I’m 28 years old, 5 foot 5 inches tall and I weigh 195 pounds. I am an emotional eater and absolutely love food. I tried to lose weight before and I succeeded for a brief time. However, time has gone by and I’ve gained all the weight back. My lowest weight was 140 pounds and I felt great at that size. I want to succeed again and maintain my weight loss but I work the night shift and I found that it’s very hard to start a healthy program with my schedule. How can I succeed if I work during the night?
The great news is that you have done it before so you know that it is possible. After all, you already have a blueprint for how you did it. There are certainly challenges when you work the night shift as your internal clock seems to go haywire when your schedule goes against your body’s natural tendency. We humans are sort of hardwired to be awake when there is daylight and asleep when it is dark. And though this schedule does present a challenge, it can certainly be overcome.
The most important step you can take is to begin an exercise routine that you can stick to on a daily basis. In the beginning, the amount of exercise you do isn’t nearly as important as your commitment to do it every day. Our lives are simply the offspring of our daily habits. A wise saying is “success and failure are both habits”. So when we begin an exercise routine the most important part is simply showing up to do the work. By doing this you have already succeeded, and that is not just “feel good” talk, it is absolute truth. I relate the following story:
In the mornings I swim laps at my local municipal pool. One morning while preparing to jump in the water I noticed a very obese woman had walked up to lane next to mine. We both said good morning and went about our swim. But something stuck with me from that meeting. I couldn’t place exactly what it was but there was something about her demeanor that just stayed with me. There was a sort of happiness in her face that went beyond just being friendly. The next morning, there she was again. And again and again, for weeks. One day it just so happened that we were sharing a lane so we got to talking. She told me about her years of struggle with food and depression. Emotional pain so severe she often thought of suicide. She also told me of her daily struggle just to make it to the pool. As she said, “Honey when you are 600 pounds the only easy thing to do is sit on the couch, even getting dressed is a pain in the ass!” We both laughed and I said, “But you always look so happy when you get here?” and she looked right at me and said, “Oh honey I am, because when you see me walk through those doors it means I won”.
That woman’s name is Anna and her story is a powerful reminder that just showing up to do the work every day IS the success. So the most crucial step you can take is to start a routine you can stick with and succeed at doing it every day. This sense of accomplishment will leave you feeling great and when we feel better we treat ourselves better.
Another habit you can start is to keep an exercise and nutrition journal. Write down the amount of exercise you do every day and the time that you did it. The same applies to eating. Write down absolutely everything you eat during the day, and in your case, during the night. Along with this you can write down how you may be feeling at different times of the day. The act of writing these things down not only tracks your habits and progress but it also has a very cathartic effect on your emotions. Once you get into the habit of doing this you can look to make small changes in your eating habits. Maybe instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips when you’re feeling down, you can grab an apple and then write about how you feel. This process will begin to break your habit of unhealthy eating when you feel a particular emotion. Each time you do this you have won yourself a small victory. Each time you get out there and exercise you have won yourself another victory. And each time you do these things, remember Anna’s story and say to yourself, “I won”.