The answer is “YES” according to many executive fitness physiologists and business school professors. Executives with larger waist lines, higher body fat % and BMI are perceived as less effective with interpersonal relationships and in the workplace overall. Overweight executives are often assumed to be less capable of consistently performing at a high level because of societal assumptions about the effect excess body fat has upon health and stamina. “When we see a senior executive who is overweight, our initial reaction isn’t positive,” according to Barry Posner, professor at the Leavy School of Business. Dr. Posner couldn’t name a single Fortune 500 CEO who was overweight. This effect isn’t just confined to senior executives. Studies of upper, mid-level and entry level staff also confirm that leaner employees are viewed by their peers as more competent, exhibiting better interpersonal skills with staff and customers and they advance faster within the organization. In contrast, excess weight conveyed weakness and lack of control or time to visit weight loss clinics.
The Prescription Perspective: Perception and reality are often vastly different; however, there is little doubt that the perception of significantly overweight executives and staff is that they may be less dynamic and effective. This is particularly true of individuals who are in the public eye. First Impressions Matter and the Image of a slim, trim executive and/or employee projects control, competence and good health. Fair or not, that image often translates to promotion and success in the business world. Even the CEO of “carb factory” Panera Bread has regular extensive workouts programmed into his daily routine. He credits these workouts with raising his energy level and improving his focus on the tasks at hand. In the business world it does indeed seem that “Slim Equals Success.”