Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just Because You Are Downsized Doesn’t Mean You Have To Be Supersized

Here's a monthly article I write for the magazine, Focus on Women. You can find the original article on the magazine's website:,%20Doesnt%20Mean%20You%20Have%20To%20Be%20Supersized.php

Job loss, like many of life’s significant changes, can trigger a significant weight gain. On a national level, researchers have been trying to connect the dots between weight gain and the recession since layoffs and rising unemployment began sweeping the country in 2008. The U.S. topped the global obesity scales that year with a staggering 33.8% of citizens weighing in at or above the obesity level (30% BMI). At the same time, the unemployment rate hovered just below 6%. Since then, we’ve seen the unemployment rate spike to 9.7%, and the obesity levels have peaked to 34%. So why do people put on the pounds while they are pounding the pavement looking for a job?

The connection between your waist line increasing as your bottom line decreases could be due to four key factors: loss of self-esteem, a more sedentary lifestyle, less money to spend on food and gym membership, and tackling the search alone. Each of these components can be perilous on their own, but together, they create a perfect storm for increased weight. Let’s take a closer look at these factors individually, and explore some ideas for keeping our physical life together as we work toward our fiscal future.

Loss of self-esteem

While in the throes of job loss, many people become disoriented by this personal blow to their self-esteem. The loss of employment puts the average person into unknown financial waters and disrupts the part of a person’s self-image, which is identified with a profession or position. If much of the person’s worth, social status, active hours or security is wrapped up with the previous job, then job loss or retirement can wreak havoc on a person’s self-image and feelings of worth. Recovering from the personal blow to your self-esteem may require reconnecting to personal values such as family, creativity, health and travel.

Values’ inventories abound online and can help you connect with what is most important to you in your life, give you a perspective from which to measure your next step, filter out opportunities that would not be a good fit and keep you grounded. You can easily perform a search for a free personal values’ inventory online, and I have included a Values Compass on my own blog at

Another ego boost that comes to mind includes making lists of your talents, skills and knowledge. Often making these lists on your own and then asking previous co-workers and colleagues that you trust to contribute to these lists benefits the job seeker two fold. First, these lists help expedite written materials such as resumes, marketing plans and reference pages that are needed to conduct a productive search. Second, this process provides the added benefit of highlighting your best attributes adding buoyancy to how you view yourself and your current situation.

A more sedentary lifestyle

Although sitting on the couch in your comfy jeans or sweats pants with your laptop can seem like an ideal working situation at first, this prolonged time in sweats can promote a lack of routine eating habits. A sedentary lifestyle and over-eating, at extremes, can signify depression and a need for additional help. A meeting with your family doctor or a healthcare professional may be in order. So, I whole-heartedly recommend making a weekly schedule, designating a quiet work space with office supplies, the appropriate phone connections, computer or tablet, and even add in a professional dress code. Not only will these boundaries make the job search process more streamlined, but it will also define boundaries of work space from household duties and interruptions from family members. I also suggest that job seekers delegate household chores or leave the house to find privacy, structure and a change of scenery.

Less money for necessities

Penny pinching is often a critical part of budgeting when facing a job loss. These cuts may include dropping gym memberships or reducing the grocery budget. Both of these activities can lead to weight gain for obvious reasons and some not so obvious reasons. Although some gym memberships can be pricey with additional services and amenities, there are cheaper alternatives available. Some athletic clubs will put your membership on hold for a number of months, and allow you to return at your current monthly fee schedule or extend the hold if needed due to special circumstances. Additionally, there may be less expensive fitness facilities in your neighborhood that offer more basic services and equipment for a lesser fee. So, ask around and do your research before dumping the gym altogether.

On the brighter side, a change in schedule can afford you the time and flexibility to start new habits related to fitness, and add to your social well-being. Many people complain that they would exercise or participate in more activities with family and friends if they just had the time. Finally, you have the time to swim in the local pool, play a pick-up game of basketball with the kids, or start a neighborhood walking group. This break in the daily search routine gives you something to look forward each day and gets you off the couch or away from your computer.

Daily exercise can also lessen the symptoms of depression that often accompany job loss. How does exercise help depression and anxiety? According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways which may include:

• Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression
(neurotransmitters and endorphins)
• Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
• Increasing body temperature which may have calming effects

The second victim of cutting the family budget is often the grocery bill. Unfortunately, spending less money on food often means sacrificing whole foods and organic options in favor of cheaper items. This change may also lead to weight gain. Simply put, many of the less expensive choices at the local market are the convenience foods that tend to be lower in nutritional value and higher in calories. These food items are often loaded with salt and simple carbohydrates. In addition, the repetitive nature of searching job boards, e-mailing resumes and updating your social media can lead to mindless eating at your computer.

So, this is a critical time to purge the pantry, plan healthy meals and take the time to shop wisely. Studies have shown that people who plan their meals keep a healthier diet and weight by having healthy food on hand for meals and snacks. A bag of crisp carrots, a few almonds, bottled water, fruit, granola, celery and other low calorie or portion controlled snacks can help you save those couple of pounds over a lengthy job search.

Tackling the search alone

Even if you have everything you need to conduct a job search right there at home with healthy snacks and a solid routine, it is still a good idea to step away from the computer on a regular basis and connect with your peers. I suggest combating the stress of going it alone in a job search by finding a job search group or work team that will share the ups and downs of job search. There are several ways to find a group to support you in your search endeavor: tap into current job search clubs formed by civic or religious organizations, government sponsored programs found in your area and private organizations. Also, you can find local Success Teams originally created by world renowned career coach Barbara Sher. These teams are not just for job search but designed to build groups that help people reach their dreams through the sharing of ideas, connections, leads, resources and support on a regular basis. Check out If needed, build your own support team to remain motivated and stay afloat as you share similar the struggles and victories of the career changing seas.

Creating a job search strategy that works for you should include: reconnecting with your personal values and your strengths, scheduled time for search, physical and fun activities, planning for healthy eating habits, and making social connections that are positive, supportive and consistent. With these factors in place, both you and your waistline can weather the storm of landing your next job.