Tuesday, August 25, 2015

weight and fieldwork

I discussed this a while back, but I tend to lose weight if I'm doing a significant chunk of fieldwork (say, more than 2 months) and gain weight when I'm back in the office. When I'm in the field, I'm constantly in motion - pacing while on the phone, scurrying back to the truck/trailer/storage unit to grab something, hauling stuff around. When I'm not doing fieldwork, I'm mostly sedentary at the office and then I come home and do maybe an hour of exercise one or twice a week.

I thought that most people lost weight in the field like I do, but when I asked around, I found that many of my coworkers gain weight. This is usually for a few reasons:

1. Regular exercise: unlike me, lots of other people who do fieldwork like physical activity/exercise, and when they're not in the field, they're on an adult rec league or they hike six mountains every weekend or they go on long bike rides/runs. When they're working long days, they don't have the time or facilities/equipment to exercise like they normally would.

2. Alcohol. This really deserves its own post, but briefly, we tend to drink more in the field than when we're at home.

3. Eating outside food: some people are diligent about cooking for themselves, either for their own enjoyment/interest in saving money or because they have dietary restrictions. The rest of us eat out. A lot.

I have no idea whether it's more common to gain or lose weight in the field. Readers, do you gain? lose? or can you actually maintain a steady weight regardless of where you're working?


Anonymous said...

There are so many variables that I don’t think you’ll find a consistent trend. When I worked in the field (wellsite geology, 30+ years) I gained weight at the jobsite. Sitting on one’s backside 12 or 18 hours a day for weeks on end, looking down a microscope and staring at a computer isn’t conducive to physical fitness. Even with the odd trip to the doghouse or the shale shaker to check samples or the gas trap. Worse is when you’re on a remote location and there’s a camp--especially with a good cook. Then you’re eating 3 big meals a day (why not? the food is all-you-can-eat) and taking doggy-bags of pastries back to the rig for snacks. And remote locations also commonly means bears, so “thou shalt not go for walks off location!” The absolute worst for gaining weight (for me) was offshore, drill ships/platforms: there’s nowhere to walk, even if you wanted to. And typically they serve 4 full meals a day (I knew people who would get out of bed so they didn’t miss the midnight meal). When I’m at home I bike or ski or walk at least a couple times a week. But I had a colleague who was just the opposite: he did the same job as me, but lost weight on the offshore rigs. He spent lots of his off-time in the exercise room at the rig, but sat in front of the TV when he was at home. Exercise rooms/gyms give me the creeps. Go figure.


Anonymous said...

My experience varies. I love to cook so when I'm based out of the office, I eat mainly homemade mueslis, poached eggs, soups and veg-heavy pasta dishes with homemade sauces and pestos. (I'm not vegetarian, by the way - and so you don't think I'm too healthy: I often roast a chicken just to eat the crispy skin).

Now, my fieldwork tends to fall into one of two categories: one which leads to massive weight gain, and one which leads to massive weight loss. Strangely, I never seem to fall in the middle.

The first, which is my least favourite not just for pudginess, tends to be site- or town-based work. This is mostly what I do now, and as I am more senior now as well it involves a lot more standing still and poking at a computer. We eat either at an enormous camp smorgasbord or in restaurants (the WORST - Australia needs to cut out the dang chicken "parmi" - I don't even like it and it's often all I can eat on the menu). There's only so many calories you can burn driving to rigs and standing staring at drill core, so I have to watch myself like a hawk to make sure things don't get out of control. When I get bored, I eat. And I find these jobs quite boring (unless it all goes to hell, in which case I run around all day eating only the occasional granola bar and trying not to freak out). And exercise? Baha! The person who can work out before (or after) a thirteen hour shift is my hero. Especially when it was never less than 40C during that shift and all you want is the blessed AC sanctuary of your tiny room.

The second is my absolute favourite because it's way more fun and when I come back, I have enough muscle that my body is its own shape instead of just being moulded squishily into the shape of whatever clothes I've struggled into. These jobs tend to be long field camp-based campaigns, with daily fieldwork involving sample collection with usually pretty heavy-duty hiking/mountaineering between sites. I've done about five years of this in Greenland and Canada, and it is AMAZING (for a hundred other reasons than this, but this is a perk). There's only so much food, there's not room in the helicopter for me to bring more than a week's worth of snacks and certainly no soft drinks (too heavy), and when we run out of the food I like and can eat my meals start to become a little... light. This can be crazy annoying at the time as I am a total foodie, but after two or three months of 5000 calorie burns a day on a 2500 calorie diet, it starts to show. My field clothes for this type of work are a full size smaller than my other work gear. It makes for an uncomfortable first fortnight but after that, we're golden.

Sadly, I've been on far too many of the former jobs in the last two years. I've got one coming up and even though we're expecting temperatures of up to 50C, I'm making a rule for myself: step away from the damn ice cream.