My tips for battling Pandemic Pudge.
I've been "technically unemployed" since 2018, well before the pandemic and sadly, there are now millions more in the same boat.
Being involuntarily separated from your job carries a lot of baggage. Three pieces, in fact. Aside from the obvious shot to the heart of your livelihood, the emotional toll of being laid off or fired is staggering, indeed. Guilt, fear and the “What am I going to do next?” of it all can be crushing to your spirit.
Yet, there is a third component to this shitty situation that is rarely addressed and that is the hit to your physical well-being that comes with job loss. I’m not talking about the inevitable stress, although that in and of itself can mess you up big time. This particular baggage has to do with your weight and overall fitness level and the problems that can occur when you find yourself plunked down on your ass for ten hours a day checking the job boards on your computer. Been there, done that, so I can relate, my friends.
To be perfectly clear, currently, I am not what you’d call “gainfully employed.” Last February, on Valentine’s Day, no less, I was laid off from my gig as an Associate Creative Director at a major marketing agency after fifteen years. They shit-canned me over the phone. They picked one of my company-endorsed work-from-home days to give me the news that, due to a loss of business, they had to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. In other words, I had to bounce.
As if that wasn’t a big enough hit to my dignity, the assholes wouldn’t even let me go back to the office to pick up my belongings. My supervisor, who I couldn’t stand, “packed me up.” In other words, she went through fifteen years of my personal stuff. When the boxes arrived, they were all but falling apart.
I won’t get into what this did to my psyche or the household budget. As I was making a really good buck, you might imagine how the loss of a bi-monthly paycheck affected my ability to keep the cable on, as well as my overall purchasing power. (“So long, Amazon Prime.” It’s not you. It’s me.) What I do want to share with you is how the layoff affected me, physically.
When I had a job to go to every day, I had a set routine that I was pretty rigid about. I drank gallons of green tea, snacked on pistachio nuts and raw veggies with hummus and worked out at a gym. Daily. I didn’t love it, but what it did for my natural state of high anxiety, as well as my body — I did love. A lot.
Normally, my workouts consisted of lots of cardio followed by strength training. I ran on a track or treadmill, jumped rope, swung kettlebells — did all that stuff — just like you probably do.
Once I was let go, there went the gym membership. Even though it was pretty cheap, I just couldn’t justify the added expense, especially since my former employer had subsidized a portion of it. So, I found myself at home, with no place to go and nothing to do, other than the laundry.
I didn’t become a total slug, thanks to my treadmill, stationary bike, hand weights and other such accouterments. I worked out, but not all that hard. And, even though I wasn’t eating that much more, my healthy routine fell apart and I packed on a few pounds. About eight, I’d say. Not a lot, but enough to concern me. I also “softened up” in spots.
Thankfully, I’ve regained my momentum, or at least most of it. I achieved that by creating a “new normal” for myself. A new routine.
Most of the day, I write. Either stories like this one, personal essays on Medium, or political satire for The Flake News (https://www.flake.news). I also work on my screenplays and wait for THE CALL from my manager. That said, I am diligent about making time for exercise throughout the day. It helps, guys. It does. And slowly, the extra pounds are coming off.
For any of you who are in a similar situation, following are a few tips to help you get back on track. Take them with a grain of salt, but do find something that works for you.
!. First, don’t beat up on yourself. Job loss happens. It’s one of those facts of life that suck. Like having a President who believes mendacity is a job responsibility.
2. Take a couple of days to grieve and/or wallow. Write really nasty emails to the Human Resources Department (an oxymoron if ever there was one), and trash them. After you’ve purged emotionally, it’s time to get your body moving.
3. Get the blood pumping first thing in the morning with a “mini-workout.” Before you hit the coffee. You don’t have to do much. What works for me: One hundred jumping jacks followed by a dozen burpees. Bust out more if you can handle those bad boys. Consider Tabata intervals, as well. Twenty seconds of balls-out work followed by ten seconds of rest. Repeat for eight rounds for four minutes total. Jumping jacks, burpees, squats, plyometric jumps, etc., all work great for this. And there are tons of videos online to help get you started.
4. Regarding the above: As you’ll likely wake up dehydrated, have a glass of warm lemon water before your mini-workout. Aside from the rich source of Vitamin C, it helps to increase your body’s metabolic rate and gets “things” moving. Plus, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, lemon water aids in reducing joint and muscle pain.
5. Dive into your job search, if so inclined. Or, if you’re okay financially, at least for a while, try something new. Something you never had time for, when you were working: Learn to plan an instrument, volunteer at your local animal shelter, write your memoirs. Like that.
6. Work out with real intention later in your day. Mid-afternoon, schedule permitting. I find that around two pm, my eyes are rolling back in my head from sitting on my ass in front of my computer for several hours. Naturally, find a time that works best for you and try to stick to it.
7. As already mentioned, I have equipment that affords me a good mix of cardio and resistance training, so I have no excuse to skip a workout other than laziness. Usually, I’ll start with a combination of walking and running on the treadmill while I binge-watch the plethora of original content on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Sometimes, I’ll throw in extra cardio with a vigorous round of jumping jacks, burpees, and plyometric moves. Then it’s time to strength train with hand weights and/or bodyweight moves. Squatting or lunging with weights is particularly effective as you’re working a number of muscles at once, allowing you to burn fat at a faster weight. Whatever you do, go at your own pace and have plenty of water handy.
8. You WILL get bored with your workout over time, so consider mixing things up with a few quality fitness DVDs. When I don’t feel like spending a lot of time exercising, I’ll go for a Jillian Michaels workout like “The 30-Day Shred.” It’s only twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of sheer HELL. And that’s why I love it. Whether you’re a man or woman, you’ll find Michaels challenging and motivating. Full disclosure: I haven’t progressed past Level One of three levels. I will. Just not today.
9. After your workout, have a protein-and-healthy-carb-packed bite as protein repairs muscle and “good” carbs help with recovery. Consider chowing down on hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, whole-grain crackers with peanut butter — even a sweet potato. As for snacks, if you crave salty/crunchy as I do, pistachio nuts are the bomb! And they’re great for you. If you’re more of a sweet-eater, you can’t go wrong with berries of any ilk.
10. Don’t become obsessive about your weight as something as simple as a salty meal can make the numbers on the scale go up. That said, for accountability’s sake, do weigh yourself often. For me, every other day seems to work.
11. Finally, if you’re a drinker, hide the vino and any other alcohol. Trust me on this one because, depending upon your mood, Happy Hour can begin at two pm one day, noon on another — you get me. Getting your buzz on early in the day is just going to make you feel worse. About everything. So, if you must have that glass of wine or a cocktail, wait until after five pm. Then, toast yourself for embarking on a healthy new routine of which you’ll reap the benefits for a lifetime.
Hopefully, if you’re one of the legions of people who find themselves having a personal relationship with Indeed, these tips will help move you out of your funk and into action. And then, when you go after your dream job and get it, you’ll be looking and feeling your absolute best, because better times are ahead.
Meanwhile, be kind to yourself and those you love. Stay home and stay well. Thanks for reading.
© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.