Is Your Shift Working Job Making You Fat?

Lunch. DietIf you have ever worked 24/7 then I’d say there’s a good chance you’ve experienced weight gain and/or erratic weight fluctuations at some point in your career.  It kind of comes with the territory when we work irregular hours.

I for one certainly did.

Within my first 12 months of starting shift work I had gained 10 kilograms which was a lot because I’d always been quite lean and healthy.  In fact growing up my sister used to call me ‘Emu Legs’ because I was fairly skinny – such a beautiful term of affection only a sister could impart on her little sister and be forgiven!

But despite the weight gain and fluctuations, I have to admit I was one of the “lucky” ones.

Why?  Because research has shown shift workers are at higher risk of developing obesity, peptic ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, irregular blood sugar levels, metabolic syndrome – to name a few.

And whilst a lot of these complaints can be linked to the quality of the diet (a higher intake of processed and refined foods) and irregular eating times, according to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health in 2010 there are other factors which affect our metabolism and include:

  • Psychosocial stress
  • Disrupted circadian rhythms
  • Physical inactivity
  • Sleep debt and
  • Insufficient time for rest and revitalization

You see under “normal” conditions, our eating patterns are linked to our circadian rhythms which are regulated in the hypothalamus – an area of the brain which is responsible for the production of hormones.

However laboratory studies have shown that partial sleep deprivation causes changes in two of the hormones involved in the regulation of food intake which include:

  1. Ghrelin – a hormone which increases our appetite but increases even more when we’re sleep deprived.
  2. Leptin – a hormone which decreases our appetite however decreases even more when we’re sleep deprived.

Essentially the changes to the normal functioning of these hormones can actually cause us to overeat and/or eat when we’re not necessarily hungry.

So it’s not your fault you’re putting on weight – it’s your circadian rhythms!

Well partly anyway.

Just have a think about this – when was the last time you really listened to those hunger pangs and only ate when you were hungry?

Because more often than not we eat regardless and this puts a lot of added strain on our digestive system because it’s essentially “not ready” to receive, digest and break down any food.  Unfortunately when we also eat at erratic times, especially during the night, it can disturb intestinal motility which affects the digestion, absorption, and utilization of nutrients.

All of these factors can add to our feelings of fatigue, lethargy, and increased weight gain.

Of course I totally understand there are times when we have no choice but to eat (whether we’re hungry or not) thanks to time allocated meal breaks.

But we’re not at work all of the time – and we’re not sleep deprived all of the time.

These “hunger hormones” can certainly play havoc on our eating habits – especially if you’re a sleep-deprived shift worker.

However if you stick to as normal of an eating pattern as you possibly can (especially when you’re not at work), and make a conscious effort not to overeat and overeat on all of the bad stuff (highly processed, highly sugared foods) you will be able to beat those hunger hormones at their game and prevent yourself from gaining all those extra kilo’s I promise!  If I can do it – I’m sure you can too :-).

Why Working Shift Work Makes You Gain Weight!

Working shift work is hard – no question. But if you’re working shift work and trying to lose weight, then it can be even harder.

Because not only do shift workers have to work crazy hours, they also have to eat at irregular times as well.

And considering our digestive systems slow right down during the night when we should be sleeping – weight gain amongst shift workers is certainly a common place.

You’re also more likely to eat high processed, sugary foods, along with a vast array of high-caffeinated energy drinks to help keep you awake.

So how can you break away from this bad eating cycle?

Well it’s about taking responsibility for your health and being aware of the toxic food that you are putting into your mouth every single day.

You cannot expect to feel vibrant and healthy if you’re continually feeding your body processed foods . They cause havoc on your digestive system not only causing you to gain weight, but they also make you feel even more tired and lethargic than you already are.

But if your diet consists of whole foods – that is, foods that have undergone little on no processing, then your body will eventually discard the excess weight. You see weight loss is actually quite easy – if you stop eating junk.

It really is that simple.

So you may not have complete control over when you eat, but you certainly have complete control over what you eat.

It’s time to give up the soft drinks, crisps, lollies and fries. It’s not about depriving yourself of these foods – it’s about replacing them with good healthy food that will not only energize you – but keep the scales under control as well.

Weight Gain – A Shift Worker's Guide To Beating The Battle of The Bulge!

Weight gain is one of the most common complaints that I hear from shift workers every single day. And unfortunately when the weight stacks on and the clothes get tighter, depression usually sets in.

So what can a shift worker do to beat the battle of the bulge?

Well it’s all about introducing an effective eating plan that is conducive to working crazy and irregular hours.

And let’s be honest here – this can be a really hard thing to do.

But at the end of the day, you and only you, have complete control of what does and does not go inside your mouth. So if you’re not happy with your weight right now, the good news is that you do have the power to change it.

You see if you’re doing the same things over and over again, yet expecting different results, then you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment.

You have to be willing to change what you’re doing right now, in order to lose the weight, and beat the battle of the bulge.

The food that you’re putting in your mouth is a vital part of any successful weight loss plan. The old saying ‘We are what we eat’ is very true but unfortunately for most people, the simple truth is that we are eating all the wrong types of foods.

And in many cases, we’re also eating too much of the wrong foods.

