to fall into that loop because your body is releasing hormones to make you think in a certain way. There is a mind-body connection 
  • The first step is to understand your relationship with food on the mental level. It’s hard to break out when you’ve been used to doing the same process over. 
  • Intermittent fasting can be very beneficial in this process. When you fast you break away from the control that cravings play. Food becomes less of a pleasure-seeking commodity to a necessity. 
  • Why is cake so dang tempting? It’s because we see it as a reward, a moment of pleasure, a way to feel better. You have to change how you think about food. Changing your mindset takes practice, but when you do, you quickly see there’s no willpower required.

Understand what influences us to make the decisions we do

  • Emotions are eating triggers, and before you take the first bite, learn to ask yourself, should I be eating this? 
  • Are you eating because you are bored? When we are just sitting around and watching TV we are getting mental stimulation but lacking any physical stimulation, especially when you’ve already sat through the first 5 episodes of friends. That’s why when we’ve been sitting for a long time we get the urge to stand. You’re lacking a physical stimulus so you reach for those chips or honey buns.
  • Heavy stress at work also influences the decisions we make. Having a hard day at work drains you and the easiest thing to do is just lay down and grab a snack. That’s completely acceptable, but not every day. We need those days where we just bum it out, but that can’t be every day. 
  • Why is it that one hour you tell yourself you are going to go workout but then a few hours later you don’t feel like it? It is because you’ve waited too long to act. I’m sure this has happened many times. So what do you do instead? You probably just go home or go hang out with friends because that is quick and enjoyable. That’s what you’ve been doing these past few months, it’s easy to do. When you try to change you now have resistance and no one likes resistance. Your mind doesn’t like it because it requires you to step out of the norm and into something unknown.

Build easy and healthy responses to everyday triggers (Habits)

  • Habits are the building blocks of the future. The daily activities we take with our selves will affect the way we are and feels a few years later. Do you think your current habits will aid weight loss or accelerate weight gain? 
  • Recognize unresolved emotions are responsible for guiding (or misleading) our choices on a daily basis.
  • Listen to your body. Don't volunteer to take up more tasks if it will interfere with your health or stress level. When necessary learn to say “no”.
  • Take a breather. If you find people or patients that are making you feel stressed out, go outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air. “Ask yourself if you’re overreacting.” 
  • One of the best ways to deal with stress, or burn off some extra energy, or even something to do when your bored is being active. Going to the gym has many benefits not only the physical aspects. Mentally your brain releases fun chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and yes, dopamine. It feels good to workout. It improves confidence, you’ll look better. Remember how eating snacks release dopamine and you used it to cope, well the gym will do the same thing. You can retrain your thought process and mind to think about the activity when you're stressed instead of that ice cream cone. You’ll even get better sleep, sleep is a fundamental need for our body. We’ve all had those days where we were mentally tired but physically ready to go or vice versa. Or we’ve had those nights where we just can't fall asleep. Going to the gym almost gives you a reason to sleep and can even be a prep for bed. 

Obesity and Your Future Employer

Attention to obesity management is prudent and ‘good business’. Increased disability, decreased quality of life, increased use of the health care system, decreased workplace productivity and increased absenteeism lead to higher costs to businesses and society, and obesity is one factor in these issues.

The increase in back-related injuries related to being obese include the poor body mechanics resulting from not being able to hold heavy items close to the body when lifting, and overweight and obesity also impact productivity, performance, attendance, and fitness to work.








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