Do You Feel Pressure To Be Thin At Your Job?

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on January 27, 2010

Today’s lunch was bright and cheery- a tropical getaway if you will! :mrgreen:


I had a yellow pepper with freshly ground pepper and black bean dip on the side. (Sorry, I just realized how unappetizing that bean dip looks- LOL).

I continued my tater addiction with mashed potatoes! I made these a couple nights ago and they include almond milk, garlic, sea salt, and vegan margarine. I heated them up with a pat of vegan margarine and parsley flakes.

Two words: COMFORT FOOD.


With an Amy’s Texas veggie burger, a high protein pita, Fontaine Santa hummus, salsa, and tomato paste. I like Amy’s burgers, but I really need to make more of the In A Jiffy Spelt Veggie Burgers. They are much, much tastier (and cheaper).


Dessert was a WRINKLY peach! It was now or never so I took one for the team…and ate it wrinkles and all. ;) It did look more ‘distinguished’ I must admit. :mrgreen:


Two exciting things:

1) Michael Pollan + Alicia Silverstone + Food Inc + Whole Foods on Oprah today. Loved it. Anyone else catch it? I thought it was funny how careful Oprah was about everything she said. I must have heard the line, ‘This is only my opinion, you must make the choice for yourself.’ a million times. I guess she is avoiding another lawsuit…

2) 5:30pm and still light out. Can I hear a woot woot for Spring on its’ way??

Do You Feel Pressured To Be Thin At Your Job?

This week I was chatting with a reader who is in school to become a Registered Dietitian. She told me that there is a lot of competition among the RD students at her school. Of course there is competition over grades, but she told me there is also competition over weight and appearance.

Because the focus of the program is so health oriented and it is so competitive to get internships, there is a lot of pressure to appear as that perfect picture of health. You know the saying: practice what you preach.

I instantly thought about my previous jobs and whether I have felt any pressure to maintain a low weight. Most of them were office jobs, so there wasn’t much pressure there. However, I worked in retail for many years and had to wear the store’s clothing. At times, I remember wanting to look thin in the clothing so I could represent it well to potential buyers. However, I never felt pressure from my boss. It was internal pressure I placed on myself.

With my current job, owning a bakery, I don’t really feel much pressure about my weight because baker’s tend to have the stereotype of being heavy. However, owning a healthy bakery, I do think it is important to show that a healthy weight can be maintained with balance and moderation. It is not about being thin as it is just overall healthy though.

Then there is my OSG gig. Given my past eating disorder, I had to think very long and carefully about how I wanted to approach my blog. I knew immediately that it might not be healthy for me to be a 3x a day food blogger just due to the sensitivity I have around it all. It works great for many people, but I had to chose the right path for myself. I decided to blog about a variety of topics that I am passionate about, throw some hot topics and recipes in there, and try to have a nice balance for myself. This approach has worked for me because I have not felt overly scrutinized or pressured to live up to some ideal. I just try to be healthy for myself and not think too much about what other people think or expect of me.

Whether I had OSG or not, I would still want to maintain my weight and be a healthy person, so the blog really doesn’t change anything. At times I have fallen into the comparison trap, like many of us do, but I just try my best to work with what I have and never expect perfection from myself because it does not exist. [For a great discussion see Part 1 and Part 2 on Social Comparison Trap.]

So that was my long-winded way of leading into today’s question…

Do you or have you ever had a job (or school career) where you felt the pressure to be thin? What is it/was it and why do you feel that way? Are there things that you do to reduce the pressure?

You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today and we don’t know where the hell she is. ~Ellen

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

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Lauren January 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

My sister is a kindergarten teacher, and the competition between the three teachers she works with has always been astounding to me. I was with her at school one day, and as we are walking across the playground she says, “Isn’t it crazy that I’m the biggest kindergarten teacher here.” At that time she was a tiny size four with bones poking out everywhere, and I firmly believe that her motivation to get that small came from her coworkers. Why do we do this to ourselves?


Michelle @ Eatingjourney January 28, 2010 at 11:57 am

The sad thing is..that so many women think this way and it rubs off on little girls.

That is why I am so keen on getting over my issues. I would never want to give them to anyone else. Especially to my own children.


A January 28, 2010 at 11:32 am

I also watched Oprah yesterday. Both Michael Pollan and Alicia Silverstone were so interesting. However, while watching Alica’s segment I did wonder what Micheal thinks of the health foods she was spotlighting at Whole Foods. With the exception of the produce they wouldn’t be food that “our grandma’s would recognize”. Are the processed vegan foods any better than other processed foods?


sham January 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

I never had a job where I felt pressure to be thin but I felt pressured to eat a lot of foods I didn’t want to. I love food and to eat but I feel better eating less processed foods and try to avoid refined ingredients. In a workplace where there was always donuts, cake, etc I was given a hard time when I would politely refuse the goodies (I just didn’t crave these products or derive any satisfaction from them). It’s interesting as I did not preach to anyone that they should avoid these foods but was questioned as to why I wouldn’t eat them, was I on a diet, etc…

I keow what made me feel good and I just stuck to that :)


Sophie @ yumventures January 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

I work at a medical school, and everyone here is much more focused on health than being thin. But I come from the media industry, and there, looks means everything! I had a previous boss say to me and my counterpart coworker (who is very tall like me, but blond instead of brunette) that we were his two models, and would send us out into the field. I knew that he would never have hired me if I wasn’t good looking and tall. My coworker and I never felt competition (she is still a great friend) but I felt that it was unfair of my boss to comment about how we look if we did a great job! I have a blog too, and chose not to photograph everything I eat. I eat the same boring things during the day anyway! My passion for food and health comes from the kitchen, so that’s what I want to document at night. I love the OSG format…keep it up!


Krista January 28, 2010 at 11:49 am

I am a teacher and have never felt pressure to be thin from my boss or coworker. I have found, however, that being an example to my students encourages me to eat healthy and eat enough. I want my female students to see me as someone who is confident in my own skin and as someone who approaches food and a body image in a healthy way. Through college I struggled with disordered eating, but during my first year of teaching I really became convicted about what I was presenting to my students- I would HATE for any of them to struggle with disordered eating, so it became more important to be a healthy role model. They see me eating apples and peanut butter for snacks, but I also indulge in a cupcake if one of them brings it in for a birthday. I want to portray a healthy, balanced example.


Michelle @ Eatingjourney January 28, 2010 at 11:58 am

Good on you Krista. If you teach anything to your kids…teaching them to love themselves and make healthy choices will forever be with them.

From one teacher to another–awesome!


Teri January 28, 2010 at 11:53 am

I actually feel more pressure at my job to be UNHEALTHY. I moved from Utah to North Carolina, and wow, is the Southern lifestyle prevalent at my company. I get teased about my lunch-time workouts, my healthy meals and snacks, my “weird” food, everything. It’s weird. But I think the teasing is starting to get old and a few people have started coming to me for health advice. Being a good example is the best route!


Michelle @ Eatingjourney January 28, 2010 at 11:59 am

That’s the backlash that I remember getting sometimes. ‘Oh come on Michelle, it’s drinks’ or ‘It’s only a piece of cake!’ or ‘you’re not dieting are you?’

It’s true. Sometimes it’s hard to be healthy when you’re surrounded by people who are not as health focused as you. It made me cower in my corner–so to speak—many times.


Laura January 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I can relate! I live in Dallas, and I get criticized constantly for my “weird food” and for lunch time yoga and for bringing my lunch every day! But you’re right, some people now look to me for healthy advice and even are inspired to work out after seeing my results!

It’s so hard sometimes, but we have to worry about ourselves only. I struggle with comparing myself to others all the time, but you’re right.. I’d rather be the example instead of be like everyone else!


Aoife January 29, 2010 at 7:43 am

I totally relate to you gals! Everytime I bring lunch in from home I hear ‘oooh that looks really healthy, oh I couldn’t eat that, oh look at me with my sandwich’ etc, it’s like, ‘gimme a break!’.
Or I go to the nearby burger bar and order my lentil veggie burger, and get asked ‘what’s the best (beef) burger I should get that’s low fat and healthy?’ which is quite an impossible question to answer….! I just say ‘Order whatever you’d like and enjoy it!’


Anna January 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Interesting. I acutally think I was hired at one of my jobs (lululemon) BECAUSE I wasn’t rail-thin.

When I worked there, almost all of my co-workers were quite skinny. I mean, it makes sense- most people that apply to work at lulu are usually very active and athletic types to begin with. But while I’m an active person, I’m still naturally curvy. I honestly think that one of the reasons they hired me was because I wasn’t the stereotypical yoga bodies. Somehow this made me less intimidating to the average shopper who wasn’t super thin and “perfect.” It’s true, I noticed that certain shoppers who seemed less confident about their bodies or had just started to work out and felt somewhat imtimidated by all the stretchy pants tended to gravitate towards me.

That being said, I heard murmurs from store-level management during my time there that if you want to climb the lulu ranks, you better be attractive. And looking around at the reigional and coroporate managers, they were indeed all stunningly beautiful. Hmmm.


AGS January 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Pressure to be think/attractive: definitely. In fact, some of my stress in the last few months has come from this. I work in a very “old boys” culture. Last week, I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what to wear to a meeting where I was the only female reviewer for a large proposal. Oh, and did I mention I was also about 20-30 years younger than everyone? And comments — you bet. It’s tough. It’s business.


AGS January 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Pressure to be thin/attractive: definitely. In fact, some of my stress in the last few months has come from this. I work in a very “old boys” culture. Last week, I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what to wear to a meeting where I was the only female reviewer for a large proposal. Oh, and did I mention I was also about 20-30 years younger than everyone? And comments — you bet. It’s tough. It’s business.


Cristin January 28, 2010 at 12:16 pm

As an actor I do feel pressure to be thin. But I think more often than not I put it on myself. I live in Chicago though and LA might be another story. Probably one of the reasons I have yet to move to LA :)

I like taking care of myself so I know I would strive to be healthy and fit regardless of my profession. But maybe the pressure would be less. At my day job (acting doesn’t pay the bills yet-lol) I am the one known for eating “weird” foods and being “good” but really I am just eating a well balanced diet and have a healthy lifestyle. After reading these comments I realize that all offices seem the same!


Mary January 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Angela, I’m wondering if your other readers feel about the ‘teasing’ I get at work for being “too-skinny” and “too picky” about what I eat. Jokes are made about my weight (if it were reversed I would be osctrasized) and bets are made on if I will eat whatever goodie is brought in to share. Since when has leading a healthy lifestyle become a joke? I appreciate your openness about your eating issues. I’m with you! I did watch Oprah’s show yesterday and if you can still eat meat after that, all I can say is wow.


AGS January 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I think it’s bizarre behavior. I spend a lot of time with folks who drink a lot (and who would prefer I drink just as much). . . but I’ve never been teased when I say I can’t drink b/c I have a date with my running shoes later that evening.


kristen January 28, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I think your co-workers are jerks.
I’ve definitely been the recipient of comments about some of the things I eat but no one has flat out made fun of me or taken bets. I’d call them on it with something like a “Seriously…you’re really doing this?”


Aoife January 29, 2010 at 7:49 am

Nothing worse than pressure to drink…it can be pretty bad here (Ireland), because our drinking culture is a bit mad. I’m not a big drinker and never have been, if I’m out at a gig during the week I likely won’t drink. But people always act like I’m being a fuddy duddy…

Mary – that is so horrible that your co-workers would make jokes about your weight! So rude and mean. You poor thing!


Kayla January 28, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Last night I left my house at 6:10 pm and there was still a touch of light in the sky. It made my day! There really is a promise of longer days and warmer temperatures in the future.


Ruth January 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm

There is a huge range of health and weight where I work. We have one person in my small department who is obese and another who looks like a model (in a good way, not an anorexic way). I’m about average, but I don’t feel any pressure to be thinner, thank goodness! Of course this is also an academic, desk-job sort of situation in which our appearance is generally not involved in any part of our work.


Laura January 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Having just read the title of this blog at first, my gut reaction was “yes!”. I just decided to give up my corporate business job to go back to school and become a RD. Even though I have just returned to school, I already feel the pressure to get to my happy weight. I’ve been trying to lose weight for 1.5+ years and although I’ve lost a significant amount of weight, I still have weight to lose. It is definitely a motivator for me.

I also realize that when I get out into the field, people are going to look to me for an example of how to live a healthy life. One thing I have already dedicated myself to teaching my clients is to practice BALANCE and I hope that they can see that in my lifestyle. I also hope to teach my clients that “HEALTHY” does not always mean “THIN”. While I am still classified as overweight right now, I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life both physically and mentally.

After reading your blog, however, I was a little shocked that the reader said there is pressure among her program and to get into the intership. I haven’t had that many experiences with my school’s dietetics department yet, but I can’t imagine that feeling and I hope my school is not like that! Obviously the school cannot judge your admission to the internship program based on your physical appearance, so I wonder if it is more internal pressure or pressure from classmates in the form of rude comments or judgments about the students who are not “thin”? I wish that everyone seeking a career as a RD would also believe in balance, but I guess not.

People do not realize that being a RD is just like any other job really. There are RDs out there who do not take care of their health, just like there are doctors that smoke. Not everyone practices what they preach, so to speak. That makes me sad, but that’s life! I think the best thing we can do is live life for ourselves and not worry so much about how we stack up to everyone else. I, too, need to take this advice because it’s something I struggle with all the time!

Thanks for the perspective :)


Kris | January 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Great post! I work for myself so my own pressure comes from me! I am not a tough critic though ;) haha. Wayyyyy back when I used to work at Aldo and we had to be in shape more I feel to make ourselves more “presentable” very frustrating! So I would “forget” lunch some days ;)

Have a great day!



Kate January 28, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Currently, I work in a very small office, so what I find interesting is the only form of pressure I get is from the women in the office complaining about their weight and what they ate and how they haven’t exercised in weeks. They all eat prepackaged oatmeal for breakfast and Lean Cuisine’s for lunch! I have to remind myself sometimes that I’m healthy and I will never succumb to this kind of torture on my mind and body! :) Funny thing is, these women are fit and beautiful!


Laura January 28, 2010 at 3:53 pm

This is the same as my office! I run out to a local produce store a few times a week to make my own salads or bring my own homeade soups and am constantly getting flack about how much easier it would be to bring 5 lean cuisines and microwave oatmeal in each day. I try to remind myself that I am making the best choices for my body. For the ones who are thin and eat this way… I really believe that it will catch up with them one day in some form or another.


Anne [email protected] Weigh of Life January 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Thank God I have no pressure to be thin at my job.


Christine January 28, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Working in fashion there is definitely pressure to be thin. I used to be affected by it, but not so much anymore. In fact…I have become so into health and wellness, I have one foot out the door at my fashion gig (Shhhhh….). I have learned one of the most important aspects of health is self-acceptance. Once you can achieve that, you can achieve anything in life, health, and like they always say – in love! And I always tell myself…Perfection is BORING, dare to be different — in all walks of life!


Gracie @ Girl Meets Health January 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm

I don’t feel pressure at my job, but I *do* feel pressure now that I’ve started a healthy living blog. My blog is just starting out, so a good amount of my readers are still my family, friends, and “acquaintances” that have found my blog through Facebook. Since they see that I have a healthy living blog, I feel pressure to a) look good and b) eat good at all times. The thing is, I eat not-so-healthy foods pretty often, and I’ve already gotten comments from people like “oh, are you gonna post that on your blog?” And I say, “sure am!” So I’ve been doing a pretty good job of not letting these sort of comments bother me, but they’re still in the back of my head.

I’m also currently struggling with some health issues. I have high cholesterol, a thyroid disorder, a low IgA (immunity) a possible case of mono!! I feel so…hypocritical for having a healthy living blog yet being quite UNhealthy. It was hard to admit these sort of things on my blog, but I felt it necessary. This is my reality, and now I need to try more than ever to live as healthily as possible.

Shew, I’ve gone off on a tangent :P Getting back to your ORIGINAL question, regarding pressure to be thin, my blog has definitely affected that as well. With bikini season around the corner, I do feel like I have to drop a few pounds and tone up to look my best and “show” people that I’m healthy through what my body looks like. I hate to even admit that because I always tell other people that being thin doesn’t necessarily mean being healthy. Maybe I should start practicing what I preach in THAT sense, huh?

Thanks for this post. It really opened my eyes to some things that I’ve been thinking and feeling without even fully realizing it! Your posts always have a way of doing that :P


Kelly January 28, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I’m a teacher so I don’t feel particular pressure at work, but when I was in college I definitely did. My school was a very fit place and everyone was very healthy (well, healthy but drinking constantly of course). I did not do well in that environment and I am much healthier now without all the pressure.


Ana January 28, 2010 at 6:35 pm

And that’s why I really like your blog! You have a balanced view of things which makes it so fun to read about.
It is easy in the society we live in to feel pressure to be thin, but a lot of people forget to be healthy in order to do that and there’s where trouble leaves. Eating fat-free foods and 100 calories (full of cr*p) snacks will not get you thin… or it even might, but there will be some suffering I am sure.
I don’t feel pressure from my surroundings, and everything I do to keep my body healthy through a varied diet and exercising I do for myself, so I can feel good internally, external appearance is basically the consequence.
It is funny how people view this though. I love food, love cooking, I eat very healthy, I exercise, I do everything in moderation and try to keep my life as peaceful as life lets you to. But people don’t see it that way, seems like it is so easy to criticize but so hard to understand.
I am happy with myself now as I have never been before, and sometimes I wish people would understand that and just feel happy for me.
But it seems like the happier you are the more envy you attract and people do criticize when jealousy strikes.
Pressure to be thin is something really interesting to talk about as it can be applied in so many ways.
Man, I think I deviated from the topic, am going to stop talking now!
Really enjoy your blog!


