One of the most insidious side-effects of joblessness is Noxious Doubt. After more than two years of underemployment, I've gone beyond the self-defeating exercise of blaming Fate and the Recession to simply blaming myself. Every day, words like "failure" and "loser" circle my head like flies, or perhaps vultures.
Even though both the unemployment and underemployment rates dropped slightly this month, they are offset by the fact that job creation is slowing, and that I need to take good hard look at what I've been doing wrong.
Full disclosure: I was an angster even when the economy was booming, which I think has held me back in my career. So I wake up most days feeling like I'm in quicksand that I need to climb out of just to get onto solid ground. I suppose I could be very American about it and medicate away my ennui, but instead I'm hitting the gym so hard it hurts. Me, not the gym.
For starters, my weight is something I can control. Sort of. I've gained and lost my body weight at least twice, which is almost like losing and finding Kirstie Alley, who is now only famous for being fat. And, even though I've managed to maintain a weight proportionate to my height, a disproportionate amount still clings to my waist like a desperate lover crying "Don't ever leave me." At 44 years old, it's my last chance to get buff before gravity proves why it's a law.
With 28% of the population classified as obese, it's statistically impossible to correlate flab with joblessness, but personally I've found that the softness at my core undermines what confidence I have. So I'm following the tried and true method that enabled me to lose weight in the past: I'm eating less and exercising more. I know, radical.
This time, however, I'm going further, doing research about weight loss, which is dangerous because the internet is full of misinformation: caffeine makes you metabolize quicker; caffeine makes you fatter; Tori Spelling isn't anorexic, she had swine flu.
One theory stands out from the rest, however: stress contributes to belly fat. How did I not know this? I have both.
According to this article, when you're stressed or anxious, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Your digestive system stops breaking down food to conserve energy and your adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol to store fat and protect your internal organs. Sure, the article's by a chiropractor, who are famous for not being real doctors, but to someone perpetually anxious like myself, the idea makes sense. My belly fat really is clinging to my waist like a desperate lover.
So my other summertime project is to learn stress management because I'm vain and want abs like The Situation, even though a friend of mine swears he heard the Jersey Shore star throwing up in a Manhattan bathroom before a photo shoot. In my own chicken and egg situation, a firm waist will help me lose my Noxious Doubt, which will stop my hormones from going haywire, which will release the fat I've been carrying around all these years like Kirstie Alley.
Or at least that's my latest mind-game. But at least it's a positive one.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.
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