An Expanding Waistline – Why A Cosy Trip In The Flight Deck Left Me Anxious.

Man Waist FatOne of the major challenges I hear from shift workers is a constant struggle to lose weight.  An expanding waistline that seems to steadily creep up on us over the years and before we know it, we need to buy larger sizes of clothes in the hope that it may help to disguise this extra weight.

Of course a steady weight gain is not surprising really given our lethargic lifestyles and reliance on highly refined, processed foods to help curb our appetite whenever we are feeling too tired to cook.  However a few months ago when I was lucky enough to catch a ride home in the flight deck (one of the many perks when working in the aviation industry), something struck me which made me even more concerned about our expanding waistlines and the subsequent ill-effects that occur from being overweight.

As I strapped myself into the jump seat and listened in earnest to the emergency evacuation drill from the co-pilot, I could not help but feel a little concerned.  Whilst the co-pilot went through the evacuation process in the unlikely event that something catastrophic may happen to the flight, he directed me to the window which was above his right.  In other words, if we had to make an emergency landing we would be climbing through “his window” as a means of escape.  I said “sure – no problem”, but what I declined to ask (despite the question vigorously spinning around in my head), was how HE was going to get through that window.

You see, I’m a fairly lean and flexible person – thanks to a bit of walking, swimming and yoga I would have had no problem in jumping out that window if I absolutely had to.  But the the co-pilot, on the other hand … well let me just say that his waistline would have prevented both him and myself, from getting through that window in a hurry if the aircraft ever did have to make an emergency landing.

This left me really anxious.  Whilst I knew I could get out that window if I really had to, I felt like my life was in the hands of someone else – that his expanding waistline could have prevented my escape from a potentially life-threatening situation.

In Dr Pamela Peeke’s book, Fit to Live she asks her readers the following question – “Are you physically fit to live?”  Because as Pamela explains, to really enjoy life you need to have strength and balance, be able to stand up and see your toes, and be flexible.  However what is of even more importance is that if you were ever faced with an emergency situation (which I hope you never will), could you save your life?  Could you run down or up 10, 20, 30 or even more flights of stairs? Could you escape through a burning window or climb under a car if you had to?

You see, you don’t want to just be healthy. Health and fitness are not the same. You can be healthy but unfit at the same time. You need to be both. You need to be physically fit so that you can live your life the best that you possibly can, but also be fit enough to save your life (or that of another life) in the unlikely event that you were faced with an emergency situation.

I get that exercise or movement of any kind can be an incredibly hard thing to do when you’re feeling tired and lethargic.  As a 20 year shift work veteran I totally understand this quandary, but it’s something that you need to do regularly to help keep your waistline in check.

In essence, it’s not something that you want to avoid.  The good news however, is the fitter you become the more energy you will acquire which is a great motivating tool for any energy-depleted shift workerSo go on, find a way to get your body moving again so that you can get your waistline back in check because you never know when your life (and the life of others) may actually depend on it.

Are You Turning Into A Couch Potato?

Couch PoatoeDo you have days, weeks, and sometimes months when you have absolutely no energy to exercise?  Well this may sound a little harsh, but have you turned into a couch potato coming up with different excuses and reasons why you can’t exercise?

Well you’re certainly not alone.

As shift workers we are prone to constant fatigue and tiredness, so the mere thought of getting out and doing some exercise can be the last thing on our minds.

But fortunately (or unfortunately for some, depending on which way you look at it) – it’s absolutely essential that the human body gets some form of exercise or movement.

Exercise by definition is “… any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health”.

You see by exercising, you will become more flexible, stronger and have a lot more energy.

Did someone say more energy?!!

And there is even more good news.

* When you start getting into shape, your self-esteem also increases. You begin to handle things better, and it can even help those who suffer from depression.

* Your relationships with your colleagues, friends and family also improves because you begin to feel so much healthier.

* When you get physically fit – many people find that they begin to get their lives back in shape too.

So don’t wait until you gain 20 kilo’s and your doctor tells you that you MUST exercise. Prevention is the key to good health, and exercise is the key to acquiring more energy.

And considering good health and loads of energy can be a missing link in the life of a shift worker – it’s got to be one of the simplest solutions around.  So go on, switch off the telly and pop on some walking shoes.  Just 15 minutes of movement a day is going to make you feel so much better than if you were to stay on the couch!

Shift Work Versus A Game Of Tennis: Which One Is More Exhausting?

Is working shift work harder than playing a game of tennis? Probably, but not if you asked the players currently competing in the Australian Open in Melbourne right now.

With a week of record temperatures (4 days of over 40 degrees), even the world’s best are struggling to overcome fatigue and extreme exhaustion.

Of course “fatigue” is a familiar word for shift workers everywhere with sleep-deprivation being the number one cause.

But what about dehydration? Because if you throw “dehydration” into the “sleep-deprivation” mix, then you’ve certainly got an uphill battle on your hands. Quite simply, if your body loses too much water then your cells, tissues and organs dehydrate making you feel weak, exhausted and even delirious.

Sounds like a typical day at the office when you work 24/7 doesn’t it?!!

Of course the obvious dietary sources to help overcome dehydration (and fatigue) is water itself along with other beverages (coconut water is awesome), but most of us underestimate the beneficial effects of our fruits and vegetables with some containing up to 90% water.

Percentage of Water in Selected Foods:

90-99%
Strawberries
Watermelon
Lettuce
Cabbage
Celery
Spinach
Broccoli

80-89%
Apples
Grapes
Oranges
Carrots

Source: ‘Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition’ by Rolfes, Pinna and Whitney.

