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The Ugly Truth About Weight and Work

The majority of New Year's resolutions are about eating less and exercising more. Basically, people want to look better. But most us cannot actually make that kind of behavioral change, even when we resolve to.

Do you want to know who succeeds at such resolutions? Movie stars. They do it because they get paid to stay thin. Think about it, if you were going to be on the cover of Men's Health (with no shirt) or Cosmo (with a tight, plunging neckline), don't you think you'd figure out a way to drop 15 pounds? Research says that if you would get paid only if you lost enough weight to get on the cover, then you'd lose the weight.
But most of us are not fielding this sort of invitation from the editors of Men's Health or Cosmo. At one point, though, I had a similar situation. I had just delivered a baby but still had the baby weight, and I was scheduled to start a speaking tour to promote my forthcoming book.

I made the insane decision (which I would never recommend) to skip maternity leave, and I was in my agent's office two weeks after the birth, and my agent, who herself was sort of fat, said, "You look terrible. You're too overweight to go on book tour. You have to lose that weight or you're not going."

She was right. I did look terrible. For some writers, being overweight and on book tour would be fine, but three chapters of my book are about managing your image and the perceptions of others, so I couldn't really be overweight while I promoted my book.

At this point, my career was at stake. No weight loss, no book tour. So I lost 40 pounds in two months. It wasn't easy, but I needed to get paid. And this is how I am certain that it is easier for movie stars to lose weight than, say, office workers. And this is also how I'm certain that the researchers are right when they report that people who are paid to lose weight are more likely to do it.

But there's good news: You will make more money if you lose weight! Really. All of you. People who are overweight do not make as much money as people who are thin and good looking. It doesn't matter that it's not fair, that money doesn't track only with star performance or your excellent personality. It is just true.

There is good research in the Economist, covering decades of studies that show that we have a disposition locked in our DNA to favor good-looking people. And that good-looking people make more money.

So try it. Tell yourself that you are going to hit a wall in your career unless you lose weight. And that sticking to the diet will open the doors to grand money making. Because it appears that if you believe that, you will stick to a diet and drop the extra weight.
And, if that mind maneuvering doesn't work, think about this: Would you pay $3000 to drop ten pounds? Most of us would say yes. So give your friend $3,000 and tell your friend to give you $300 each time you lose a pound. And, if you don't lose the weight in three months, it's a gift to your friend. But most likely you will have a $3000 gift to yourself.

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