Weight Loss
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Working night shift ... slows metabolism?

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I nearly lost it last week when I stepped on the scales and I weighed 163. I started back to work after a 2 year absence ... I am a critical care RN. I am working nights and have put on 20 pounds in two months. I weigh more than I did when I delivered my daughter. I know part of it is age (37). But the thing is, since going back to work, I am eating less ... (I keep a food journal) ... and I am definitely more active than before!! I remember reading a paper some years ago that referenced night shift workers ... I know it said that "we" die earlier ... maybe it talked about metabolism too ... but I cannot remember. I have noticed that most of my fellow co-workers on night shift are also over weight ... Any one have information ... any ideas short of changing shifts?... I have a leadership position that I would have to give up by going to days.


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bump! If anyone has some suggestions, please post.
Hi!  I have been working night shift as well for the last 2 years and have packed on 30 pounds.  My diet hasn't changed that much, except that I have been going to college during the day full time as well... so I am CONSTANTLY on the go.  I don't get weekends off normally and often work 2 weeks (14 days) straight in a row.  I know several people that hve gained weight and have problems getting it off while they are on night shift.  I definately beleive that has something to do with our metabolisms being all screwy.  I normally lose weight very quickly.  Even when I am eating healthy and just execising 3-4 times a week.  I have been loseing about 1 pound a week for the last 6 weeks.  BLAH.  But, I'm right there with ya :)
I'm no pro on the matter, but when I read this, the first thing that came to mind was sleep patterns.  I know when I worked midnights, I got MUCH less sleep than what I did when I was on mornings.  I don't know why metabolism would be affected by whether or not the sun or the moon is up in the air, but I again am no pro on the matter.

How's your sleeping habits?  Your body won't function as well (and thus probably effecting your metabolism?) when it's not getting the rest that it needs.
Hi, I'm a nurse too and have worked the night shift. Here are some things I noticed:

I never felt like I got enough sleep, I was always slightly sleep deprived at best. This does effect your ability to lose weight and messes with your body's natural circadian rhythms.

Because of that, I had a hard time motivating to exercise.

I ate more. I ate at night and drank coffee at work, come home, sometimes ate then too, and then off sleep if I was lucky. And I'd eat when I woke up. So, the only times I wasn't eating was when I was having fractured naps or trying to sleep.

I would try to get back on to a regular day schedule on my days off, but as you know, it's difficult to go back and forth.

Lastly, nurses as a generalization like to bake and share! Every break room I've ever been in almost without exception has lots of bad food up for grabs. It's increrdible! I try to make and keep the rule for myself that I just won't eat anything baked at work. "I'm on a diet!" I call out when the other nurses try to entice me. Needless to say, this doesn't always work and sometimes I slip.

As an alternative to the baked goods, I started a hiking club on my unit. We try to go once a week for an hour or so to one of the many local hiking trails. This has been a great way to bond outside of the hospital and get some exercise.

I worked with a couple of long time ICU nurses who don't eat anything at night during their shifts. Their reasoning was that this kept their bodies more in sync with their days off when they would be sleeping and not eating. This didn't work for me because I need to maintain a certain blood sugar for functioning...

Hope this helps! -Roma
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Hi Roma .. and all!  Thanks for your replies ... I'm sorry to hear that working nights affects you all too; however it is great not to be alone.

Here is a breakdown of the things that we have identified as affecting metabolism ... as they apply to me ...

Eating: As far as eating at work ... The CCU where I work, in contrast to the situation that Roma described, has nothing to eat but a fridge packed with Lean Cuisine ... everyone, it seems, is trying to watch their weight ... there are a few that order in ... I got sick the first night that I did this, so I try to avoid it. I eat my Lean Cuisine and I might have a few packs of saltines or a 100 calorie pack of cheese nips. When I get home I usually have something light (cheerios, special K, Weight Watcher's popsicle ... the Giant CHOCALATE Cookies & Cream Bar is the best and only 140 calories!! All caps on the chocolate because the plain cookies and cream with the vanilla ice cream sucks ... but I digress)
go to bed ... wake up ... go to work ... and eat around 2:00 AM

Sleeping: I tend to sleep more than on a day schedule ... especially on my days off! But feel like I have slept less.

Health: I am on Thyroid replacement ... part of my problem ... and it is so hard to take it at the same time everyday, which makes the levels fluctuate. This week I have kept to my night shift schedule of staying awake at night and sleeping all day ... I can get away with this since my daughter is gone for the summer. I hate it though because I get less accomplished.

My husband is coming home on leave next month (Army wife here) ... I dread for him to see me ... though I am very happy for him to come home!!!

Thanks again for your replies~ Still open for suggestions! 

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Still interested if anyone has ideas to combat night shift weight gain!
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I was looking for someone to have some magic solution and was going to post the question of how to get some of the weight off.

