06/28/2010 01:35 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Does Being Fat Kill Your Career?

DEAR E. JEAN: Does my being overweight really cut down on my chances of advancing at work? Today I overheard one of my managers saying about me "she's so fat, I don't think she'll get promoted. Ever." I'm angry! I've been at this firm three years as an assistant and have yet to be promoted! I've talked with HR, but they're not willing to do anything. What can I do? Is my weight holding me back?
--Over-Weight and Over-Looked

OVER-LOOKED, MY LUV: We have a dilemma here: If I tell you the truth, we'll be giving in to the fatphobic culture. If I tell you what you want to hear (viz: with brains, nerve, and making yourself indispensable to your bosses, you can Mo'Nique your way to the top), it might work; but then if you possessed that kind of pluck, you'd already be promoted.

You see our predicament. You and I live in a culture where people are stigmatized because of their weight. Well, "stigmatized" is too light a word -- "damned" is more like it.

According to Harriet Brown's shocking essay in The New York Times more than half of the 620 doctors -- doctors! -- questioned in a study "described obese patients as 'awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.'"

Another study revealed physicians possess less respect for patients with high BMI's than for patients in the normal range. Miss Brown even quotes Dr. Delos M. Cosgrove a cardiac surgeon and chief executive of the celebrated Cleveland Clinic saying, "that if he could get away with it legally, he would refuse to hire anyone who was obese."

And these are only the studies of physicians' prejudices. You can imagine what people less educated about human anatomy might believe.

So you know what I'm about to say, right?

Yes, you're probably being held back because of your size. And being held back because of your size is stressful. And when you're stressed it's difficult to perform your best at work.

Lose the weight. You don't need to become a sample size, ya know, just look and feel fit. There are many methods, and Weight Watchers might work best for you. Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

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