Ask the Experts

Fasting for Finances

My friend and I have a plan for when we graduate: we’re going to start our own business. We have our idea (sorry, I can’t say what it is), but we don’t have any financing, and that’s stressing us out. My friend, in particular, has become really focused on strategies for raising money. He’s convinced that it’s all about presentation, and he has started to criticize the way (he thinks) I will represent our company. He thinks I don’t dress sharply enough, he thinks I mumble too much, and, above all, he thinks I’m too fat. He’s gone so far as to get me diet pills! I don’t know what to do. I think our business plan is a good one, but I’m worried about how my future business partner is behaving, and I’m not sure what to think about his takes on financing and appearance.

Your business partner has no right to be giving you the business about your appearance –especially when your company hasn’t even been started yet! His behavior is extreme, and you should think carefully about your next move.

If you are overweight, it is of course a good idea to shed those pounds. But your goal needs to come from a place of positivity and a desire for self-improvement–not from a place of bullying. Bullying can put weight loss in an unhealthy focus: one study found that bullied teens and their tormentors were both unhealthily preoccupied with their weights (55 percent and 42 percent, respectively) more often than peers who had no experience with bullying (35 percent).

And if you do want to lose weight, you’ll want to be careful about how you do it. It’s hard to say what sort of weight-loss supplement your friend is pushing on you, but you should know that those sorts of supplements can vary wildly in both efficacy and safety. Some products are relatively simple concoctions, like milkshakes that fill you up on protein and stave off hunger. Fastin’ had a previous life as a prescription drug for the extremely overweight. And still others have different compositions and different histories–and, sometimes, different side-effects and unwanted consequences. Diet and exercise have to be the pillars of your weight loss plan. Supplements can have a role, but bullying absolutely should not.

Besides, does your friend have a point about presentation? Studies do occasionally pop up to support the idea that our appearances affect our success. Overweight professional do tend to earn less, some studies have found, but the effect is easier to measure over the course of a career and varies significantly by demographic (white women are most hurt by the weights, one study found, with 64 excess pounds costing them 9 percent of their wages).

It’s hard to make the case, though, that this phenomenon will make a measurable impact on a short-term project like your quest for financing. Business lending pros strongly disagreed with the idea when we spoke to them, saying that it’s your business plan that really matters.

But, speaking of your business plan, there may be one part of it that you want to reconsider: your partner. The situation you described is disturbing, and you need to prioritize your well-being in both your life and your career. Think carefully about your future relationships–both business and personal–with this person.

“Everyone is your best friend when you are successful. Make sure that the people that you surround yourself with are also the people that you are not afraid of failing with.” — Paula Abdul

Suzanne Hite is a former publications editor serving the technology services sector.