So first and foremost I want you to start eliminating processed foods from your diet – no excuses. Take a look in your pantry and refrigerator and if it’s full of food that is packaged in some type of box, jar or container, then it has gone through some sort of processing. And the more food undergoes processing, the fewer nutrients it contains.

Now as shift workers, good nutrition is vital because we are pushing our bodies to do exactly the opposite to what it should be doing and that is being awake when we should be asleep, and being asleep when we should be awake. Oh joy!

But when you give your body optimum nutrition, it has an amazing ability to heal itself and this includes shedding any excess weight.

What I also recommend you do is find someone you can trust and who is knowledgeable about weight loss and diet, and work with them. I personally recommend you have a chat to a well respected doctor who specialises in Nutritional Medicine – that way you can almost guarantee that he or she will be able to ensure you get the right nutrition specific to your needs.

Any money you spend will be an investment in your health and your future. The truth is that it will actually save you a fortune down the track, so please don’t be cheap when it comes to your health.

Most people end up saving a fortune by switching away from processed foods, so that’s got to be a good enough reason and motivation to stop eating them!

Why A Pear Is Better Than An Apple When It Comes To Your Shift Work Weight!

As a shift worker, have you ever said to yourself … “If only I could get rid of my pear shape I’d be so much happier!” Well you’re going to be pleasantly surprised to learn that having a pear-shaped figure is actually a good thing.

You see being pear-shaped is much better than being shaped like an apple.

And the reason for this is if you look a bit like an apple then you’re probably suffering from a condition known as Toxic Belly Fat Syndrome. This is where you have a lot of inner fat deposited around your mid section which can make you prone to diseases like diabetes, stroke and cancer.

You see so many shift workers are obsessed with their weight. They’re more worried about what the number on the scales reads than anything else.

But starting from today I want you to change focus and make the size of your waist your main priority.

Now to give you an idea on what you should be aiming for:

  • In men, your waist should be no more than 100cm (or 40 inches)
  • In women, your waist should be no more than 87cm (or 35 inches)

So stop stressing about your weight and start focusing on getting your waist measurements within these guidelines.

To achieve good health whilst working shift work, I want you to really understand that weight is not the big issue. You may have read somewhere that it’s better to be pear-shaped (small waist and large hips) – than an apple which is round in the middle because it’s all about avoiding the Toxic Belly Fat.

You see you might actually fall into the ‘healthy weight range’, but it’s the inner fat that’s of concern. You can still have Toxic Belly Fat even if you’re not overweight. And on the opposite side of the equation, you can be overweight but have no toxic belly fat.

So start getting serious about your diet and lifestyle habits – no more slumping on the couch with a burger and fries. And no more drinking copious amounts of sugar infested sodas. It’s just not worth it.

And another important point to raise, Toxic Belly Fat Syndrome has even been linked to things like sleeping disorders. Considering sleep is a rare and precious resource if you’re a shift worker, it’s certainly an excellent motivating force to change from being an apple to a pear!

Shift Work Weight Gain – Why You're Just 21 Days Away From Beating It!

I hate to say it but shift work weight gain is extremely common. We’re notorious for eating all of the wrong foods all at the wrong times of the day, so the weight just naturally gravitates to our once svelte figure!

But did you know that it takes just 18-21 days to change a habit? Which means that you are just 21 days away from reducing some of that shift work weight gain.

Pretty exciting isn’t it?

Now as easy as that sounds, you certainly have to stay committed to get the results that you’re looking for otherwise you’re going to end up disappointed. You have to be accountable – either to your friends or family, or by writing in a small journal every single day.

Because the problem is that our brain is wired to do lots of negative, habitual patterns (eating the wrong foods and failing to exercise) – even though we know it’s not right.

So to begin, you need to ask yourself – “Do I have a sedentary lifestyle?” And if the answer is ‘yes’ then it’s time to get moving – literally!

As most shift workers suffer from some form of constant fatigue and tiredness, many people use this as an excuse not to exercise. But the problem is that this sedentary lifestyle makes you feel even more lethargic all of the time.

It’s like whenever you go for a long drive in your car. You didn’t do anything except spend the whole day sitting, but you’re exhausted by the time that you get there. Again, you did nothing – you just sat!

You see our body is designed and built to move. We are supposed to be ‘hunters and gatherers’ where we have to move in order to survive and live.

Fast track to 2010 and it’s completely the opposite – we hardly move at all.

But the good news is that when you start to move again – your endorphins kick in (the body’s feel good hormones) – and you start to feel alive again.

Or more simply put – once you move again, your body will get used to it and will want more!!

But a word of warning. Whenever you embark on any new fitness program, it can certainly be overwhelming because you’re focusing on the end result. You might feel like you’re going to have to climb Mt Everest to get there because it feels so far beyond your reach right now. But if you just take small, incremental steps every single day – you will definitely get there.

So if you’re serious about eliminating some your shift work weight gain, then it’s time to get moving!

Instead of slumping on the couch in front of the TV after work – put on your running shoes and go out for a short walk around the block. You’ll feel so much better when you do – and your running shoes will thank you for it too. (After all, they’re built and designed to move as well!)