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Business Home > Opinion Analysis
 
Is your job making you fat?

Oksana Tashakova (MAXIMISE YOUR POTENTIAL) / 22 July 2012

CareerBuilder has listed 10 jobs that seem to contribute to overweight reports HLNTV.com: 1. Travel agent; 2. Attorney/Judge; 3. Social worker; 4. Teacher; 5. Artist/designer/architect; 6. Administrative assistant; 7. Physician; 8. Protective services (police, firefighter); 9. Marketing/public relations professional;

10. Information technology professional.

A Harris Interactive study finds that stress levels and lack of movement contribute most to weight gain in these types of jobs. Sitting behind a desk all day, skipping meals because of deadlines, eating from vending machines and eating takeout at their desks all contributed to weight gain in these careers.

MSN’s Stephanie Pappas reports on a study published in the “Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine” that finds job stress greatly impacts our waistlines. Researcher Isabel Diana Fernandez found that people in more stressful jobs were one unit heavier (in terms of body mass index (BMI)) than less-stressed workers. That’s about a seven pounds in a five-foot, 10-inch person Pappas explains.

The participants in the study were employees whose jobs had survived layoffs. Unfortunately, this meant that they had added responsibilities and less control of their jobs — big stressors.

Where Fernandez saw even more significant weight gain was in the off-work time of these employees. Stressed employees exercised less and watched more TV. Every 10-minute drop in exercise per day increased BMI by 0.02 units and employees that watched television for over two hours per day had BMIs 2.37 units higher than others. In terms of just the TV-watching, that’s 16 pounds in a 5-foot, 10-inch man and 14 pounds in a 5-foot, 4-inches tall woman.

Is your job causing you to put on the pounds? Thinking of quitting and finding a better one? It might be more difficult than you think. “Forbes Magazine’s” Allison Van Dusen writes about the pervasiveness of weight-based discrimination in the job market.

Michigan State University professor Mark Roehling has conducted a meta-analysis of 30 studies and finds that discrimination against the overweight and obese affects hiring and firing, promotions and salaries, career development training opportunities and disciplinary actions.

Wayne State University’s Cort Rudolph came up with similar results and says that weight most affects the hiring process.

Gender and race also affect weight discrimination in the workplace. Researcher Charles Baum found that obesity can lower a woman’s yearly income by 6.2 per cent and a man’s by 2.3 per cent. Cornell University’s John Cawley found that for every 64 pounds a white woman gains, her wages fall by nine percent. Roehling has found that obesity in white woman is less acceptable than in African American women in the workplace.

The stereotype that fat people are lazy may certainly come into play in the workplace but more and more employers are worried about health costs reports Van Dusen. Obese employees cost US companies $45 billion annually in combined medical expenses and loss of work.

Fernandez was involved in another study that found overweight employees cost employers $201 a year and obese employees cost employers $644 per year.

A Duke University Medical Center study found that between 1997 and 2004 in the US, obese employees filed twice as many worker compensation claims, cost their employers seven times the average worker in medical costs and lost 13 days more work reports Van Dusen. Average medical cost differences per 100 employees between obese and non-obese employees? $51,019 versus $7,503.

Before you start job-hunting, try packing a healthy lunch and snack for your work day. Do simple chair exercises and run the stairs for five minutes at lunchtime. Drink water instead of soda, get out for lunch to get out from behind your desk, walk to a different office to confer rather than calling or emailing.

Lynn McAfee, who advocates for those that experience weight discrimination, advises bringing up your weight during a job interview if you sense that it is an issue. This will show your confidence and give you the opportunity to discuss how your weight would not affect your work, what your attendance record has been, and display confidence.

Roehling says it’s crucial for overweight job-seekers to be prepared, prompt and well-dressed to help dispel negative stereotypes.

McAfee adds, “Being happy and contented and feeling good about yourself goes a long way.”

 

The writer is an executive coach and HR training and development expert. She can be reached at oksana@academia ofhumanpotential.com or www.academiaofhumanpotential.com. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy

 

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