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Meal Timing & Work


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Hi! I'm having a little trouble understanding meal timing on days that I work.

I work 12 hour shifts as an RN, three days a week. I started my official Whole 30 on Monday, worked Mon/Tues and have had off the past two days.

Work can be stressful. Monday I ate breakfast around 6am, ate lunch around 2:30pm, and dinner around 8:45pm (I do have to note I was not as starved in between meals as usual, however). This was a particularly bad day, but I stuck with the plan and didn't eat in between meals. Didn't gorge on junk when I got home, although I ate a big dinner. Tuesday was also not an ideal day, but a little better. Then Wednesday I was so tired I slept until 10am and didn't eat breakfast until 11ish. So I really only had two meals on Wednesday, and noticed I was really hungry at 9:30pm-ish so that wasn't the best choice. At that point I was pacing around the kitchen talking myself out of breaking the plan and I took a few bites of beef stew that was in the fridge. Then I took a few gulps of coconut milk, which I'm feeling kind of guilty about just because it was so weird but I think I was still compliant with the protein and fat combo.

Here are my questions, if anyone has advice:

1) What is the minimum/maximum I should wait in between meals? Approx 4hrs min?

2) If I happen to sleep late until that time that I burst out of bed on post work days with boundless energy, should I still try to fit in the three meals? I'm not sure how late I can eat without interferring with the leptin response, etc.

3) On work days because it is so long and stressful at time, can I opt sometimes to have an afternoon or morning healthy snack of protein/veg/fat? Like a mini-meal.

4) Or should I eat a little more fat on work days, maybe? I will experiment with that tomorrow.

I know the rational advice is to break for lunch at a more reasonable hour, but you will just have to trust me that it can be difficult when things are busy. I could realistically get a short break mid-morning or mid-afternoon to snack, though....but then I don't want it to interfere if I do get lunch at a reasonable hour. Gah!

The other glitch is that we can't eat at the nursing station, it's the state regulations. However, sometimes we do have people that sneak in food so there will be non-compliant foods around. Tuesday someone did this and brought in "veggie" chips. We also have a candy box on the unit at all times, which was started to help moral. Ha! I was good at not giving in this week and do plan on sticking to my resolve. Monday was harder, I think someone offered me the open box a few times but I told them "Thank you, but I'm not eating sugar so the best way to support me is to not offer me any candy."

My main goal is to maintain compliance with this program, but work days are going to be challenging I think. Tomorrow I am going to try and make it a priority to break for lunch earlier, like 11-11:30. What I'm worried about is that if the afternoon goes haywire that I will have even more hours in between meals if I break for lunch too early.

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Hi Holly. I'm no expert, and I'm sure that the mods will be able to specifically address your questions. But for me, it's first and foremost about getting the right food into you to make you healthy. If you need to be creative about the timings to fit your schedule, then as long as you do that in the spirit of Whole30, then you'll be fine. Perhaps you could pack a decent sized lunch and spread it across the two breaks that you have at work if you need to, or if it's an easier day and an earlier lunch, then you eat it in one go. And something in the car for the trip home to keep you comfortable until dinner time.

I've found that the longer I do this, the easier it is to have longer stretches between meals. It might just be that work days will be more flexible and you'll get the routine when you're not on shift.

Good luck.

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Thank you! I did have the foresight to bring two meals with me to work, and will continue to do so. I eat dinner before I go home so that I'm less tempted to eat like crazy when I do get home, or make bad choices. I'm the only one eating strict this way in my family right now, but I did rid the house of as much as possible.

That is a good idea to split the lunch into two.

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To be perfectly honest, your career (just like firefighters, LEOs, etc) forces you into less than healthy habits.

The most important thing for you (besides adequate sleep, as restorative as possible), is just eat good food. If you're hungry? Eat. Follow the guidelines for meal templating. Bring more food than you think you'll need to work for the first little while, until you know what works for you

Do the best you can!

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Hey Holly!

I, too, am an RN. I work 3 12s in a busy unit. I'm lucky to get a true lunch break. I have a 45 minute commute so I get up at 445am and, if I'm lucky I get home by 830pm. So I know of what you speak!! I don't know what will work for you, but here's what I have figured out for me. I ALWAYS pack more food then I could ever possibly eat - with lots of variety. I try to have things that will heat and eat quickly like ground meat with a bunch of veggies all mixed up. I know that the guidelines say to eat 3 meals a day - but when your day is 16 hours long that may not be realistic. I eat a smaller breakfast before I leave home. Around 9am i'll have another small-ish meal that i can heat and eat quickly. This is not the ideal dining experience - it's getting a healthful combination of foods in to my belly before the visitors bring their "thank you cookies"! If I'm lucky enough to get a real lunch break it's usually around 2pm. Then I'll heat the next round of good-for-me foods and hopefully finish eating before somebody comes in to the break room with a question about one of my patients or to tell me that a doctor is rounding and needs to talk to me..bye bye break! I also eat my dinner before I leave work. I try to do that around 5:30 or 6 -just before closing out my totals and getting ready to give report to the oncoming shift. Worst case, I have dinner after I give report and before my 45 minute drive home. Then, when I get home all I have to do is load the dishwasher, put the uneaten food back in the fridge, take a shower and go to bed!! Frankly, I'm exhausted just writing about it!

Food prep is KEY, having some compliant snacks is also KEY. Obviously in an ideal world we would all eat 3 W30 meals per day, sitting down at the dining room table with friends or family and get 8+ hours of sleep every night. When I work 2 days in a row I am extremely lucky to get 6 hours of sleep. In challenging situations we have to do the best we can, making the best decisions we can. For me, that involves eating smaller, more frequent meals when I work in order to avoid getting over- hungry and making a less healthy choice. I take little mini egg muffins to work every day. I got the recipe off the blog "stuffimakemyhusband". They are about 2 bites each but each one has protein, fat and veggies!

I have not come by this "plan" quickly or easily. It has been many months of trial and error (a LOT of error!). Just keep trying different things to see what works for you.

Good Luck :)

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I work long hours as well, with a long commute. Renee is right, do the best you can. Sleep when you can sleep, because you need this for good health. Have mini meal foods on hand all the time. I do a mini meal when I get up ( by 430) eat breakfast a couple of hours later when I get to work, lunch sometime during the day, usually a mini meal before I leave work or on my way home. And dinner late, like at 730. It's the best I can do given my current circumstances.

And on the weekends, if I only get 2 meals in, I just make sure I eat really nutrient dense foods for breakfast.

Good luck!

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Thank you so much. The soundest advice and what what one of my goals also happened to be, is to listen carefully to my body and let that guide me throughout a work day. It helps to know how other people with long hours do this. The most important thing to me is to no mindlessly eat food while I am at work. No eating crackers and peanut butter out of desperation.

Wheresanita- Your specifics to nursing really helped me, thank you. I actually do like the new rule for us that we can't have food at the nurse's station, because there used to be sugary foods out all the time. It's harder to eat snacks, but they are trying to transition us to actually take a 15 min break in the a.m. and lunch at reasonable hours. Sometimes it works. I noticed there are two other nurses who always manage to get out for lunch at a more reasonable time, and I am going to try to model them more. I think it comes down to that they have made it their priority, which I'm going to as well.

Today is food prep day since I work the next two days. I will focus bringing some snacks as well as mini-meals. Fortunately I have an easy commute, it's less than 15 minutes. Even with that, I always eat dinner before I leave work so that I'm less tempted when I get home. Even though I would much prefer to walk out the door.

So far my prep menu only has fritatta on it, because it seems like an easy way to make a bunch of breakfasts at once. I think this will work well for me as well as for the kids in the mornings before school, too. I just need to pick a lunch and dinner recipe and make a few days worth. But first I need to make myself my first meal for today- I'm starting to wake up hungry which is a good sign! I'm loving eggs over easy on a spinach salad with very garlicy avacado dressing. Yum. I do not have to be told twice that I can eat eggs every day.

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