I think it was Bret Easton Ellis who coined the (ghastly) term ‘Hardbody’ referring to a young, fat-free, female workout fanatic. I can’t remember where I first came across the term ‘Body Nazi’ – but it perfectly describes the discrimination that goes on in the world of work on a daily basis.

There was an interesting study in the late 90s which examined these unconscious discriminatory processes. When shown candidates who were apparently indistinguishable in terms of qualifications, experience and track record, 94% of hirers chose the candidate with no facial hair and 96% of them chose the less heavy candidate – even if that candidate was overweight him- or herself. We’re back to the tall CEO issue here; for some reason we still select people for important roles who ‘look’ healthy.

Healthy looking hair – not necessarily actually healthy mind you, but healthy looking.

The Journal of Economics & Human Biology did a very interesting piece on this recently. 40,000 individuals were enrolled in the study across 9 European countries. The big outcome was that for every 10% increase over the ideal Body Mass Index (BMI), men suffered a penalty of 3.3% in salary. So, high correlation in the data, but is there causation and how do we distinguish cause from effect in this situation? Does being abdominally challenged directly reduce your earnings, or do lower earnings make you poorer with the resultant unhealthy diet and lack of exercise that seems to be closely linked to socio-economic status?

Whatever the outcome of further study into this phenomenon, the message is loud and clear – as long as newsreaders look like supermodels and the cast of Desperate Housewives are held up as some sort of physical ‘ideal,’ one has to put in the effort to match up.

Yes, it is s-t-u-p-i-d that our cave-person brains are still selecting mates, political leaders, CEOs and movie stars so much on the basis of appearance, but we are and that means learning to play the game – at least in part – at that trite, superficial level.