I too am a night nurse and I think part of the problem is we aren't getting the exercise or the nutrition??  Just 2 meals here and not a great deal of caffene.

I too have a thyroid problem and take my medication at night instead of in the morning(everyone elses morning that is) and I tend to take it more regularly.

I have done 5 straight years of nights and really have packed on the pounds.  Compound that with a horrid divorce and well....that about wraps up my story.

I would love to hear from anyone who can get the weight off and keep it off.  Perhaps anyone who can get in 3 meals a day.  I was somewhat successful with WW for a while but I don't have the motivation and need someone with a cattle prod to get me exercising.

Thanks for reading this


mandyem and everyone else :) -

someone posted a similar thread to this and I thought it was a good idea to try. I work overnights- midnight to 8am with deaf and mentally ill adults. I only get 2 meals too and don't get much water into me as I'd like. Anyway, you can either go to the url I posted.... or read what #3 poster, Cheatingirl said below.... I will try that and see how it goes... I'll also post whether it works or not. I hope this helps!

http://www.calorie-count.com/forums/post/3935 .html

#3 Cheatingirl--------

When I used to work all kinds of crazy hours, I learned that you need to maintain some semblance of schedule.  If you work during the day, you wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, eat lunch during the work day, eat dinner when you get home, do something for a few hours, then go to bed and start the same cycle over.

When working nights, the tendency is to sleep as soon as you get home from work, but if you can - try to follow the same kind of schedule as if you were working days.  Eat before you go - eat during your shift, eat when you get home - stay up for a couple of hours, then go to sleep.

I work swing shifts, so I don't know if it's the same type thing, but I definitely have a tendancy to "comfort eat" because I am over tired.  I just finished a week of midnights, and here I am bright and cheery at 6AM!  It sucks, but what I have found is that if you can eat at least 3 hours before bed, you don't seem to have the same problems with gaining.

I try and eat oatmeal around 5am at work,  I get done at 7am, and then I have to drive home  (73 miles away)... so I get in bed around 8- 8:30 and can usually sleep until 1 or 2 before I wake up, starved.... Then I eat lunch and force (you'll notice I said force) myself to workout, take the dogs for a walk, etc........ I still eat dinner at our normal hour (family doesn't stop eating because I do) 6 or so, and then I usually lay back down for an hour or two before bed.  I don't get much done (maybe a load of laundry or push the vaccuum around) but in reality, how much of this stuff does one get done if they work at a regular job with regular hours?  Truly, if you think of it, a M-F 8-4:30p person..... get home at 5-5:30, make dinner, clean up, maybe put a load of laundry in, take kids to practice, bible study, etc...... then home, make lunches and to bed!!  So I figured out that my sleep was paramount on my work days..... this definitely makes me eat less.... IF I am not tired, I don't compensate for being tired with food.

Oh, and be sure to drink water at night....... have some kind of small snack... good luck all.
good post amy. that does give me an idea of when I should eat, sleep, etc. and ouch, 73 miles! but hey it pays the bills right? :) good luck to you too!
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Hey guys, I'm not sure if people read this thread anymore but I was just looking up statistics for night shift workers compared to day shift.

I have been working the night shift for about 4 months now. I was athletically built going into college and after that it just went down hill. I'm just shy of 6 foot, and I went from 190 in High School to 250 my third year of college, the year I graduated. So I started on the night shif the heaviest I had ever been. What I decided to do to lose weight instead of gain or maintain was P90X. I wont lie to you all it was hard to keep up with even as a single bachelor with no life, because I would get off work at 7 a.m. go to sleep wake up at 4 p.m. do P90X for an hour to an hour and a half go eat 1 substantial meal and go to work. I didnt eat anything at work either, it just puts the weight on and I found other things to do with my time. I also drank only water, no coffee, energy drinks, juices or anything. My weakness is desserts. I have a major sweet tooth. I lost about 35lbs doing that for 3 months.

Now I do my own workout which only lasts 30 min. I eat only 1 meal a day when I'm on my work week. My off days I eat 2 meals. I dont eat at work and I try to eat healthy. I have shed another 5-10lbs doing this the last month.  I'm currently at 210 and my goal is to get down to 180. I'm cutting out sweets completely and cutting back proportions now. The securitiy officer at the hospital I work at told me that I'm the only person he has seen that has lost weight working overnights.

Everybody that I work with at this hospital overeats, they order fast food, they eat all night, drink soda and coffee all ngiht, they eat when the get home, eat when they get up, and when they arent busy just sit around. I've found the best thing to do is when you arent busy walk around maybe run some stairs, do some ab work outs on down time. Dont eat at all during the night, dont eat when you get home just go to sleep, only eat when you get up and eat something light that will fill you up. STAY away from vending machines!!!!

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