Saturday, August 14, 2021

Surprise (or not) links between shift work, obesity, metabolism and Covid 19

This blog explores how I lost 100 pounds but also tracks news on weight loss, obesity and healthy living in general. Today's research yielded surprise findings on weight gain and a controversial weight loss method. These findings confirmed my theories on several health issues, including even our bout with Covid 19. 

A study from Australia found that people who do shift work tend toward weight gain, overweight, obesity and general poor health. Shift work, defined as length of work day (12 hours) and/or alternative time worked (second shift--afternoon and evening, and third shift, or through the night. My husband has both of these criteria, working 5pm to 5am. He works both second and third shift and is at work for two days. He's effectively nocturnal. But then, on off days, he tries to keep a first shift schedule which doesn't work. His biorhythms are goofed up both working nights AND from flip-flopping.  

He (and me by extension) struggle with a concomitant health problem called shift work sleep disorder (SWSD). I believe that's part of what caused us to contract Covid 19 despite taking all health precautions. Shift work sleep disorder is caused by inverted awake-asleep pattern (biorhythms). It causes neurological, psychological, emotional and mental health issues. Symptoms are chronic exhaustion, confusion, stress, anxiety and depression  and even anger management issues from the constant strain of having to adjust to a flip-flop schedule. 

Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) causes frequent and multiple physical health issues. It slows metabolism, reduces immunity and resistance to infection. Shift workers experience more frequent illness, longer recovery time and host of other issues, including, as this study found, weight gain and obesity from skewed biorhythms. Our Covid 19 symptoms were much worse than most people we know who had it. Our recovery has been more complicated too. We experienced big and rapid weight loss and our metabolism is still off. 

Although he's not overweight, he's noticed weight gain from doing shift work. Many co-workers struggle with obesity. But, the study found, weight problems stem as much from when as what they eat and sleep. Eating too little can also cause one not to lose weight. The human body is designed to be diurnal not nocturnal. When forced into this unnatural nocturnal state, it goes into emergency mode. It shuts down metabolism, conserves resources and stores fat. 

Regardless of cause, overweight is not ideal. It makes all other health conditions worse and creates a  lot of its own. But the Australian study suggested the shift workers lose weight by a method I found counterintuitive: intermittent fasting or the 5:2 diet. On the 5:2 Diet, you practice intermittent fasting for 2 days and eat normally for five. It didn't specify which or how intermittent fasting should work on night shift. 

The 5:2 diet for shift work goes against the study's findings. I said earlier, and the study proved, shift work and eating too little, stalls metabolism and weight loss. So calorie restricting might actually cause weight gain. To lose weight, or in my husband's case maintain healthy weight, on night shift, eating regularly is essential. I pack balanced nutritious low sugar, high protein lunches with high fiber, whole grain foods and loads of fruits and vegetables. 

But that raises another lifestyle/obesity issue, about calorie restricting vs. calorie counting, which I'll get into later. 

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