Weight Loss After Job Loss

Prepared or not, losing your job can turn your life upside down. But it doesn't have to upend your healthy plans, good intentions and motivation.
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While news of massive job losses has thankfully stemmed a little, job security is still a pipe dream for lots of people. And while some have taken stock and come up with their “what if?” scenarios, nothing can quite prepare you for the shock of it happening to you, or someone close to you.

There are several challenges that await those who have found themselves packing up their cubicles and walking out of the office for the last time. It can be hard focusing on anything other than the job situation, and it’s a time when many people fall into the trap of thinking that taking care of their bodies is unimportant durig thsi time of upheaval. But however tough it may seem when the shock is raw, a job loss doesn’t have to mean a complete breakdown of your healthy lifestyle routine.

Explore options
Consider your temporary unemployment as an opportunity to take more control over your menu plan — a brief recess from the tempting leftover donuts and bagels in the office break room. You now have more time to cook and plan your own meals, so embrace it. The habits you develop now will stick when you find yourself employed once again.

Cooking more frequently is not only wallet-friendly, it also offers an opportunity to introduce fresher foods into your meal plan. “I ate a relatively low-fat diet, but it was mainly of processed foods,” says Melissa, a former employee communications manager in Chicago, who was laid off. “Now I cook more wholesome meals with brown rice, fresh veggies, and homemade hummus.”

To keep your food bills low, take advantage of grocery store sales and coupon offers on healthy fare such as fish, poultry, fruits, and vegetables. And stock up!

Work it out
Exercise is one of the best ways to combat the triple weight-loss threat that unemployment may bring on: depression, boredom, and stress. Port Washington, NY-based psychologist Dr. Susan Bartell explains that depression can lead to overeating (as a way to soothe oneself), as well as tiredness, which keeps you from exercising. She points out that eating out of boredom can also cause weight gain, as we often turn to carbohydrates (for that quick, temporary energy rush.

If you’ve still got a health club membership, use it. If you’ve cancelled your membership, you can still get in shape for low or no cost. Your neighborhood streets can take the place of the treadmill, but if the weather’s not cooperating simply bring the workout indoors. Search "workouts" right here on weightwatchers.com or browse our Fitness gateway to find at-home workouts that range from easy to challenging. Or if you have cable TV take advantage of numerous exercise and yoga programs on demand.

Relax and release
Job searching and wondering when this recession nightmare will end can add up to a great deal of stress. Exercise is one way to deal with the problem, but there are a number of other options that can help keep you calm. “I get a lot of my strength from prayer and meditation…which for me is one and the same,” says Anna, a Weight Watchers Leader in Queens, New York, who lost her job of 15 years as a project manager. “It helps me calm down and quiet my mind, so I can focus.”

If meditation seems a bit daunting, try something as simple as deep breathing. It slows down your system and makes it easier to relax. Keeping a journal, listening to music, dancing, and yoga are all fantastic ways to relax, relieve stress, and keep idle hands from reaching for snacks.

Redefine yourself
Many of us define ourselves by what we do for a living. When that identifier is taken away it can lead to feelings of emptiness, which can trigger overeating, says Los Angeles psychologist and eating disorder specialist Sari Shepphird, PhD. To counter the effect, she suggests developing new aspects of your identity and developing outside interests to keep your days structured and bring pleasure into your life. “Believe it or not, you are more than your job,” says Shepphird. Anna has taken time out during her period of unemployment to engage in her favorite arts and crafts hobbies, such as scrap booking and card making. “I also spent a lot of my free time taking care of my 18-month-old triplet nieces,” she says. “They made me laugh and acted silly when I needed it the most.”

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