Vincy Workplace
January 13, 2006
Can weight weigh down your career?

Achieving high levels of career success can be very difficult for the most committed individual, but it becomes even more challenging for people who are dedicated and overweight. Can your weight really weigh down your career?

Societies have changed

There was a time when voluptuous women were considered beautiful as it was a sign of wealth, but times are different now and in some western societies rail-thin women are perceived as beautiful, competent and capable.{{more}}

Regardless of your personal beliefs, looks play a big role in building your career. Opportunities are won and lost just from a first impression and the odds of losing opportunities increases for overweight people because of the assumptions people make whenever they see an overweight person. It doesn’t mean these assumptions are necessarily true, but these judgments affect a person’s ability to begin a conversation which can lead to profitable business relationships. Here are some judgments and problems overweight people face on a daily basis in the workplace.

• Lack of Discipline. People who are overweight are generally considered to be people without self discipline, slobs and lazy. Others cannot understand why they do not make better food choices. Some people even make correlations between a person’s ability to be disciplined at work and their inability to exercise control around food.

• Embarrassing moments. The airline industry has been implementing new weight distribution standards because on average passengers are weighing more. The industry has also seen a rise in the need to use extender passenger seat belts, as the regular belts do not fit many oversized customers. Imagine how embarrassing it can be when traveling with colleagues on business and you must ask for the extender. The same goes for meal time, overweight people often feel the eyes of strangers and friends constantly evaluating their food choices. This can be frustrating, especially in group settings.

• Customer Preferences. Some people are actually repulsed by others who are overweight and a business owner, although he or she may see an employee’s talent, may feel the need to be selective, in some instances, in how he or she makes client assignments. They do not want to anger the customer or discriminate against an employee so they are placed in a difficult position and more often than not the customer wins.

• Physical limitations. Some jobs are simply unrealistic for overweight individuals. The daily tasks are just too demanding, and for some it’s quite impossible. Colleagues may even get angry if they feel that special treatment is being given based only on a person’s failure to perform if it’s weight related.

• Health issues. It’s been medically proven that overweight people suffer from more health complications. Although it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of weight, employers who offer health insurance know that statistically overweight people will cost them more and some hiring managers do keep that thought in mind.

• Self-Esteem. All the above issues eventually take a toll on your self-esteem. The constant scrutiny, criticism, and having to prove yourself can erode the drive, self assurance and competitive edge needed to compete in the job market. Working overweight people have a number of choices: succumb to the pressure and lose weight, remain in a stagnant career or fight diligently to be recognized for their talents and not their size. Few choose the latter as it can be quite an uphill battle, instead it’s easier to just do what is required of you and become invisible at work.

So what does all this mean? Yes your weight can weigh your career down, but the goal should be to maintain a healthy weight based on your body type and dress appropriately so you always appear clean and professional. Build your confidence daily so you can withstand the inevitable scrutiny and don’t be shy to pursue your career goals.

Keep in mind that the average person especially women will never be a size 4 and should not strive to achieve that size. If you are severely obese seek medical help as your life not just your career is in danger.

For the rest of the population remember that the average woman is a size 12/14 while the media’s version of beauty appears to be a size 2, airbrushed, botox injected or liposuctioned perfect model.