Weight loss tips for shift workers

Shift workers weight loss tips

Following a weight loss plan when you're a shift worker isn't always the easiest task.

Diets are generally based around traditional work hours, with the assumption that you are awake during the day and asleep at night.

When you're a shift worker this can be intimidating because it isn't always apparent how to adapt these diets to suit your lifestyle. Should you eat dinner as breakfast and breakfast as lunch? How do you avoid snacking overnight when you're working a long shift? What should you do when you come home late and don't feel like cooking?

We've put together a collection of tips to help you smash your weight loss goals - whether you work 9-5 or all night - and we've asked some of our most successful shift working members to share their top tips too!

Top tips from our members

Shift worker Helen lost 21.7 kgs* in 9 months

Shift worker weight loss tips
  1. Exercise first thing in the AM. Being a shift worker means my exercise is limited to days when I am off, or on afternoon or night shifts. I like to exercise first thing in the morning, as soon as I get up, so that when I leave at 5am for day shifts I have these days off exercising. Having said that, sometimes I do workouts or walks after I get home on a day shift.

  2. Prepare meals in advance when you have time off and then freeze or eat the food over the next few days.

  3. Plan your meals ahead so you know what you're doing for the week and what prep you need to do.

    * Individual results may vary. 

Nurse and Mum of 4 Emma lost 26 kgs* in 8 months 

Shift worker weight loss tips
  1. Pre-cook and freeze your food. Keep it simple. If you run out of frozen food, meat (or meat alternatives) and vegetables make a quick and easy dinner.

  2. Stick to the servings and the principles. Make use of simple flavourings and/or rubs. The rest is only limited by your effort and creativity.

  3. Make time to exercise. Not enough time is not an excuse. Walk in bits and pieces if you have to – it all adds up. 

    * Individual results may vary. 

Midwife Erin lost 8.5 kgs* in 12 weeks

Shift worker weight loss tips
  1. Plan ahead with your meal planning and cooking. Prep things the night before to save you time before work the following today. Pre-prepared meals and snacks will help you stop buying food out or giving in to cravings.

  2. Include more incidental exercise in your day.

  3. Don't buy scales. This forced me to use the scales at the gym for my weekly weigh-ins, which meant I had to go!

    * Individual results may vary. 

More weight loss tips for shift workers

Plan out your week

Sit down and plan out what you're going to eat for the next few days, what you need to buy from the grocery store and what you need to prep. Plan when you will eat your meals and what time you will have your snacks so that you feel in control of each day. If you know what you will be eating, and when, you will be less likely to reach for a quick energy fix or chocolate bar. 

Make recipes in bulk

When you have time, or time off, try making some of our meals in bulk portions and freezing them in portions. That way you only need to move a serving of this frozen food to your fridge for when your shift is over – saving you time and money.

Have quick, healthy foods in your fridge or freezer

A stir fry takes next to no time to prepare if you already have frozen chicken fillets and microwavable veggies on hand.

Adjust your Food Units to your work schedule

Even though you might feel ravenous, shift work does not affect your body’s energy needs as far as calorie requirements are concerned. But, to get through those late nights or irregular work patterns, you might find that you want to eat more on work days to give you a boost. So, on rest days, make up for the extra food units you ate by eating less. For example, you could opt to eat an extra 1-2 snacks or meal on work days or if you are working a long shift. Then, on rest days, cut down by eating one less snack or smaller portions.

Use your Food & Exercise Tracker

Our Food and Exercise Tracker is available anytime, but sometimes your job will mean that you can’t be near a computer for much of the day. If this is the case, try using our mobile companion app (iOS only), accessing our mobile friendly website (Android) or printing the menu plan and ticking it off throughout the day. Alternatively, you can print sections of this blog and others on our site to leave as tips and reminders for yourself.

Stay consistent

Try to fit in three meals each day plus snacks to prevent you reaching for unhealthy options like vending machines or fast food. And remember to have a good balance of all major food groups. For example, if you need a healthy and light meal choice, opt for a tuna and egg or chicken and salad sandwich with fruit or yoghurt.

Plan your snacks

Take healthy options with you to work for munching on during your shift. Also, make sure you have some tasty, healthy snacks ready for when you finish your shift as well.

Related: 10 quick afternoon snack ideas

Stay hydrated

Be careful with having too much caffeine or sugar and make sure you drink plenty of water.

Exercise when you can

A home workout DVD may be a good option if you find it difficult to get to a gym. Our 12 week program includes a variety of easy to do exercise plans, so choose one that suits you!

Looking for more tips to help you succeed? Get 12 top tips from our members.

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