Career and Income

[Personal] I Never Imagined Exercise Would Help My Career and Income, Until It Did

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Career and Income

1.5 years ago, I switched from paid employment to self-employment. It’s been great. I have earned up to 4.8x my previous monthly salary.

My exercise journey also started more or less the same time. From the peak of my weight, I’ve lost about 28kg so far. I know BMI (Body Mass Index) isn’t the best indicator, but I’m finally in the ‘healthy’ range. As someone who has always been ‘the fat one’ since primary school, this is a pretty big achievement. I’m crazy proud of myself.

It can’t be a coincidence. I think exercising and healthier living choices did impact my career and income, for the better. This post is a jumble of self-reflection on this correlation.

career and income
A few years ago vs now

Exercise as a catalyst

In a Quora thread (I’ve lost the link unfortunately), someone asked if there are habits one can implement to be better versions of themselves. Of course exercise came up. But a person added their own thoughts to it, which went something like, ‘some habits are catalysts – it doesn’t just improve one area, but many other areas in your life. It’s like a buy-1-get-10-free kinda deal.’

I think this is what exercise did for me. It didn’t just improve my health, it also:

  • Helps to reduce stress, which leaves more mental capacity for daily tasks (like money management)
  • Releases endorphin, which gives me the ‘feel-good’ factor and attracts more positive vibes into my life
  • Makes my temperament more pleasant, which helps to build relationships with people
  • Makes me want to eat better, which encourages home-cooking with quality (but not necessarily expensive) ingredients
  • Gives me a healthy glow and reduces dark circles, which helps with my self-confidence
  • Makes me sleep better and start most days on a good note
  • Gives me a sense of accomplishment, which makes me feel like I can conquer anything

All of the above and more are by-products of exercising that has nothing to do with career and income on its own. But you can’t deny that the better you feel, the more you are primed to tackle messy things like finances and life in general.

The good first impression

Looking healthy makes a great first impression. It implies that you’re disciplined enough to take care of yourself, which means you must also be disciplined in other areas in your life (like work). Unfortunately, there are people who equate fat = lazy. This is a very common preconception, even professors have bias against overweight people, and they’re supposed to be smart.

I like appearing like I have my shit together. So does my clients, judging by the work-related inquiries they send me. I think that exercising is such a small price to pay to have this positive association.

The shared experiences

I am more open to trying experiences that I previously dismissed before, due to my weight. In my early-20s, I would think twice before joining group activities, especially if they were physical activities. I’d worry about making a fool of myself and sweat too much – the thought of it would embarrass me and I’d stop myself from participating.

Now, I’m much more open to it. I know I can pull my weight and at least keep up. It’s so liberating. If you have never been fat/unhealthy, you wouldn’t understand the mental stress related to this.

These experiences also help me connect more to the people around me. What, you did rock climbing in Krabi? So did I! That instant bond with others over shared experiences made me easier to relate to. It puts me in the ‘friend’ status instantly from the ‘acquaintance’ status. And you know what? A lot of successful people enjoy physical activities.

Of course, this is not the only way to have shared experiences; non-physical activities work well too. But my chances of having shared experiences with someone else are now bigger, no doubt about it.

Friends help friends. I credit some of my professional progress to connections and help received from friends.

I am… attractive?

Ok, bear with me, this is a very new, a very odd feeling.

I’ve been told that I’m attractive (after losing weight), which is not a compliment I’m used to getting. It feels strange and most of the time I dismiss it. It’s more like, ‘oh, how sweet they are to resort to lying, because that can’t be true’. For the longest time I simply replied back, “I don’t believe you, but thank you.”

A part of me hates this because obviously my brains come first. I’m proud of my education and my accomplishments; at no point I want myself to be reduced to ‘a pretty thing’. This makes me more motivated to improve my knowledge and to prove myself. I force myself to read books, read articles, and generally learn whatever I can, whenever I can. Everything I know about personal finance and investments was self-studied and self-initiated.   

At the same time, I’m human. I admit that I can’t help but be flattered when my presence is appreciated, even if it is due to a superficial reason. I have to keep my ego in check here.

It’s true. People are nicer when you’re pleasant-looking

If you ask me about the biggest change in people’s behaviour, this is it. People are nicer to me now. I’m basing this 100% from my personal experience.

I don’t know if it’s the new vibe, or maybe even new confidence, but people are just generally nicer. They smile more (men and women), they entertain my queries, they get my orders faster. It’s not a negligible contributing factor to my career and income growth.

This is such an interesting privilege to experience. Unfortunately, it also convinced me of a major flaw in society – at the end of the day, looks do matter.

I’m trying my best to exploit this advantage for the better good.


If you were ever in my position – overweight with stagnant career and income – I suggest you put more effort in exercising. It may give you the boost you needed to be more successful. For dieting, what works for me is the keto diet, but do whatever works for you. Think of the positive things you can contribute to your family and the society by implementing exercise routines and a healthy diet in your life. Just don’t, you know, discriminate against overweight people once you reap the benefits.

You can do this. Now give me 50 squats.



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    1. That might be it! The answer by Hien Lam is quite close to what I tried to convey. Great now I know they’re called Keystone Habits!

  1. Hi. Mind to share ur experience from getting paid previously to self employed?

    Im interested to hear it from that POV as for mine, im still getting paid at the moment…

    1. Hi Ck M,

      I wrote about it! Here you go:

      And here’s the exact steps I used to earn online:

      Hope it helps!

  2. Hey! I’m so happy to find you! On the Keto diet, what are your grocery on a budget must haves? I tried it, but the quality fats are quite expensive and on events, it’s hard to avoid the nasi and mees. any advice for Malaysian friendly Keto Plan?

    1. Hey sarah,

      Covered keto a little bit in here, you might find it (and the comments section) useful!

      In general, it’s expensive but personally I find that the costs even out if you deduct all the snacks you’ll eliminate.

      To be honest, I’ve been finding it hard to jump back into keto after raya…… fail betul…

  3. Yes I can relate a lot to your point on joining group activities!
    I lost 20kg back in 2014 and the difference is staggering – from just my school friends and colleagues circle I now have hiking buddies, gym buddies, sports buddies…
    And yes, people do act differently to us when we’re oversized versus in a ‘better-looking size’.
    Such a sad revelation though amid all the happiness in this.

    1. Hey Aaron, it’s cool that you validated my experience. I guessed it applies to others too, now I know for sure.

      Despite it all, I’m glad I grew up how I did. For people like us, it helps in developing empathy too – another core component to success.

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