HSW 93 – Weight Loss Study for Shift Workers with Professor Maxine Bonham

Are you struggling to lose weight whilst working 24/7?  If so, this episode is for you!

Today I’m talking with Associate Professor Maxine Bonham who is a registered nutritionist and research academic at Monash University in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food here in Australia.  Maxine is currently involved in research examining some of the adverse health effects associated with sleep debt, poor dietary habits and misalignment of circadian rhythms in shift workers.  All super relevant for anyone working 24/7.

Maxine and I discuss how alternating our mealtime or food intake can conflict with our natural body clock or circadian rhythms, and how this can negatively impact on our health including our weight, along with her latest research – a world-first study trialling weight-loss interventions for those working night shift.

Links mentioned on the podcast:

The Swift Study open to night shift workers based in Melbourne or Adelaide – https://www.monash.edu/medicine/swiftstudy

Shifting the Risk – A study investigating meal timing and heart health in shift workers –

Weight Gain – Why Your Addiction To Coffee May Be Hindering Your Ability To Lose Weight.

This post is probably not going to win me a popularity contest, especially if you love your coffee, but if you’ve been struggling to lose weight, then you might want to stick around to hear what I have to say.

Because weight loss is not all about what you eat, but also what you drink.

Now for the purpose of this post, I going to be focussing on coffee, or more specifically caffeine, which let’s face it, can be a saviour for many who work 24/7.

I also want to point out that I’m referring to those who drink copious amounts of coffee a day (as opposed to just 1 or 2 cups), otherwise known as “chronic coffee drinkers” along with those who consume a lot of energy drinks because the caffeine (and sugar content) of these energy drinks are usually off the scale!

Whilst I’m sure you can all appreciate that caffeine can be a saviour at keeping you awake, it may not be doing the same for your waistline, especially if you drink it continually, and here’s why:

1. Each time you drink (or eat) anything that contains caffeine, it stimulates the nervous system to trigger the release of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, leading to an elevation in blood sugar.

Why is that a problem?

Having elevated blood sugar when you’re facing a life or death situation is actually a good thing, because it triggers the pancreas to produce insulin, helping to move this glucose out of the blood and into the cells and muscles where it can be used as a source of energy so that you can run away or “escape” from this impending threat.

The trouble is, you don’t actually have to run away from anything, (thankfully), after drinking a cup of coffee.

You’re perfectly safe. Sitting at your desk doing your thing. Answering emails, taking phone calls … whatever it is for you.

But this can be problematic.


Are You Eating To Support Your Mental Health?

Yesterday I was invited to speak at an event titled ‘Love Yourself Masterclass’ for veterinarian and vet nurses here in Brisbane, because quite tragically, these practitioners have the highest suicide rate in the country.

Yes that was not a typo.

These incredible human beings that do an AMAZING job at taking care of our beloved pets are struggling. Struggling to take care of themselves as a result of a highly stressful and emotionally challenging work environment, that is affecting them physically, mentally and emotionally – right to the core.

This gut wrenching suicide statistic is 4 times higher than the average Australian, and twice as high as other medical professions.

So what can be done to support our mental health in the workplace?

Well there are many things, one of which is critically important, is sufficient quality sleep. Something that I spoke about in detail at this event yesterday because it actually trumps nutrition.

But I’ll save that for a separate post, because it deserves it’s very own.

In today’s post I want to talk about the importance of feeding our bodies with the right foods and nutrients, because this simple practice can make a DRAMATIC difference to our mental health.


Poor Sleep – Why Your Diet May Be To Blame.

As someone who works irregular hours, I’m pretty certain that you’d be well aware of how a shift working lifestyle can play havoc on our ability to sleep and sleep well.

Whether it’s due to a rotating roster, long stretches of early or night shifts, or as a result of nasty minimum turnarounds that don’t really allow sufficient opportunity to sleep.

Hmm. Don’t get me started on that one!!

But have you ever considered that your diet may be affecting your ability to sleep as well?

Because most people don’t.

In fact, it never crosses their minds.

We’re usually more worried about how our food choices are going to affect our waistlines (which is a good thing), but the association between how it can impact on our sleep is often overlooked.

So here’s the kicker.

What we eat (or don’t eat) can definitely play a role in how well we sleep (or don’t sleep).

A BIG role.


Fruits & Vegetables – Why They Are A Shift Worker’s Best Friend.

We should eat more fruits and vegetables! We’ve heard it all before, but why are they specifically good for shift workers, or why are they a shift worker’s best friend?

Well before I get into the nuts and bolts of it I think it’s important to understand that a staggering 96 percent of Australian adults are not consuming the recommended 5 servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day.

Given we live in a country that has an abundance supply of fresh produce, it’s a pretty woeful and somewhat embarrassing statistic.

In fact, depending on which part of the world you live, those statistics may be similar to where you reside too.

So why are they so important – especially if you work 24/7?

There are many reasons, but these are my Top 2 recommendations as to why you need to be incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet if you work irregular hours: