Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Work makes me unhealthy

I have made a discovery about my life and how work applies to me.  Remember, as you read this, that every theory does not apply to every person and that we all have our own circumstances.  As this is my blog I think it only fair that the circumstances that I discuss apply! :)

A couple of weeks ago I had my last day at my job.  I had worked there for about six years, and in that time the company had boomed, and then as the housing bubble burst, the company slowly deflated with it.  My boss did his best to keep things going, and is actually still out there, trying to survive, but in order to do so he had to lay people off.  We went from 10 employees and the owner to the owner, myself in the office, our salesman who worked out of a model home, and our superintendent, who worked in the field.  Unfortunately, about a month or so ago we were told that was two employees more than could be kept on the payroll, so the salesman and I were laid off.

I worked for the last four weeks doing everything I could to get the office organized in such a manner that one person could get as much done as possible, and then....then I said goodbye.

Now, you may be wondering to yourself, "Um, Lys?  What does this have to do with health and body image?  That IS what this blog is supposed to be about, right?"

Let me answer that for you.  You see, as I have lived through my first couple of weeks as an Unemployed But Looking Person (UBLP), I have discovered that work made me unhealthy. 

I shall explain further for you. 

While it is a precept of the Health at Every Size mentality that weight is just a number and that we shouldn't really pay attention to the scale, it is a habit that I haven't been able to break yet.  I still weigh myself most mornings.  Part of it is curiosity, wondering if making the changes I've made will actually have an effect on my weight as well as my health, or whether I really am going to remain at this weight no matter what I do.  Part of it is TLV (The Little Voice as discussed in previous blog posts such as this one) which persists in arguing that H@ES is wishful thinking on my part, and that it is obvious that no matter how hard activists push, fat will never be acceptable in our society today.

So, yeah, still working on that part of things.  But the point of this minor digression is that I have been watching my weight for the past two weeks as it has steadily dropped.  Actually, it has dropped by almost 10 pounds without any conscious effort on my part to lose weight.

If you think about it, this makes sense.  I still spend more time sitting than is probably best for me as I spend time every day on the computer doing job searches, researching a possible small business start-up that I have in mind, and just generally puttering about on Facebook and other time-wasting sites.  But even with that, I am more physically active than I have been when I was working.  I am getting things done around the house, things like laundry and cleaning, things that require lifting and stretching and bending and just general movement-type activity.

Also, my eating habits are falling into a normal-for-me pattern, which is really not compatible with working a job.  I seem to prefer two meals per day over three, depending on what I'm working on, or if I'm having a more active day I prefer five or six snacks over regular meals.  My snacks are healthier because I can get healthy, whole foods out of my fridge or cupboard, and I don't have to try and figure out what I'm going to want 12 hours in advance only to find out that I guessed wrong.  I don't have to worry about portability, so things like granola bars, energy bars, and so on aren't the staple of my snacking.  Instead, I can grab some cheese and a handful of grapes, or some smoked almonds, or a single cookie depending on what it is I want RIGHT THEN.

I know that I could take most of those to work too, but the problem is that I either tend to take several choices, only to eat them all, or I don't take enough and I end up being starving when I get home and so I overeat at dinner time.

In addition to moving more just while getting things done, it is easier for me to make movement an active choice in my life too.  When I'm home with just the cats to see me, I can put on some music and just shimmy around the living room for ten or fifteen minutes.  I can put the dance game into the game console and just play.  I can go out for a walk around my neighborhood for 10 minutes and not worry about getting back to my desk if I decide to stroll for a bit longer.

I find all of this to be so very ironic.  I am finding my health through being laid off.  I am looking for work, though I hope to actually be able to get my own business off the ground if I can, rather than having to go work for someone else again.  Should I end up taking a job somewhere, instead of doing my own thing, though, I'm going to HAVE to figure out how to keep these changes going even within the restrictions of the workplace.  I like how I'm feeling.  I like how I'm sleeping at night.  I LIKE the freedom to be myself that I'm experiencing right now.  That shouldn't have to go away just because I go in to a job every day. 

