On the outside, my family looks much like your standard TV family: Mom, Dad, two kids and a dog. We drive a mini-van, we have a garden. The biggest difference between our family and the TV norm? Well, I’m the bread-winner. My husband stays at home with our girls, and I work full time in an office job. I work in engineering sales, and I love it!
I also love to consume articles written by female professionals with tips on how to get by in a profession that is heavily male, like mine. At my employer, women in management are a relatively recent development. I read lots of articles on how to deal with your emotions at work, how to ask for a raise, and how to communicate effectively. But one article I don’t seem to see much, one that I have been dying for… How to be successful as a FAT woman at work.
You may have read that tagline and thought, what could the difference be? Women are women. I agree with you! We should all be treated the same. But as study after study shows, weight bias is a very real issue that millions of people face daily. “Qualitative reviews have concluded that individuals who are overweight face weight bias and discrimination at every stage of the employment cycle […] including selection, placement, compensation, assignments, promotions, assessments, discipline and termination.1” When you are already a minority at work, being one of the few “obese” women sets you even further apart.
What I wanted, and needed when I started the road to be a female professional in my early twenties, was a more specific guide; tips for success as a Working Fat Babe. Now almost 10 years into my career, I am the one giving out the advice. Here are my 3 most important/basic tips for a working fat babe:
- Dress the Part – Comfortably
I know it’s hard. It’s really hard to find appropriate, cute, work clothes that fit, and are in your budget. As a plus size gal this challenge can be frustrating, and even triggering. I suggest you find a few really basic pieces that are appropriate for your office/workplace, and then work up. With these pieces, I suggest you prioritize comfort over couture. These pieces may be boring, but you can always accessorize them up. At some points in my career (like after a size change) I’ve had to do my laundry twice a week to have clean clothes every day. It’s frustrating. But it was worth it to have mid-price quality, and major comfort. When I wear a shirt that is too tight, or too low, or pants that bind when I sit, I can’t focus. I can’t do my best. I just spend the day planning on getting home to my leggings and baggy t-shirts.
- Make your work-space functional for you.
As a person of size, you experience discomfort in ways a lot of average size people may not understand. Are the arms of your chair digging into your hips? Maybe your desk is too close to the wall? If this is the case, speak up! It may seem hard or embarrassing, but it’s going to be ok. See if you have other options, or if your company will make some basic adjustments for you. It’s human decency at the least, and likely the law as well.
I once asked if I could get a new chair, because mine bit into my hips. My company was awesome about it and let me choose from any they had on site. I was so glad I bit the bullet and asked. It was a great experience and I was able to work faster and better after the change. Your company wants you to succeed. You have to be your own advocate for that success.
- Stand your ground.
One of the more popular ways for companies to save money on rising healthcare costs is to ask employees to participate in “health initiatives.” These can be really great, and have great support and resources for employees. These programs can include rebates at gyms or incentives to walk or bike to work.
But in the mix can also be programs that essentially put you on a diet. Programs with names that include words like “Thin” “Slim” and “Lose” in them are usually a sign that they’re focusing on pounds and inches more than the employees themselves. Luckily, these programs are usually elective. Just remember that choosing to participate, or not participate is 100% up to you. If someone is pushing you to do it, you can put your foot down. Your health and body is your business, not theirs.
(I original started this article hoping to submit it for Marie Claire’s search for a plus size columnist. Sadly, they updated the rules to say you had to be based in the UK. I am definitely NOT based in the UK. So instead I’m going to post this on my blog instead. I hope I can promote it enough I can help some of my awesome working fat babes out there)
Do you have any tips to add? I’d LOVE to hear them. Please share in the comments!
- Nowrouzi B, McDougall A, Gohar B, Nowrouz-Kia B, Casole J, et al. (2015) Weight Bias in the Workplace: A Literature Review. Occup Med Health Aff 3:206. doi:10.4172/2329-6879.1000206