Does Shift Work Equal Bigger BMIs?

June 7, 2012

bmi and shift workUnfortunately, working a job with alternate hours can be really bad for your waistline.

Research shows that humans are programmed to be awake during the day and asleep at night. Fighting this ???natural order??? seems to trigger hormonal and behavioral changes that can lead to weight gain.

The good news is you can help prevent these negative effects from occurring. After working with one of my patients, a police officer, I was able to develop some simple strategies to fight weight gain associated with shift work.

When he first came into my office, he said he couldn???t seem to lose weight, no matter what he did. His schedule varied widely from week to week, and often included back-to-back shifts.

We analyzed his lifestyle and came up with a number of recommendations for coping with the demands of his job and the impact of shift work on his health and weight. Sure enough, once he put the strategies into action, the weight started coming off and he???s kept it off to this day.

Here are the suggestions I made to him that can help you too.

The most important thing to do when you are a shift worker is to make sure you get 7 solid hours of sleep per day. Lack of sleep or an erratic sleep sets off chemical reactions in the body that can lead to easy weight gain. Make sure your bedroom is set up for a good sleep by blocking out sources of light and reducing disruptive sound. Installing black shades and even purchasing a white noise machine can also help ensure optimal sleep time.

Next, be sure to exercise regularly. Many people who work shifts find it challenging to get to a gym or other fitness facility within daytime hours. Look for one that???s open 24 hours, or choose a fitness plan you can do anytime such as walking, biking, or following an exercise video. Staying active despite an unusual work schedule is critical to losing weight and keeping it off.

Finally, set yourself up for success by planning your meals and snacks and sticking to that plan. All too often people who work shifts end up eating junk food from the office vending machine or grabbing fast food on the go. These same people are already at a disadvantage because shift work seems to trigger cravings, so be extra careful not to be caught off guard without a healthy choice to turn to.

In short: managing your weight when you work shifts can be a challenge, but it can be done!

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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