So that will be an additional goal.  I need to find a job, and I NEED to find a way to keep that job from pushing me back into old habits while allowing myself to continue to grow into these new habits and an even healthier me.  Because the last thing that I want to return to is allowing work to make me unhealthier again.  That is a choice that I refuse to make any more.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fat Fears: Hiring Bias

Fat people have many fears that they have to face every day.  I know that some of mine are things like wondering when I go to a new place (whether it is a public place or a private home) whether I will be able to find seating that is both comfortable for me and that I am not terrified of breaking by sitting on it, or fearing tripping and falling because between my size and nerve damage that I have in my knees from a freak accident in my 20's it is nearly impossible for me to get up on my own. 

One fear that I am currently having to face is the fear of weight bias in the workplace.  You see, I am being laid off from the job that I have held for the past six years.  It is a job that has had its ups and downs, both personally and industry-wise, but that I have enjoyed overall.  I will be sad to go, and hope that it is only a temporary thing though I cannot count on that.  This means that I will be looking for a new job, which brings the whole thing back to hiring biases. 

It is against the law to exhibit an observable bias toward those of different races, religions, genders, and even sexual orientation (in most places).  It is not, however, against the law to exhibit an observable bias toward those who are fat.  If anything, popular sentiment encourages such biases by supporting the false stereotypes that fat people are, by nature, lazy and unintelligent slobs who have no drive to accomplish anything of note. 

I happen to have an excellent resume.  I have amazing skills in a variety of skill sets.  I have almost 30 years of actual work experience under my belt.  My organizational abilities and professional interpersonal abilities are unmatched.  I am startlingly fast at learning new skills and procedures.  If I weighed 130 pounds, I would expect that I would be able to land a top-paying position in my field with only moderate effort even in the current job market.  But I do not weigh 130 pounds, I weigh 360 pounds and I fully expect that there will be interviewers who will not be able to see past that weight to the skilled and competent person behind it. 

It is ridiculous in this day and age that anyone should have to fear going to interviews because of how they look.  No one should have to fear that something that has nothing to do with how they work or their ability to complete a job with the highest quality possible while getting along with co-workers in a pleasant manner will ever have bearing on whether they are hired or not.  Currently, you legally do not have to worry about the color of your skin having any bearing on whether you get a job (I know, it is still a practical fear as there are those who either ignore or skirt the law, but at least there IS a law!), you legally do not have to worry about your religion barring you from being hired, or your national origins (I suddenly have visions of the old photographs showing signs that said, "Irish need not apply.") keeping you unemployed.

I wish that I could say that my weight will not have any bearing on what jobs I am seriously considered for and what jobs will pass me by.  But we are realists here, though we try to be optimistic realists most of the time, and we all know that no matter how good my resume is, no matter how amazing my skill sets, no matter how well I ace that phone interview, the moment that I walk into a room with an interviewer there is a high likelihood that their opinion of my abilities will drop severely when they see my weight.  If they are basically a good person they may not be consciously aware of it, but it will still be there.

We, as humans, make judgements based on external appearances all of the time.  It isn't a good thing to do in most cases, but we do it anyway.  We are conditioned to do so from childhood, and society encourages it in both blatant and subtle ways.  You are, of course, free to disagree with my assessment on that, but before you do I challenge you to consciously monitor your thoughts and reactions for a week.  Whether you are walking down a street, watching a television show, or just hanging out with your friends, I challenge you to be aware of your thoughts and reactions when you look at people.  Notice how often your thoughts focus on assumptions and stereotypes when you see someone new.  Is that guy with the tattoos really dangerous?  Or do you just assume that from what you've seen in the media?  Is that girl with the short skirt and low-cut top really a slut?  Or does society feed that stereotype with its forced perceptions?  Is that fat girl really lazy?  Or are you just assuming that because that is what you have been told over and over by people who have a vested interest in promoting that thought?

Anyway, I hope that I am proven wrong.  I hope that I get a job worthy of my skills and my abilities.  I hope that I get a job that challenges me to learn new things on a regular basis, and where I am appreciated as a valuable member of a team as well as a unique person.  Though, I'm not sure those kinds of jobs even exist anymore no matter WHAT size you are, but if they do, I hope that I manage to get one and that my fear of hiring bias ends up being an imaginary windmill that disappears as I attempt to tilt against it with my lance and charger.

I hope that eventually it disappears for everyone, and that we all look forward to the day when our only concerns regarding looking for work relate to what is available and what we qualify for.  That would be ideal.  I hope that day is not too far off and that I someday get to see it.  But who knows?