Monthly Archives: December 2017

Comfort of Unemployment

One reason people can be out of work for a long period of time is that they can fall into a a ‘comfort trap’. A comfort trap is whereby people feel unmotivated to change due to a combination of fears about changing the situation, not being able to see the benefits of change, in conjunction with being in a situation that’s comfortable enough though not necessarily a happy one. Here we shall explore some of the factors that can keep people stuck in their rut. Factors that could keep people stuck in their rut include;

  • Fear of not being able to cope with work
  • Home environment
  • Social network
  • Financial incentives
  • The belief that they’ll be worse off in work

These factors can affect people’s motivation to look for work in the first place. Nobody is intrinsically lazy or useless. it’s a matter of understand the factors that keep people stuck in their comfort zone.

Fear of not coping with work

People who’ve been out of work for a while will often fear that they won’t be able to cope with work, or that they will end-up in situations that they won’t be able to cope with. The reasons people might fear they won’t cope with work could include things like being tired all the time and fears about how one would cope with social situations. They will be looked-at in more detail in further posts. Whatever they are, they can have a profound impact on motivation. What’s more, such fears an become exaggerated the more down people feel. If coupled with some of the other factors it can lead people may believe that they’re better-off staying where they are rather than risking stepping out of their comfort zone.

The home environment

Living at home can be both a curse and a blessing. Sometimes living at home can be a bad thing if your parents mollycoddle you, stifle your independence and prevent you from learning and practicing life skills. If you’re living rent free and having things done for you, this is not a good thing. Such an environment is potentially dangerous not just because of the above, but because it can make you too comfortable to the degree that it can affect your motivation. What’s more, it can even teach learned helplessness.

Social network

People who’re out of work often withdraw socially for fear of being judged by their circumstances and having to explain their situation. The same fear can also lead people to gravitate towards people in similar situations out of the expectation that they won’t be judged. Again, this can be a good or a bad thing. It can be a negative influence if you’re mixing with people who themselves are in a comfort trap and who themselves have fears preventing them from taking steps. This can also profoundly affect people’s motivation.

Financial situation

Being unemployed and having lots of money can be a blessing, but can also be dangerous. If coupled with factors such as living rent free and having things done for you, it can lead to becoming too comfortable.

The belief that you won’t be better off in work

Another factor that can keep people in a comfort trap is that some believe that working will be miserable, people might fear not having freedom. There may also be previous unhappy experiences with work which itself can be a factor affecting people’s motivation to work. If people have been out of work for a long time, they might have a hard time believing that being in work will improve their life, or that they’d lose certain aspects of their life. When these factors are combined with some of the other factors that make life comfortable, it can affect people’s motivation to look for work.

Escaping the comfort trap

It’s entirely possible. It’s important to be able to see beyond any short-term discomfort of taking steps to change our situation to the longer term comfort and happiness beyond. If we’re not focused on that, we might struggle to find the motivation to make the changes we need;

  • Remind yourself of what you cannot stand about your situation and what you won’t miss about being unemployed
  • Be focused on all the benefits of being in work and dispute any of the beliefs and lies that keep you in your rut
  • Address any specific fears about what you might and might not cope with. Some fears may even be exaggerated
  • It’s important to realize that if you have had negative experiences in previous jobs, that not all jobs are the same and not all employers are the same. The benefits of being in work generally outweigh the costs
  • Spend time with people who’re forward moving, people who’re successful and who’re an inspiration
  • If you’ve recognized your home environment is making you comfortable or preventing from learning life skills, consider bringing-up the issue


Everything I’ve identified here is very real and keeps unemployment going and keeps people in a stagnant, yet comfortable middle-ground. Comfort traps can apply to all sorts of negative circumstances in life. If people are long-term unemployed or inactive, the comfort trap almost certainly has a part to play. It’s critical to addres the factors that affect people’s underlying motivation.

Healthy eating; master portion guide

For a balanced diet, every meal should ideally include each of the three main food groups in the right ratios. It can be helpful to get to know each of the food groups in portions to ensure that all your meals are balanced. A balanced diet should contain the food groups as follows;

  • Starchy carbohydrates (6-8 portions a day)
  • Fruit and veg (>5 portions a day)
  • Protein; non-dairy (3 portions a day
  • Protein; dairy (3 portions a day)

Per meal, this translates into;

  • One third starchy carbohydrates; two portions
  • One third fruit and veg; two portions of different colors, the ‘two veg’
  • One third protein; ideally a portion of dairy and a portion of non-dairy

What’s in each group and what does a portion look like?

