Being overweight at work

Many bosses are biased against fat people - so what's the solution if you're overweight, asks Nick Jackson

A lot of people can be a little sensitive about their weight at this time of year. Just to make things worse, a new survey has come along that tells us that your boss is keeping an eye on your girth.

Nearly 80 per cent of 300 senior managers and directors of major companies polled by The Aziz Corporation, a communications consultancy, said there was a prejudice against fat people in business.

"This research reveals that appearance matters in business and that weight is one of the key factors," says Khalid Aziz, head of The Aziz Corporation and visiting professor of business communications at Southampton university.

"Those who are heavily overweight give a message that they lack self-control." He points to last year's TV show The Apprentice where, he says, the better contestant, Ruth Badger, lost out because of her weight.

More than two thirds of the bosses polled said that fat people were seen as lacking self-discipline and self-control, energy and drive. And there is nothing to stop them acting on these prejudices and not hiring you because of your weight.

Until discrimination legislation appears, it is up to you to bust the flab or bust the stereotype. "If people want to get on in business, they need to be lean and mean," says Professor Aziz.

Seventy per cent of the bosses polled said that the very fit are better able to cope with the demands of a senior role in business. Which is ironic, as senior roles in business, eating on the hoof and getting take-out when you work late, can be bad for your girth.

Almost half of the bosses polled made new year's resolutions to diet. But for most of us a diet is at best pointless and at worst dangerous, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, the nutrition research society. "The sensible way to lose weight is to make long-term changes to your lifestyle," says Lisa Miles, nutrition scientist at the BNF. "Fad diets can actually be quite dangerous."

Much better than potentially dangerous miracle cures, she says, is to just eat healthily. You should be looking to get a third of your energy from fruit and veg, a third from starchy foods like pasta and rice, and a third from everything else.

If you are looking to lose weight, the government recommends using 500 to 800 more calories a day than you consume and aiming to drop one or two pounds a week. "If you consume more than you use, you'll put on weight," says Miles. "It's not rocket science."

The problem, as Miles recognises, is knowing how much energy you need. The guidelines are 2,000 calories a day for women, 2,500 for men, but different people with different bodies, habits, and lifestyles will need very different amounts of energy.

A two-year research project published last year found that counting calories can be worse for you than learning to love your body and enjoy the energy that healthy eating gives.

The sure-fire way to address the calorie balance is exercise. "People who are bigger do get discriminated against," says Sammy Margo, physiotherapist and author of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy's Lazy Exercise for Busy People guide. "The issue is how to get out of that loop, it is very difficult to get out of."

A lot of people, says Margo, are too embarrassed to start exercising because they are out of shape, are too busy, or do not want to spend money on gym membership. However, "you don't need to spend loads of money on a gym membership," she says. "The solution is to try and integrate low-level exercises into your daily life."

You can download the Lazy Exercise for Busy People guide from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy'swebsite: www.csp.org.uk.

With guidelines on how to lose weight while brushing your teeth and the proper way to watch TV, it can feel a little tyrannical, but that is part of the point, says Margo. "It's about thinking about your routine and breaking your routine."

Once you have broken your routine, you can choose which exercises fit in to your life. The best basic exercise is free and easy: walking. Margo recommends getting off the bus a stop early, taking the stairs, and going for a "discovery walk" on your lunch break.

If you were just born big and beautiful, eating healthily and being active will bust the bosses' stereotypes.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: SThree are a global F...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Guru Careers: Marketing Compliance Assistant

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Compliance Assistant to join a ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders