What is a job for a morbidly obese woman?

Image courtesy of the Rudd Center

Courtesy of the Rudd Center image gallery

This showed up as one of the search terms used to get to my blog:

what is a job for a morbidly obese woman?

Let’s see…”morbid obesity” is usually defined these days as having a BMI value of 40 or higher.    The BMI Project includes photos of multiple folks who are, officiallymorbidly obese.

So, what sort of job is good for a morbidly obese woman? How about one that she has the skills for? One that she enjoys doing?

Dr Regina Benjamin is fat and the US Surgeon General, though I don’t know her BMI. Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson and Dawn French are actors.   Beth Ditto is a singer-songwriter.

Courtesy of the Rudd Center image gallery.

Courtesy of the Rudd Center image gallery.

But what about in everyday life?

Fat women are doctors. Clerks. Nurses. Programmers. Saleswomen. Lawyers. Engineers.  Housewives. Writers.  Bosses.  Janitors.  Baristas. Fat women are everywhere.  And we may not look as fat as you think we do.

So are fat men.

Even so, fat people, especially fat women, are less likely to be hired (there are fewer fat actors for a reason). Fat people are also often paid less and harassed more than similar-qualified people who are thin. As noted in an article in the California Law Review,

“highly obese” women earn 24% less than thin women while the so-called moderately obese earn 6% less. A Harvard Public Health Study found that fat women have household incomes $6,710 lower than thin women. Fat women also have a 10% higher rate of poverty.

I didn’t know all this when I was in college.  I knew that I didn’t fit the late-80s “Dress for Success” look, and that being fat didn’t help, but I didn’t realize that weight discrimination was being studied.  I knew I wouldn’t look like the stereotypical Seattle programmer , but I majored in computer science anyway.  I’m  likely to be paid less than others in my field, but at least it’s a field with above-median pay to start with.

Are there jobs that fat people can’t do?  Probably not jobs where being small is part of the job, such as being a jockey.  Weight Watchers refuses to hire people for certain jobs that don’t maintain their WW-determined “Goal Weight”. There are also jobs that fat people may not WANT to do — I’m afraid that individuals do tend to be individual about their wants, needs, and skills.

What do you think?  Stupid question?

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28 thoughts on “What is a job for a morbidly obese woman?

      • As does, notably, fashion modeling. Eating disorders also show up disproportionately in the world of professional dance, especially ballet.

        Makes me glad I’m a writer.

        • I’m a writer and sadly I had an ED for four years.

          I wonder why the military have higher rates of EDs? Is it a way to cope with the stress, a certain type of person being attracted to the military or are there weight targets that must be met?

          I found this blog when I was in the midst of my recovery. It is a very healing place.

            • Just went and read one of the charts. Apparently, the max weight for a woman of 5’5″ who is my age is 154. I wear a US size 10 at that weight. That is insane! Obviously it’s not very complicated then! Simple cause and effect going on with the EDs there.

              • Yup. I work with US military, and I’ve seen the use of saunas, the ‘maple syrup cleanse’, some sort of weird hard-boiled egg diet, just among the people I know personally when they have fitness tests (which include weighing and waist measurement) coming up – and I’ve heard rumors about diuretic use, too. Many people just seem to regard it as normal, and argue that ‘if they kept to the weight limit in between times it wouldn’t be an issue…’ I suspect that if they abandoned weight and waist size, a lot more people would pass the fitness tests more of the time on their genuine actual fitness.

              • I have met people who could pass the Physical Fitness Test with flying colors, but still were open about having to fast or go on strict diets a couple of days before weigh-in. And they were all around size 10 and passing the fitness test.

          • “I wonder why the military have higher rates of EDs? Is it a way to cope with the stress, a certain type of person being attracted to the military or are there weight targets that must be met?”

            From what I’ve heard from women — and some men, for that matter — *just* over the “weight limits” and what they had to suffer to get through PT, I’m assuming that, like a professor of mine once said, it’s a situation taking into account “the totality of circumstances”.

  1. Isn’t the Weight Watcher official goal weight 10% off? It would be fun to join them, get down 10%, and then apply for a job as a still-clinically-obese person.

    Maybe this is the wrong side topic, but in general less attractive people earn far less than attractive people. That kind of discrimination – thought not the insults and abuse – is partly innate because we want to spend more time with people we find attractive. I have to force myself to not over-tip a waitress for being pretty, because it’s not the fault of the next waitress that I find her less attractive or the fault of the next waiter that I don’t happen to be attracted to men.

    It’s easy to see the problem, harder to see a practical solution.

    Oh, and congratulations again for being a computer scientist or software engineer. I hope more women can develop an interest in the field, and more men in the field can learn to treat female colleagues fairly and with respect.

  2. Another example similar to acting (i.e. harder for fat people to get in, but some do):
    It’s often helpful for fitness instructors/personal trainers to be thin–not necessarily to be able to do the job, but because some customers will have weight loss as a primary goal and assume a fat trainer will not be able to help them, and because a gym may want to present a certain “image” (again, to attract people with weight loss goals). On the other hand, I recently tried out a water aerobics class and the instructor was fat (though not “morbidly obese”). And there are trainers like Theresa Bakker who are explicitly size-accepting, of course.

  3. Rats, I was hoping to get a specific answer. lol I have been a SAH mom for 14 years and I always said when my son gets old enough, I would go back to work. Problem is, not only am I having trouble finding someone who will hire me with a 15 year gap on my flimsy resume, but I have no college education, and find that regular 8 hour jobs like working retail are damn near impossible for me considering that standing up for more than an hour or so becomes quite painful. I know it’s counter-productive to focus on what you cannot do, but unfortunately sometimes it can’t be avoided. :/

    • I hadn’t been keeping up with this thread, don’t know if this is still useful to you….
      But to second maggiemunkee’s suggestion of “call center”, when I worked at a call center the majority of the Customer Service reps were fat women. I think they were mostly in the 35-40 BMI range. (In addition to the Customer Service reps there were the less specialized people, who had less training and were more diverse in terms of body type and gender, though there certainly were fat women among them, and I think all the Customer Service reps started out as less specialized.) The main issue would be whether the chairs they provide are sturdy enough and if they have arms that create too narrow a space for you (if those are problems, perhaps they’d let you could bring your own chair).

  4. I was a pretty fair accountant for 30 years till I took early retirement last June when my company downsized. Now I’m double-dipping, working as a temp for them because they value my skills enough to accommodate my size. A positive attitude helps too. The irony is I can thank my mother because she kept nagging me as a teenager I was way too fat to find a good husband so I’d better get good grades and find a good career. Well, I found both. ;)

    Re jockeys and weight: Steve Cauthen was the last jockey to win the triple crown in 1978 when he was 18 but I read he couldn’t make his weight after that so he made the smart move to England where higher body weights are accepted for jockeys and he had a great career in Europe instead. Now retired as a jockey he helps run a racetrack in northern Kentucky.

  5. Pingback: Friday Links 12/21/12 « Tutus And Tiny Hats

  6. I’m 41, size 26, have no idea what I weigh anymore, but expect it’s probably somewhere between 300 and 350. It shocks a lot of people to know that I travel the world in my job – In the last two years I’ve spent almost a month in India, two weeks in Russia, two weeks in Morocco, several weeks in Europe. I manage a website for a big tech company, and when I’m not on the road, I work at home with my feet up. :)

  7. I worked a lot of jobs before I was disabled, art teacher, residential counselor, plastics factory worker, substitute teacher, part time legal secretary, legal internship-unpaid trying to earn a paralegal degree–[my second], cleaner for disabled, salad girl, etc. I get exhausted looking at the list. Sadly at all the jobs but the art teacher one, I was underpaid. I do think supersized people will be better off in jobs that are more mental focused think paper work rather then personality and physically driven. [cleaning, having to be on your feet] My health problems caused me troubles at work very early on.

  8. Fortunately my workplace doesn’t discriminate based on size when it comes to pay and opportunity, although they still put up those irritating “motivational” weight loss posters on the damn bulletin boards.

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