Research shows that somewhere between 70% and 80% of shift workers when asked to list their biggest health and wellness hurdles list fatigue and weight gain as the top two. Next come low mood and digestion problems followed by the frustration of not being able to follow a diet or eating plan because of lack of routine. Sadly, there are a host of other negatives and I’m sorry to say it makes fairly gloomy reading. But, what are the 20% to 30% doing to stay positive, stay lean and stay healthy? Let’s concentrate on that. Shift work upsets our sleep/wake cycle and when our sleep/wake cycle is regularly disrupted, weight loss can be hard to achieve so we have to try and trick the body into believing that night is day and vice versa when shifts regularly change. Some foods make you feel sleepy and others keep you alert so it's all about making food choices that fit the spec and getting the timing right as often as you can.
A Few Diet Secrets
Shop ahead. A common complaint from those who work shifts - particularly night shifts is the lack of availability of healthy options on the way home from work but what you eat in the hour before you put your head down is vital if you are to enjoy a restful and restorative sleep. Foods rich in the amino acid, tryptophan encourage the production of the sleepy and calming brain chemical, serotonin and to enhance the action, these need to be combined with starchy carbohydrates. Top pre-sleep snacks are cold, cooked turkey breast on a couple of oatcakes, scrambled egg on chewy brown toast, a bowl of porridge with milk and honey, cottage cheese and mixed seeds, a beef and buckwheat salad or a mug of hot chocolate made with soya milk and dark chocolate granules. Keep them in the cupboard, fridge or freezer to avoid having to resort to snacks that may have a stimulatory rather than relaxing effect.
Bin the Fizz. Colas and other fizzy fruity drinks are waistline enemies no matter how low or zero cal or energy-enhancing the manufacturers tell you they are! They are sugar, plain and simple or some chemical variation of sugar which the body treats in the same way and does little other than cause blood sugar spikes and encourage cravings for more sugar. The ones rich in caffeine may help to keep you focused during a shift but a natural fruit and vegetable smoothie offers a great deal more nourishment without the added sugar and waistline-expanding properties and if you struggle without some refreshing fizz in your day, mix fresh fruit juices 50:50 with sparkling water.
Love Soup. Those who sup soup regularly lose weight with greater ease and more satisfaction than those who shy away from a warming bowl of deliciousness. The combination of liquid and solids in soup fills us up faster than exactly the same liquid and solid foods eaten separately (it’s all about how the digestion process deals with the mix) and results in us eating less during the course of the day or night. The other bonus is that soup is easy to make, easy to refrigerate in portions and easy to transport to work alongside a tasty salad.