Shift work poses extra challenges

One challenging weight loss situation is when people are working afternoon or evening shifts.

One challenging weight loss situation is when people are working afternoon or evening shifts.

Biologically humans are diurnal, meaning they are intended to be active during the day and sleeping in the night.

Furthermore, this internal clock affects the efficiency of other functions like our capacity to digest and metabolize food.

When you work shifts, it can be hard to know what and when to eat.

For those with families, it can be difficult to find time to exercise regularly. Sleep difficulties, indigestion, chronic fatigue, weight gain and depression are also common.

This is because sleep deprivation affects your hormones and thus your mood and energy level.

Finally, during shifts, food is often used to stay awake, which can contribute to unhealthy eating patterns and weight gain.

If meals are eaten out, fast food places are the only choices available in the middle of the night.

The good news is that there are strategies to improve sleeping and encourage weight loss.

• Limit caffeine five hours before planned sleep time. Switch to water, decaffeinated drinks or herbal teas.

• Try keep a fixed time you sleep on both days on and days off (like 9 to 11 a.m.). This will help your internal clock keep some routine.

• Eat your main meal before work. If you work afternoons, this could be your noon meal. If you work nights, try eating at 6 p.m. Eating large meals in the night can cause heartburn, gas or constipation.

• Try keep a similar eating pattern on both days on and days off. If possible, keep the timing of your main meal the same.

• Limit or avoid alcohol before sleep. While it may make you feel relaxed, alcohol decreases the quality of your sleep.

• Bring healthy snacks to work; for example, crunchy fruit and veggies may help you stay awake, and avoid fast foods.

• Stay well-hydrated. Bring a water bottle to work.

• In your time off work, try to find healthy ways to reconnect with friends and family – go for a walk, take the kids to the pool, play ball.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.