How To Lose Weight When Working The Night Shift

How can I work the night shift and still eat healthy foods? I would like to lose weight.

My friends and I are all nurses and we work the night shift. Since working this shift, we have all noticed that we’ve gained weight. Our attempts at weight loss aren’t working. Since we don’t have a normal sleep-and-wake cycle, what do you think is the best way to eat and lose? How do you work a healthy diet when your day starts at 4 p.m. and ends at 7:30 a.m.? How do we handle the change when we have days off and are on a normal schedule?

Working the “graveyard” shift can seem, well, deadly when it comes to managing your weight. Sleeping during the day and working at night puts you out-of-sorts with the rest of the world (although I envy your commute). Nightshift workers often complain of chronic tiredness and — let’s face it — people tend to nosh when they’re tired. This is a tiring challenge for weight management.

To add more fuel to the fire, anyone who has ever worked in a hospital (present company included), knows that nurses’ stations should be renamed “bakery stations.” With only the best intentions, patients often bombard the staff with food thank you’s. If food gifts come early in the day, odds are you’ll arrive on your shift just in time to sweep up the crumbs. If they come later, you’ve got a BIG problem. All this food late at night can feed (literally) into a routine of continual snacking (sort of like a continuous intravenous drip). Another problem: Since there are fewer staff members working the graveyard shift, there are more goodies for you to wolf down. Here’s a tip: Move the “gifts” to a conference room. (Personally, I would bring them to the resident’s quarters: The food will be gone before the door hits you in the back on the way out.)

Another eating strategy: Try to stick to three solid meals a day. This way, you’ll never be so hungry that you’ll be tempted to eat any unplanned snacks. Since you start work at 4 p.m., consider eating your “lunch” at home around 1 or 2 p.m. I realize you’ll probably just have woken up, but an English muffin with melted low-fat cheese or a light coating of peanut butter (with milk and fruit) will serve you well. Or, try a stuffed baked potato with leftover veggies and cottage cheese.

Have dinner, your biggest meal, at work. Pack your dinner in a microwave-safe covered plate for easy reheating. Or try these easy fixes: Take tacos filled with low-fat refried beans and bring in salsa and veggies for a side dish. DonĂ­t forget to bring a container of yogurt, veggie sticks, and a couple of pieces of fruit for snacks.

Eat breakfast when you get home from work. This works especially well if there are other family members eating with you. (It’s unappetizing for the family to eat oatmeal while you are chowing on ravioli.) Assembling cold or hot cereal, some skim milk, and fruit won’t tax your exhausted mind, but it will fill that hungry stomach. On off days, follow the same pattern. Have breakfast in the early morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening.

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