The Blog

Are You Pulling Your Weight at Work?

You may not look as bad to others as you think but you can end up communicating a negative attitude because you don't look good to yourself. Could this possibly contribute to the fact that being fat is such a discriminatory issue these days?

I have just read a report about a hospital in Texas USA where they won't employ you if your BMI (Body mass index based on height and weight) is above a certain number. It might be morally wrong (or it might not!) but once you take out any emotion involved the fact is it's not illegal in America to be refused employment or indeed to be fired from your job for being overweight.

The hospital in question says they have this policy to ensure good health in employees, well, BMI is a pretty basic measurement and in no way guarantees good health so part of the reason this policy is in place must be to address physical appearance.

In the UK in the end of 2012 the subject of overweight nurses was raised in the House of Lords by a former President of the Royal Society of Medicine who said ministers should introduce a "requirement" for all health service employers to "address obesity in their staff at all levels". Baroness Finlay of Llandaff said; "Hospital staff are often themselves quite severely obese and actually act as a very poor role model to those patients whose own obesity should be being addressed."

So here we go again, not only employers but politicians trying to legislate for other people's size and shape - it's as futile as trying to legislate against bad breath. These issues are problems of the individual regardless of how common they may be and only the individual can make the necessary changes to address them. Each individual must find their own personal motivation to change and this can only come through education and positive reinforcement. Rewarding weight loss rather than penalizing being heavy might be one way employers could cope with this situation but really the employer has a pile of applications to go through in these times of recession so what does he care?

It's astonishing to this writer at least how anyone eats junk foods in this day and age when so much information about their true make up is available. The vast majority of high street chain-store fast foods are chemically constructed and engorged with the most horrific additives and addictive substances known to man and yet millions of people feed themselves and worse still, raise their offspring with this refuse every day (sometimes every meal) without a second thought.

The resulting physical downslide for the adults involved must bring some regret or self conscious feelings when going for that important job interview, stomach bulging and jowls hanging? You don't hear the term inferiority complex much these days but the old textbook definition still rings true; an inferiority complex is when you compare yourself unfavourably against others. So, in other words when you have a negative self-image, you make yourself psychologically inferior. If this is the case then we need to accept the contention that our attitude will inevitably suffer if we don't keep a good self-image. So even if you don't care about how others think you look, it should be of paramount importance how you appear to yourself because of how it affects your attitude.

You may not look as bad to others as you think but you can end up communicating a negative attitude because you don't look good to yourself. Could this possibly contribute to the fact that being fat is such a discriminatory issue these days? The rather sad fact is that in most cases, better looking people do better in life. By better looking I don't mean handsome or beautiful of course, which is pretty subjective, no I mean clean-cut, groomed, trim and energetic looking people, who give the impression that they have got things together. These factors usually indicate a good degree of self-discipline, self control and good self esteem-all highly desirable qualities in the workplace. Successful people are no longer judged merely by how much material wealth they may have but by less easily defined things such as work-life balance, health and wellness, spiritual fulfilment and all round contentment and performance.

If we are ambitious but overweight, perhaps we might consider how our weight affects our career. When we go for that special job or promotion we need to feel propelled by positive aspects that make us individual, it can be difficult enough identifying your own gifts, any special advantages and qualities that others will benefit from without the added disadvantage of a lack of confidence in our figure or body shape. How do we think potential employers or business partners will view the validity of such great qualities as 'self-motivated, resourceful and hard working' appearing on our CV if we are very physically overweight? It could easily be viewed as mere platitudes and further if they don't appear to immediately appreciate our value, our special qualities, then we can't really blame them. The impetus is not on them to seek out and recognise these qualities but for us to present them in a way that is easily understood. If we wish to illustrate our organisational skills, our discipline and dedication to pursue goals and work with purpose then we need to understand that a part of that is, on some level, connected by some degree with our appearance. We need to see that anyone who wants his or her career to reach its potential then it's for that individual to communicate their value to their employer or co-workers or the bank manager or whoever.

Understand that this value as a person that we know we can contribute (which may be tremendous) is being minimised, diminished, constrained, restricted and lessened until we liberate it by having our weight under control. It is one very powerful way to let all of the people in your life see and understand the commendable qualities and the advantages that you as a person bring to them by association with them. Now, if you are getting angrier and angrier reading this and moreover you are heavy and you choose to dismiss this entire premise as body facism or mere narcissism and you don't do anything to get your weight under control then you are relying on sheer luck to have your character recognised as that of an achiever in any situation in which you find yourself with people unfamiliar with you. Because of your weight problem you risk people overlooking the potential that you have as a real grafter! You may have really powerful and meaningful reasons why the qualities you possess add value to a business and empower people around you and provide real usefulness in the lives of others but you may never be given a chance to show them because being fat is equated with laziness, even if you're not, and that's how you may well be judged!

So I guess what I am saying is this; there is no law (yet) that says you must be slim to get the best job or career and reach your potential in life and nor should there be one. However, if you don't have your weight under control then you must accept that to some discriminating people your value will be reduced and you may never get out of life anywhere close to what you are worth in terms of material and spiritual rewards that life has to offer. The impression of someone focused externally demonstrates to everyone just how together you are and hey, you will be enriching yourself at the same time.

When you look good to yourself the world seems a much happier place to live.