Batten down the hatches, the New Years Resolution shitstorm is in gale force.
Whenever this time of year rolls around, we're swimming in messages that tell us that shrinking our bodies and making ourselves as small and tight as possible is a pursuit more important than any other. It's packaged as getting healthier, sexier, more toned, more attractive, more successful; it’s framed as panacea and the only way to true happiness while usually outright ignoring mental health and long-term physical health, sapping our energy and current well-being for what is often temporary and unsustainable success.
We're sold dangerous detoxes that will have you pooping out everything in between your esophagus and your sphincter, elimination diets that can lead to gastrointestinal issues and nutritional deficiencies, grueling workouts, and a slew of products that don't actually do anything but take our money and leave us with a sense of failure in ourselves.
Seriously, if any other industry had as high a failure rate as the weight loss industry, it would tank immediately. The statistics are dismal; between 90% and 98% of people who lose weight intentionally will gain it all back (and oftentimes then some) within 5 years because our bodies are designed to protect us from famine. The human race wouldn’t have survived without this incredible, protective mechanism! Dieting seems to be the one place where the individual is blamed for “failing” instead of the product failing the individual and people are making BANK on this, to the tune of 66 billion dollars a year and counting.
So, instead of making the super wealthy people behind the weight loss industry even wealthier, here are some suggestions for resolutions that cost no money and can help you develop the sense of peace, confidence and acceptance that can lead to happiness that isn’t predicated by the state of your body:
1. UNAPOLOGETICALLY TAKE UP SPACE
Making ourselves small, or being concerned we aren’t small enough, comes in a huge variety of ways. So many of us have anxiety over whether we can fit into a certain size, whether a seat is wide or strong enough to accommodate us, whether we are in someone’s way, whether we are asking for too much and burdening those around us. Have you heard the phrase, "the way we do anything is the way we do everything"? I found this quotation on Facebook and when I took the time to really digest what that meant, it helped me to see my life in a completely different way. I realized that in addition to spending years trying to make myself smaller physically, I was also trying to make myself smaller in so many other ways, too. This year, let us resolve to take up the space in the world that we need in order to be comfortable, living unapologetically. Be loud. Be opinionated. Refuse to be small and meek. Let your needs be known. Ask to be accommodated. Wear whatever you want. You are worthy of being seen and heard!
2. PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION
For many of us, being hard on ourselves is as natural as breathing. Because of this, a lot of people hear the goal of "body positivity" and struggle to identify with it, thinking it would be impossible to get to a point of feeling positive about the bodies we currently inhabit. "Body acceptance" is perhaps an easier goal to set, and practicing self-acceptance and self-compassion leads to a whole host of benefits including better health outcomes and a better relationship with food and body image. Self-compassion with regards to weight and accepting our bodies as they are is so often painted as weakness, when in fact it’s a side effect of developing emotional strength and awareness. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get you started:
If you find you’re beating yourself up, reframe it. What would you say to a friend who was expressing those negative ideas about themselves?
Does this belief or desire to change come from me or my actual social circle, or does it come from society as a whole?
What do I really value? What is a positive outcome for ME?
3. CHANGE YOUR VISUAL DIET
Visual diet is what you "eat" with your eyes, the images that we take in every day. According to a concept called the "cognitive adaptation effect", our preferences can and do change depending on what we are exposed to. This could be something unusual, like keeping possums for pets, or, it could mean a specific body type that we might come to prefer or expect. It’s easy to accept that the body type that is considered “ideal” in this country now is the only “good” body to have, however, even those ideals have changed drastically over the course of history.
In short, the more exposure we have to just one body type, the more we prefer that body type (especially when this body type is being portrayed as successful, happy, loved, etc). The more exposure we have to different body types, especially body types out there living their best lives, the more we can and do come to appreciate and see the beauty in all body types. I highly recommend checking out Lillian Bustle's TED talk on this if you'd like to learn more. Instagram is a cornucopia of bopo inspiration, here is a small selection to get you started, and you'll get a ton more excellent recommendations after following these accounts: @bodyposipanda, @iamdaniadriana, @simonemariposa
4. MOVE JOYFULLY
This may sound surprising coming from someone who moves her body for a living, but I found so much peace when I accepted that activities like hitting the gym and running just felt like punishment I didn’t want to subject myself to. With the pressure off, I discovered that I love being active! I love walking and hiking, swimming, ice skating, climbing trees, jumping on trampolines, yoga, jumping onto and off of big rocks, sliding around on the frozen pond in my backyard, and of course, DANCING.
Even with as active a life as I live, sometimes I can begin to feel like my body is more like a burden than a part of me, and getting back into communication with my body through activity that feels good helps me appreciate and enjoy it.
Everyone knows all of the wonderful non-weight related benefits of activity - including but not limited to formal exercises - and if those are something you want to claim, you can! Maybe you also love to dance, or lift weights, or take your dog for a walk, or chase your kids or grandkids around. Instead of trying to contort your life around exercises that you don’t enjoy and feel pressured, shamed, or guilted to engage in, find ways to be active that you enjoy and that you can fold naturally into your life, and embrace them.
I hope you found some things on that list that sound like they might bring you joy! These were my resolutions for 2018, and as I look back on this year, I can’t believe how much more compassion and acceptance I have for myself, and how much more joy I have in my life, due to these four concepts. It was (and continues to be) hard and scary to go against “common knowledge” and societal pressures, but every tiny step has brought me closer to really understanding myself, my body, and what makes me happy.
I wish you all peace, joy and happiness in 2019, and I would love to hear from you! What do you plan on doing next year to bring more joy and happiness to your life?
Article originally written by Arielle, with many edits and additions by Alice, Sara K., and Zoë. Thank you all for your time and effort!