Crazy shifts=no routine=no appetite- HELP!

I’m working in A&E now, which means stupid shift patterns, which means no routine. By stupid shift patterns I mean a week each of 5pm-2am, 11pm-8am, 2pm-11pm, 8am-5pm, 10am-6pm shifts with two weekends on, two weekends off.

No routine means I have no appetite, and am really only eating one meal a day, somewhere between 6pm and 10pm, because I cook dinner for irishfella when I can.

I’m losing weight, which isn’t good.
I’ve pretty much lost interest in food and cooking, and even if I go to the shops I just walk past the aisles without buying anything. I went to a cafe today and walked out without getting anything because the idea of eating just turned my stomach. Eating during the night gives me heartburn, I’m too tired to eat when I finish night shifts, I have 30mins break per shift and I can’t leave the building, so anything more than grabbing a cup of tea and toast at work is out.

Anyone got any good ideas for getting an appetite back?

I’m running into the exact same problem now. I’m working on a doctorate which means 60-70-80 hour weeks. I’m busy from 8am-9pm most days, and finding even a half hour to rest is difficult.

When I have a half hour break, I find I’m too frazzled/stressed to eat. But I have feel myself getting dizzy, light headed, tired so I know I need to eat.

But I found a solution! Full meals are just too much for me during the week. I don’t have time to make them and I sure as hell don’t have time to prep and freeze things for the week. However, being prepared is key. I bought tons of pre-packaged foods like 100 calorie snacks, little bags of cookies, bags of chips, protein bars, etc. I don’t worry about the foods being fatty/high calorie because I doubt I’m even eating that many calories. Every time you have a break, eat one of the packaged foods. I try to have 4 little breaks of at least 300 calories each.

I see a lot of co-workers going through this. Shift work hasn’t affected my eating as much except that I don’t usually eat following a night shift. Some people never get used to it, most however find that certain foods sit well at night. For some it’s carrots and celery, others eat crackers and cheese, some eat full meals. You don’t sound like your going to be eating full meals at night. I would try eating light snacks throughout the day and experiment to see which work best for you. If you’re just starting working shift work you’ll probably find your appetite returning after a bit, most people do. Keep it simple and keep it light for a while. As I mentioned though, some people never adapt. I have co-workers who have been doing this shift for 20+ years, exercise regularly, eat well and they have never fully adapted to shift work.

ETA: Link to PDF from Nova Scotia government which has some useful advice

I don’t know about getting your appetite back but you do have to get strict about staying in an eating routine. Prepare your usual meals ahead of time and take them with you, sandwich for lunch, hot meal for tea etc. If you only get a short break, at least you’ll have something at hand. This is from personal expereince only, but if you stay in routine, you shouldn’t need to eat overnight (remember to drink though) but do eat breakfast before you go to sleep.


I’ve heard that dermatology is an interesting field.

Does the idea of soup appeal to you? You could pack a thermos and drink it a bit at a time throughout the day. I’ve always found yogurt is good for small snacks. Do you have a place to keep things cold?

I recommended smoothies to Ivylass, who’s lost her appetite due to medication. There are some good tips in that thread.

I have a similar problem - except I am trying to lose weight and my trainer says I am not eating enough! He recommended nuts - carry a couple of baggies of nuts to work with you and eat a handfull ever few hours. Even if you are not hungry - a handful of nuts isn’t much to force down. Of course you know to keep up your fluids - water bottles are our friend!

Good luck.

I worked shift work for several years and never fully adapted. While weight gain was my issue, I feel your pain, my problem was getting hungry at odd hours and usually ate and went straight to sleep, woke up in the middle of my sleep cycle to eat antacids and then couldn’t go back to sleep.

What worked for me was eating a hearty ‘breakfast’ when ever I woke up and planning my lunch ahead of time. When I had to work the graveyard shift. cheese and crackers and veggies kept me from getting heartburn when I got home.

It also helped me to stay on the same sleep schedule even on my days off. The worst part was that by the time I would get used to a shift, it was time to switch again.

All the research I found on shift work, shows that it is not the healthiest. Thankfully after a few years and some promotions, I am on a straight shift and things are much better that way. I always felt that if it weren’t for the shift work, I would have never worked towards promotions!

I’ve got another 8 weeks of this, then back to 7 nights every 5 weeks for 4 months, then to a 24 hours on-call every 8 days for 4 months, then god knows what for 6 months, then normal person 9-5 monday-fri for the rest of my life. I’m going to be a GP, thank goodness A&E isn’t the long term career plan!

I’ve managed porridge, tea and toast at 7 am for the last 3 days, as well as a dinner at 7pm, so I’m doing a little better.

Seconding Ellen’s suggestion of liquid meals. Hungry or not, it’s much easier to chug back 450 calories than to sit and masticate on them for a while. Faster, too.

I like to use shaker cups. For morning meals I’ll generally make them in my blender, if it has to sit around a lot I’ll do a just-add-water kind of deal. Protein powder (no soy please) and blender-milled oatmeal flour are my favorites for building the nutritional base, and you can easily bring along a container of yogurt to liven it up, as well.

Having no appetite when your body is hungry definitely sucks. You’ll feel much better when you start eating, though. Best wishes from one shrunken stomach to another.