Body positivity: Why body acceptance is important in the workplace

1 May ‘23
3 min
Annemarie Andre
Reviewed by psychologist Judith Klenter
Three people loving their body
Accepting and loving one’s own body, even if it does not meet society’s beauty standards, is what body positivity is all about. While most of us know this concept from social media, body acceptance is also increasingly important in the workplace.


In this article, we will explore what makes a body-positive workplace and how you can contribute to it.


Why Body Positivity Matters in the Workplace


According to the study “The Real Cost of Beauty Ideals” commissioned by the beauty company Dove, harmful beauty standards cost the US economy around $305 billion annually, with $221 billion in costs resulting from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Additionally, $501 billion is lost due to appearance discrimination, including weight, skin colour, and hair.


Another study by Vanderbilt Law School in 2014 supports this data. According to the study, slightly overweight women earned $9,000 less than their colleagues of average weight, and severely overweight women earned $19,000 less. While half of male CEOs would be overweight, only 5% of female CEOs would be.


Johanna Geisler, Team Lead at YOYABA and Corporate Influencer, has experienced weight discrimination in her career, not personally but in recruiting processes with previous employers.


“The worst thing was actually that someone was cancelled in the last phase because they didn’t fit into the team’s image – because of their body weight. For me, that was one of the decisive reasons for quitting because I would never want to work for such a company.”


Therefore, it is crucial to keep in mind the importance of a “body-positive” workplace and actively work towards it. Do you perceive your company as inclusive in terms of body weight? Here are some starting points by Johanna Geisler that could be interesting for your company and discussed with your HR department:

  • Recruiting Processes: When applying for a job in your company, it is not necessary to send a photo. In addition, there is a four-eyes principle in job interviews to prevent discrimination.


  • Bullying is Actively Tackled in Your Company: Diversity is emphasised as part of the corporate culture as early as the application process, and any violation will result in consequences.


  • Get Rid of the Stigma: Whether it’s monthly all-hands meetings, face-to-face conversations, or coaching sessions, your company can proactively address the issue. “It should no longer be a look-away issue,” says Geisler.

📚 Read more: Unlocking Your Inner Power: A Guide on Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem


5 Tips to Cultivate Body Positivity in Your Company


One’s own body weight is a personal issue. However, there is a lot of discussion about it in society (diet culture), and supposedly good advice is given. You can already do a lot yourself to cultivate body positivity in your company. Psychologist Judith Klenter gives the following tips:


1. Stop Commenting on the Body of Others


Wow, it’s great how much weight you’ve lost! It sounds well-intentioned at first, but it can have the opposite effect. “This is something that people with eating disorders often hear when they are at their unhealthiest and then internalise,” says Klenter. Many come to the conclusion that they only get compliments when they are thin – a vicious circle.


2. Avoid comments about the eating habits of others


You’re really digging in today! What may be meant as a joke at lunch can also have a negative impact on others’ eating behaviour or imply that they should eat less because of their weight. Don’t comment on other people’s eating behaviour and only talk about it if they bring it up themselves.


3. Ensure that diet culture does not become part of the corporate culture.


I still have to earn my lunch. Watch out for the biscuits, they go straight to your hips! Avoid comments that are typical of diet culture. Even if you refer them to yourself, you might still be offending and (unintentionally) excluding people who are overweight. “If the work environment is toxic for them, they won’t want to stay,” Klenter concludes.


4. Actively approach people about misconduct


Are you there when others make fun of your colleagues’ body weight or make negative comments about it? Then actively address the person about it. In this way, you can help to ensure that bullying is not tolerated in the company and promote acceptance of all bodies in the work environment.


5. Time for self-reflection!


Have you felt caught out by some of the comments or thought “Oh dear, I must have said that before too”? Not to worry – some self-reflection might help. Think about whether you have internalised negative stereotypes about overweight people (e.g., “overweight people are lazy and unhealthy”). What is your relationship with your own body? Do you love it or are you grateful for all the great things you can do because of it? If the answer is no, don’t worry – you can always develop and improve your own body image. This will also help you accept others!


💝 Practice self-love: Mindfulness meditation for self-love (15 min)


How to develop a better body image


A positive body image is essential for a healthy and successful life. If you stand behind your body, you will automatically have more confidence in yourself. You can consider these points to improve your body image:

  • Make sure the basics are right (enough sleep, healthy diet, enough physical activity).
  • Exercise because it’s fun, not because it’s punishment. Try several sports until you find something that suits you.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Engage with the concept of Body Neutrality. “Body Neutrality is about what our bodies do for us, rather than having a focus on how they look,” says Klenter.

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