So, those are basic principles, lets get familiar with what a portion looks like from each group

Starchy foods; 1/3rd of your plate (6-8 portions a day, double portions per meal)*

A portion is;

  • 1 thick slice wholemeal bread or toast (2 per meal)
  • 1/2 pitta bread (1 whole one is sufficient for a meal)
  • 1/2 wholemeal roll (1 whole one sufficient for a meal)
  • 1/2 jacket potato (1 whole one is sufficient for a meal)
  • 1 medium potato, fist-sized (2 is sufficient for a meal)
  • 2 boiled new potatoes egg-sized (4 is enough for a meal)
  • 3 tablespoon cooked pasta or 1 & 1/2 tablespoon uncooked (6 cooked, or 3 uncooked per meal)
  • 1 bundle of spaghetti size of a coin uncooked per meal (2 portions)
  • 2 tablespoons cooked rice, 1 tablespoon uncooked (4 cooked or two uncooked is enough for a meal)
  • 3 tablespoons porridge oats (6 is sufficient for a meal)
  • 3 tablespoons of breakfast cereal (6 is sufficient for a meal)

*Note, this is the ratio for weight maintenance, since this group is your main energy source, it’s this that’s variable according to energy needs, see the adjustments section below

Fruit and veg 3rd (+5 a day, +2 per meal, of two different types)

A portion is;

  • 1/2 bell pepper, avocado, large courgette/zucchini
  • 1 medium carrot or parsnip
  • 1 piece of cucumber 5cm long
  • 1 cereal bowl of salad greens, such as lettuce, spinach, watercress
  • 2 whole plum tomatoes
  • 2 spears of broccoli
  • 7 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons chopped vegetables
  • 3 tablespoons beans and pulses
  • 4 tablespoons cooked spinach, spring greens, kale, green beans, French beans, green beans or cabbage
  • 8 Brussels sprouts, florets or broccoli or florets of cauliflower
  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear, peach, nectarine or sharon fruit
  • 2 medium plums, satsumas or kiwi fruit
  • 2 handfuls of grapes or blueberries
  • 3 dried apricots, prunes or figs
  • 6 lychee’s, passion fruit or canned prunes
  • 7 strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon dried currents, raisins, sultanas, cherries, cranberries or mango

Protein; non-dairy (3 a day, 1 per meal, if dairy-free, 6 a day, 2 per meal)

A portion is;

  • 1 piece of cooked meat; size of deck of cards or palm of hand
  • 1 piece of chicken breast; size of deck or cards or palm of hand
  • 1 chicken leg
  • 3 slices of ham or turkey breast
  • 1 fish fillet the size of a checkbook
  • 1 tin of sardines
  • 1 tin of tuna
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of beans, chickpeas, lentils and other cooked pulses
  • 1 cupped handful of nuts or seeds

Protein; dairy (3  day, 1 per meal)

A portion is;

  • 1 tumbler of milk*
  • 2 tablespoons of cottage cheese
  • 1 small pot of yogurt*
  • 1 matchbox-sized piece of hard cheese*

*Note, the items marked *are high in fat


Think in thirds

The most useful way to look at is is to think of each meal in terms of thirds. For each meal you should have1 third from the starchy group, 1 third should be items from the fruit/veg group (at least 2 different types), another item of veg, and two items from the protein list (a non-dairy and a dairy, or alternatively, 2 portions of non-dairy).

Minimize high-fat and high-sugar items

Ideally, the bulk of your energy should come from slow-release carbohydrate sources including wholegrain products. The items quoted above are selected for being low in fat and sugar. Whether you’re trying to maintain, gain or lose weight, this is one principle that should be followed. Adjustments can be made to the amount of starchy foods and protein foods.

Adjustments for weight loss

The main food group you should vary according to energy requirements is the starchy carbohydrates section, since this is the main source of fuel. To lose weight, instead of having 2 portions of starchy items, a third of the plate, have 1 portion from that list, and 3 portions of veg. Rather than a third of your plate comprising each group, your plate should be, 1 sixth carbs, 1/2 veg and 1/3rd protein.

Adjustments for weight gain

If you’re if you’re trying to put on weight, then you might want to increase both the starchy and the non-dairy protein items that you eat per meal.

To end

This is really a guide to be referred back to. Further posts in this section will look at how to put the principles into practice for the various meals of the day and will make reference to the the ratios stated here. I think that thinking of each meal in terms of ratios and knowing what constitutes a portion of the various food groups can be very helpful.