Body image issues can be particularly challenging for entrepreneurs who face the pressures related to societal beauty standards while striving for success in their professional lives. 2021 research published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health concludes that being an entrepreneur is positively associated with the risk of obesity, as the mental stress generated at work significantly increases the weight of both men and women with high BMI index.
How does this especially affect women entrepreneurs, who tend to face unique stressors due to the entrepreneurial gender gap? In this article, we take a closer look at the data on body image issues and obesity among female entrepreneurs and discuss empowering advice to help female entrepreneurs fight through these issues and prioritize their health.
Body image issues
The demanding nature of entrepreneurship, combined with societal pressures, can often lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms and sedentary behaviors. This increases the risk of weight gain and obesity.
Research further indicates that female entrepreneurs — who tend to be exposed to comments from customers and passersby on weight, body image, and disordered eating — are more susceptible to body dissatisfaction compared to women in other professions. In fact, child and adolescent psychotherapist Dr. Katie Hurley notes that female entrepreneurs can develop body image concerns as young as 3 to 5 years old. During the cookie selling season, members of the Girl Scouts can be exposed to unwelcomed messages about calorie counting, restricted eating, and diet culture while selling door-to-door.
It is also critical to recognize the role of stress in weight gain. Female business owners tend to face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In particular, women entrepreneurs often have to juggle managing their businesses, caring for their families, and navigating societal expectations. This can disrupt healthy lifestyle habits and promote emotional eating, contributing further to a negative body image.
Obesity and health
Body image issues and obesity among female entrepreneurs have severe consequences for mental and physical health. Mentally, these issues can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation. The relentless pursuit of societal beauty standards can hinder self-acceptance and promote harmful comparison.
Obesity also increases the risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Moreover, stress, often experienced by entrepreneurs, disrupts the hormonal balance and can impede weight management efforts, exacerbating the health risks associated with obesity.
Overcoming and prioritizing health
Female entrepreneurs should begin to recognize that self-worth is not determined by appearance alone. Start by surrounding yourself with a supportive network of friends and family that provide encouragement, understanding, and accountability on your journey toward better health. Here, rather than solely concentrating on weight loss or appearance, you can prioritize overall well-being by adopting a balanced approach to nutrition, exercise, and self-care.
While promoting body positivity and self-acceptance is crucial, it’s equally essential to recognize that obesity can be a serious medical condition that requires attention. Female entrepreneurs should not hesitate to consult their healthcare providers for guidance on managing these issues. For particularly serious obesity cases, doctors can prescribe GLP-1 for weight loss for people with a BMI of 30 or more. This helps to reduce appetite, increase satiety, and improve glucose control — with medications like Wegovy inducing an average 15% reduction in baseline body weight.
Meanwhile, to address the psychological stressors driving weight gain, doctors can also recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you self-monitor when you eat. This helps you reflect on your relationship with food growing up, and disruptive introspection can help heal your body image issues by allowing you to acknowledge the reasons why food may have a more complex meaning in your life.
By effectively managing body weight and improving overall health, female entrepreneurs can experience numerous long-term benefits. These include a reduced risk of obesity-related health conditions, improved cardiovascular health, increased energy levels, enhanced self-esteem, and improved mental well-being. With that, adopting a proactive approach to health can lead to increased productivity, resilience, and success in entrepreneurial endeavors.