Why is it difficult to lose weight if you work in shifts?
The modern fast-paced lifestyle can be described best in two words – Nature, Interrupted. In the space of a few decades, we have overturned the routines which have evolved through millions of years of evolution. Is it any wonder that the effects are not pretty? There are a host of well-established rules of physical well being. One of these is that humans as programmed to be active during the day and to sleep at night. The human body has a natural cycle, known as the circadian rhythm, which regulates when you are most active and when you require rest. But today, there are a host of jobs which require people to be most active during the night. And no, none of them involve being Batman and fighting crime. Night shift workers cover a host of professions – security, emergency responders, on-call medical professionals, BPO and KPO workers, bartenders and entertainers. When you are working at night, you have to go against your body’s natural inclinations. The effects are varied and felt for days on end. You know the night shift is getting to you when:
- Weight Gain – You put on weight no matter how much you cut down on unhealthy food habits. This is because metabolism slows down during the night time, with the result that fewer calories are used up. This means that you guessed it, you put on the flab.
- Weight Loss – At the other end of the scale, night work might mess with your appetite, and you end up losing an unhealthy amount of weight. This might really reduce the nutrient intake your body needs and cause malnutrition.
- Feeling lethargic, jet-lagged, unfocused and dim – Nothing can make you feel more like a zombie or a vampire than creeping into bed when most people are getting ready to face the new day.
- Bonus (a host of serious illnesses associated with the lifestyle) – Studies have shown that night shift workers are highly prone to getting diabetes, constipation, gas, diarrhea, insomnia, heartburn, anxiety, and stress.
So what can you do to combat the effects? Luckily, you don’t have to quit your job and become a monk. An effective diet plan, together with simple lifestyle changes will go a long way in maintaining your health. Diet wise, things to keep in mind are:
- Plan a few days’ meals in advance – It is very tempting to reach out for the first snack you can get when you return home from the graveyard shift. You must never eat junk food before going to bed. At the same time, you must never go to sleep hungry. Planning meals in advance let you know exactly what food items are in your freezer, and what recipes you can cook in a jiffy. It also lets you make more healthy choices. It gives you back control of your diet. Always have a few healthy recipes on hand.
- Eat a heavy, healthy meal before your shift – This will fuel you throughout and will make you less likely to eat some vending machine garbage. Also, a meal high in protein provides the same energy as carbs but without the unfortunate side effects.
- Cut down on unhealthy snacks – Avoid sweet, spicy, high fat and processed snacks. These provide a rush of energy followed by an even deeper slump, which soon becomes a vicious cycle.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – Drink plenty of water. Set a timer on your phone to alert you to drink a glass every hour. It is all too easy to forget. Also, carry fresh fruit juices with you whenever possible, and avoid packaged sugary drinks and sodas.
- Limit dehydrating beverages – Coffee and alcohol should be avoided wherever possible.
- Get a regular health checkup – A quarterly report on your nutrition status can help you determine what essential vitamins and minerals you are missing out on. In particular, night shift workers tend to be deficient in Vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin can be obtained through supplements.
- Eat sleep boosting foods before bed – The human body produces a hormone called melatonin, which aids in sleep. It is naturally secreted when darkness starts falling. Night shift workers miss out on this wonder hormone. Instead of popping sleeping pills, have milk before bed. Milk is a great way to naturally produce melatonin.
Lifestyle wise, things to keep in mind are:
- Regular breaks – There are a host of mini exercises you can do at your desk. This will stimulate metabolism and keep you more fresh and active than a cup of a coffee can.
- Avoid electronics in the hour before bed – Smartphones and computers emit blue light, which stimulates the body to wake up. They are sleep destroyers. Stop using such devices at least an hour before sleep time.
- Sleep in a dark room – Our eyes can detect even small amounts of light when we are asleep. To avoid such disturbance, sleep with heavy curtains drawn and all lights off.
Hence, we can always follow diet plans as Being healthy largely depends on self-motivation, and not your working hours. Following a diet plan specially designed by an online dietitian as per your routine can be a fantastic investment. Good luck, and happy living!