Lose your job, gain your health

Lost your job? It can make you sick or be the cue to focus on a healthier you.

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  • | 8:53 a.m. October 19, 2011
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Lost your job? It can make you sick or be the cue to focus on a healthier you. If you are one of the many hardworking people who are unemployed, you already know this job market isn’t like it used to be. You already know unemployment can be stressful and depressing. The loss of income, loss of daily contact with coworkers, loss of social status and other changes when you go from a lifetime of working to being unemployed can take a toll on your health. It can also be a time of recharging, regrouping and reinventing yourself.

Workers who lose a job are twice as likely to get high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease in the first 18 months of unemployment compared to those with jobs. The unemployed are more likely to have sleep problems; be more anxious; misuse alcohol, prescriptions and street drugs; smoke more; and eat more sugar and high fat food. Does unemployment make you sick? Or are unhealthier, less energetic employees more likely to lose their jobs and struggle to find another one? It’s probably a bit of both.

But that doesn’t have to be you. The changes in your life can lead to a new, healthier you. You have more time to focus on yourself, right? Getting healthier can give you energy and that magic pizzazz that gets you hired.

Sheila is one of Central Florida’s misplaced workers. The depression from being home and discouraged by her frustrating job search was closing in on her. She decided it was time to get into action. She started walking, first for five minutes at a time. It was tough, but she felt she was making progress and achieving something. Now she is walking five miles a day. Some days she rides her bike 10 to 20 miles. She has about 100 more pounds to lose, but the first 15 were the sweetest, because she learned she can do it and now she is determined she will be a new person. And she is so excited about being in charge that she almost bounces off the road talking about it.

So where do you start? If you haven’t had a checkup in the past year, make an appointment today. If your job was your source of health insurance, you may be able continue that coverage if you sign up within 60 days of leaving the job through what is called COBRA coverage.

Take stock of your lifestyle. Are you home too much, too close to the refrigerator, feeding your loneliness with food? Make a plan for a week of meals and start cooking low-fat, high-fiber, satisfying meals. Learn what is healthier. Try new foods.

Set some goals. Calculate your BMI at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/. If you are overweight (most of us don’t need a calculator to figure that out), aim to lose 10 percent of your weight through healthy eating and physical activity.

What about exercise? You don’t have to join a gym. The beautiful outdoors awaits you, on foot, on bicycle or in a host of other activities. Maitland Community Park has an exercise trail with different stations that can build your muscles in different ways, with a range of levels to challenge you. Make friends with the people you meet. Now that you are liberated from your office, you can be part of whole new worlds.


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