So if you’re needing some extra help with fatigue and exhaustion (besides trying to get as much sleep as possible) …

* Make sure you’re incorporating more of the above fruits and veges into your diet each and every day – juicing is a great way to do this and

* Keep drinking water consistently throughout the day (remembering thirst drives a person to seek water, but it usually lags behind the body’s need – ie; keep drinking well before you begin to feel thirsty).

For those working in extreme heat conditions 24/7 (and most vulnerable to dehydration) – you might find taking the supplement “Megahydrate” particularly beneficial as research has shown this supplement significantly increases hydration at a cellular level and also helps with pain relief from headaches, sore muscles, and inflammation of the joints.

On that note, I’m off to watch a bit of the tennis on the telly (in the air-conditioning) with plenty of water on hand minus the heat!

A Shift Work Holiday Spent Earthing …

Well it’s back to work tomorrow after 2 blissful weeks away on holidays. Whilst it was a short break, we certainly made the most of it by spending a great deal of time outdoors including basking in the winter sunshine of Far North Queensland, bush walking through the spectacular Mossman Gorge and wandering along the beautiful pristine beaches Australia is so well renowned for.

I absolutely love this little holiday snap which I took of my husband Dale wandering through the crystal clear waters of Cape Tribulation as it captures him in a moment totally disconnected from all of the Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF’s) found in mobile phones, computers, and other energy-zapping appliances we’ve all become so accustomed to using every day of our lives.

In fact for most people, busy lifestyles prohibit us from spending any time in direct contact with the earth – ie; wearing rubber and synthetic footwear; and living and sleeping in houses which insulate us from direct contact with the earth.

So as Dale wanders along the sand in his bare-feet “earthing” himself (otherwise known as “grounding”), he is actually helping his body to return to its normal electrical state by reducing exposure to all of the Electro Magnetic Fields, and allowing his body to self-regulate and heal.

Other benefits of grounding may include:

1. Improved sleep
2. Reduced pain and inflammation
3. Improved circulation and …
4. Relief of tension in the muscles.

How can you earth yourself?

“Earthing” can be just going for a walk barefoot on the grass or beach – or perhaps going for a swim in the ocean. Either way, the benefits are many so even if it’s a quick dip in the ocean before work, or a brisk walk around the park during your lunch break and/or days off, try and make a conscious effort to earth yourself every now and then as it will go a long way in helping to reinvigorate a very tired, sleep-deprived body – which is definitely a good thing when you work 24/7!

Shift Work Health: Are You A Green, Blue or Pink Walker?

As the weeks, months and years go by; do you feel like you’re getting older or younger? Sound like a silly question? Perhaps so – particularly when you have to work some pretty erratic hours which are undeniably hazardous on your health.

But what if I was to ask you a different question.

“Are you a Green, Blue or Pink Walker?”

Confused? Well despite stating the obvious (as we are indeed getting older), I’d like to share with you a little story which kind of conflicts with the “getting older” theory.

This real life story is actually based on my own personal experience after staying at a health retreat last week.

You see when I first started shift work some 20 years ago; (OK now I’m really starting to show my age) I was a mess. I was tired, exhausted, my immune system was in really bad shape, I had gained 10 kilograms in 12 months, and was feeling utterly miserable.

I had no idea working shift work would turn my life upside down. My physical, mental and emotional health had gone haywire the moment I started to work irregular hours.

Gee, I don’t remember this being mentioned in my job interview all those years ago.

Anyway, a couple of years into my shift working career I decided to seek some advice on taking better care of my health so I booked myself into a health retreat for a week. Wow! How awesome was that? It was a truly life changing experience. I learnt so much and was able to apply things into my own shift working life straight away.

What’s interesting however, is when I visited this health retreat nearly 20 years ago I was given a “low physical fitness rating”.

That’s right. At the tender age of 23 years old I was told I was very unfit.

Not something to be particularly proud of.

So when the Personal Trainer recommended I undertake the Green Walk (the easiest walk at the entire retreat) – I was both mortified and a little embarrassed at being told I was so unfit.

The walks at the retreat were rated as follows:
Green = easy
Blue = moderate
Pink = challenging.

So my Green Walk had no steep hills or rugged terrain to climb – just a long flat road with a few bends and turns along the way.

Fast forward some 17 years later and here I am again – back at the same health retreat which I’d visited 20 odd years earlier, but this time much older.

This time I was 40-something year old woman who was not going to be another ‘Green Walk Statistic!’

I was determined to do the more challenging walk – the Pink Walk. Not once, but several times. So despite the fact that I was almost double my age and I had worked many, many years on a rotating roster 24/7, I can honestly say that I am much fitter and healthier now than when I was back then in my early 20’s.

And that really is an awesome feeling!

So how did I do it? Well after leaving the health retreat all those years ago, I decided to do one thing and that was to take 100% responsibility for my health.

I stopped blaming the hours that I worked and the job that I was doing as the reason for my weight gain and lack of fitness. I got rid of my “woe is me” attitude and started to change my thinking and behaviour.

Sure, working irregular hours certainly makes it harder, but it’s not the only reason why shift workers gain weight and get sick.

Everything comes back to taking personal responsibility for your shift work health.

After my initial visit to the health retreat, I made a conscious decision to take 100% responsibility for my health which included what food I put into my mouth; making sure I allocated time to improve my fitness, and making health my Number 1 priority.

That’s right – Number 1.

Not number 2 or 3 – number 1. Because let’s face it, spending hours at work earning money is pointless if you don’t have your health. You don’t want to just aim for a long life – you want to aim for a long and healthy life, even if you do have to work 24/7.