Amari January 28, 2010 at 7:39 pm

As an RD student I am worried about the sterotyping that goes along with weight and working as an RD. Whenever I meet an overweight RD or see one on tv, I can only imagine what people are thinking “how can this person help me if they can’t help themselves?” It’s a terrible thing to think, but in today’s world, its definetely a common thought process and even I myself am guilty of thinking that way. On that note, I try my best to practice what I preach only because I believe so firmly in my field. Thankfully I have never had to endure the struggle of being overweight in my life, but I still would never want someone to base my credibility on my looks.


Abbey January 28, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I work at a day care center, and I am definitely not pressured by my coworkers to be thin there, though it is nice to stay in shape so I can keep up with the little ones!

I am, however, also a full-time college student, and I DEFINITELY feel pressure to be thin at my college. Eating disorders are rampant here (and so easy to get away with, without the concerned and watchful eyes of one’s parents!)I’m learning to stop comparing myself to others, and just be the healthiest “me” that I can be.

By the way, I LOVE that Ellen reference. She is my all-time favorite comedian :)


Nicole, MS, RD, LD January 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Absolutely! I’m a dietitian and it can be stressful to always be pictured as the epitome of health and nutrition!


Sarah January 28, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Hey Angela,

I love your blog! Read it every day! I was just wondering if the gluten free glo bar will be available for order soon?



Heidi (Fighting with Food) January 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I absolutely love you for this post! I work at a gym so I am constantly surrounded by a varied mix of trainers, hardcore fitness buffs, “social” exercisers and individuals trying desperately to adopt a healthier lifestyle. I have also struggled, and am still struggling, with an ED. It’s ALWAYS a challenge and I always feel pressure to be thin/in shape/fit, especially since I am a gym employee. I try not to let it affect me, but it frequently does. I analyze most of what I eat and all of my workouts, but I am lucky! I have an incredibly supportive husband and family who constantly reassure me that they are happy with who I am and the progress I have made in improving my health.

Thank you again for this fabulous post! It’s always nice to know that there are individuals who deal with the same thoughts and pressures.


Jess (Fit Chick in the City) January 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm

As a personal trainer the answer to your question is obvious. =)


Kristine January 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm

I just started working in Vermont and I find it sad that no one there cares about their appearance. I feel like the odd girl out…and I barely even wear make up!


Lisa January 29, 2010 at 11:12 am

I work w/ six women and several of them try the latest “get thin quick diet” whether it’s a cleansing thing, doctors program, whatever. Seems like everyone is always on some sort of diet.


Susan January 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Going into personal training, I definitely say I’m feeling the pressure to not only be thin, but FIT. I’ve been working hard lately at building my upper-body muscle to have that sort of “feminine trainer look.” I want my clients to take me seriously, and even be a source of inspiration for some of them. It’s self-imposed for sure, but it just makes sense in my head, there’s no other way to explain it. Besides, it’s good incentive for me ;)


caronae January 30, 2010 at 1:09 am

Wow, super interesting discussion :)
I don’t have any job-related pressure, but I do feel like there is an inherent pressure to be thin and beautiful if you’re a woman living in New York.
PS — I love how colorful bell peppers are. Aren’t they just so fun?


ellie January 30, 2010 at 7:47 am

Great topic and conversation going on here!

I have definitely experienced this at work- I spent a summer in New York, working as a temp while interviewing for permanent positions. Most of my temp work was as a receptionist, in media/publishing. There was an unspoken rule that you had to have the “model-esque” appearance because you were the face of the company, being at the main reception. I worked at Vogue a few times and although my work was only ever a day or two at a time there, it was ridiculously intense how much effort was needed to work there permanently. Interestingly, several of the positions I interviewed for required a photo with the application. I had never experienced that before in the UK for *any* jobs and all the companies I interviewed with (mainly advertising or media), the woman looked like they just stepped off he cover of a fashion magazine. I haven’t experienced that anywhere other than New York but have lived/worked in the UK.


Z February 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I’m an actor and a model. When you work in show biz, you and your image are your product. There is a pressure, both external and internal to maintain your body and be thin and muscular. So many people in this industry fall in unhealthy patterns. I try to avoid that by reading about nutrition and focusing on fueling my tank and keeping healthy and active rather than a number on a scale. So thank you for the positive message of this blog…it is about health and happiness. Your body will glow and radiate when you give it what it needs to keep going.


Martha September 16, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Thanks for the great post. Good advice! I completely understand how you feel and it makes me hate my job each day. It’s tough. Thanks for you insight though.

I stumbled upon this blog like I did yours. Though their insight on work was very meaningful:

Thanks for the post! I’d love to see more like it.


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