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Down Time Put To A Good Use

Published 03/18/2012
The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC

Bridgette A. Lacy writes monthly about resources for laid-off workers.

Apex resident Wayne Thome spends his days searching for work, walking on the treadmill and lifting weights. Thome, 53, an out-of-work environmental and health safety manager, decided to make some lifestyle changes now that he has more free time.

He shifted his regular diet to include more vegetables, fish and fruit, and less carbohydrates. Getting into better shape has become a priority. “It takes my mind off all that I have on my plate,” he says. “… You got to have something you can do to take care of yourself.”

Kelly Nordby, coordinator of the local weight management program Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, says that Thome is on the right track and that all unemployed workers should focus on health and fitness.

“The combination of being stressed, out of our normal routine – sleeping, eating, exercise, etc. – and bored can cause us to make less healthy choices,” she says.

Numerous studies have shown that a workout can boost your mood and overall well being, and provide you with more energy throughout the day – just the things you need when you’re searching for a job. Not to mention that a healthy-looking person makes a better impression on would-be employers.

One of Thome’s goals when he moved to the Triangle last year from New Jersey was to get back in shape. He said his fitness routine had taken a beating in his last job. He had been working for a chemical manufacturing company that merged with another company, and the two-year merger took its toll. His project load increased, as did his hours; leaving less down time for exercise. He eventually took a buyout and decided to look for opportunity in North Carolina. When apartment-hunting, he looked for a place with a fitness room to start his journey back to a healthier lifestyle.

He says he now feels more focused and energetic.

“I get up, work out, and I feel like I’m over the hump,” Thome says. “I get on with my day.”

DietNordby, also a registered dietitian, says job seekers shouldn’t depend on exercise alone. She suggests stocking the kitchen with healthy choices, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, along with healthy meal and snack items, and nonsugar-sweetened beverages. Clear out the items that don’t meet the criteria. Being at home all day may make you more likely to eat out of boredom rather than hunger.

Nordby advises setting aside 30 minutes each week to plan healthy meals to eat at home. Aim for home-cooked meals five days a week. This will save money and calories. Strive for two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day.

ExerciseThome has made some of those changes. He shops at an Asian market for fresh fish, bok choy and mushrooms and eats more salads instead of caloric sub sandwiches for lunch. He adds healthy proteins to his salads such as tuna and boneless chicken. He also makes homemade soups with low sodium broth.

Now that Thome is eating better, his next goal is to move more.

“Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, each week,” Nordby says. That could mean riding a bicycle or swimming laps. If you want to receive more health benefits, go for 300 minutes of exercise each week.

Grab a partner or spouse for additional motivation and accountability, she suggests.

ResourcesThere’s also a lot of help out there for those trying to get into shape from various parks and recreation centers. Dwayne Jones, recreation manager for Cary Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, says Triangle residents are welcome to take advantage of Cary’s FIT month starting in April. His department is offering a comprehensive program, featuring nutrition talks and fitness activities for all ages from pre-school children to senior citizens.

Exercise is not just a way to get into better shape but also a way to manage the burden of job hunting. “It’s a mood changer,” Thome says, explaining that he’s more light-hearted when he’s working on his health.