Every New Year's Eve, as the clock ticks towards midnight, many of us set ambitious resolutions for the year ahead. One of the most common is the classic "I'm going to lose weight", not only as most of us have become attached to the sofa over the past week, but also as the TV has been full of pretty waify little things telling you how much happier you would be if you just joined their club.
But before you jump on this perennial bandwagon, I would love to offer some a few reasons to reconsider:
Why do you seek to be smaller? For most of us, it is tied into feeling better about ourselves. We want to like how we look more. We want to think we are more attractive. We want to receive the praise and privilege which comes with being in society’s most acceptable club. But we also think that all that sounds a bit vain, and we shouldn't have these desires. And the problem with this is if we are not admitting the real reasons to ourselves, we won't ever be able to make clear headed decisions about whether we like those reasons (or not).
2. It Can Perpetuate Negative Self-Image
The ideal of weight loss rests precariously on the idea that we are not good enough as we are. No matter what your actions are, if they are rooted in trying to escape yourself, then they are unlikely to be sustainable. I invite you to be honest with yourself about some of the things that you say to yourself and see if you think that they are kind; and is punishing yourself with food and restricting things you think are nice are not going to undo that thought for you? Because that thought does not disintegrate when you attain some magical slighter body. That thought travels with you along the journey. I really encourage you to sit with this thought and to make an active choice as to whether this is something you want to carry into your new year.
3. Mental Well-being is Equally Important
While physical health is crucial, mental well-being is just as vital. Restrictive diets or extreme exercise regimens can increase stress and anxiety and fuel self-criticism. And jeez don’t we get enough of that and from the billboards?. No one really talks about this bit. Everyone just talks about “health” like it is just about our internal organs. Instead, consider setting resolutions that nurture both body and mind, such as practising mindfulness or dedicating time to hobbies, or hanging out with your mates more, is coming up with 30 new words for rain or getting yourself a solid jigsaw habit or cross stitching swear words on to your clothes – or for goodness sake anything that is FUN and JOYFUL and does not involve telling yourself you are not good enough.
4. Weight Doesn't Define Health
Being thin is not the same as being healthy. Sometimes they corelate. Sometimes they don’t. It is like saying some people are quick and some people are running. They sound similar and are often confused or interchanged, but that does not mean they are the same thing.
And this is an idea that we internalise, we say things like we “just want to be healthy”, although health and weight are two separate things, and obsessing over our size and conception of external validation is very far removed from consistent mental health. A number on the scale doesn't capture the complexity of overall health.
5. Health as a moral obligation is ableist
When we frame health as something that only the people who have put the right amount of effort into achieving are rewarded with, we exclude people who have bodies which function in different ways. We exclude marginalised people from our conversations. And our biases start showing. We can all wish for the best health possible for us, but framing it as something that “good” people are “rewarded with” (see also “worked hard for”) because of the amount of strength and endurance that they have to suffer through restriction is incredibly exclusive. If you're concerned about the way that you talk about your body is ableist or not, I want you to imagine someone you know who has a chronic health condition and saying your piece in front of them and whether you would feel uncomfortable or not. |If you would feel uncomfortable, you probably know somewhere deep down that what you said is unkind. And if it's unkind to them, it's also unkind to you. And so it's probably worth assessing whether that's a story that you want to continue to tell yourself for this coming year.
6. Quick Fixes Often Backfire
Many turn to fad diets or extreme exercise regimes in January, hoping for rapid results. However, these are often unsustainable and can lead to the "yo-yo" effect ( or ‘weight cycling”) of losing and regaining weight, which study after study has proved is REALLY UNHEALTHY.
7. It Puts Pressure on a Single Outcome
By focusing on weight loss, you might overlook other significant achievements. For instance, you might become kinder or stronger, have better contemporary dance endurance, or cultivate a more positive relationship with your garden, food, or neighbours. There are loads of things we can overlook when we are just looking at the scales.
8. New Year's Resolutions Have a High Failure Rate
The exciting surprise finale is that not only is it shit, but it's also unattainable. Quick fix cures often lead the body feeling like there is danger ahead and starvation may be around the corner. So over a period of time your body will begin to metabolise food more slowly meaning the cells in your body are triggered to try and retain fat to protect you from further attacks. In layperson’s terms, this means that the majority of diets end up with you being larger than when you started. This is not the reason that I decided to write this post, but it might be a really good final motivator for people who may still be on the fence as to whether they think cutting tasty things out of their diets will make them happy.
I wonder what you could do with all of that energy that you spent throughout your life trying to make yourself smaller. I wonder what you could do with all of the time that you have spent criticising yourself in the mirror.
Perhaps this is the year that you could find out.
"Dieting is the process which demonstrates that a woman understands her place in society through subservience to patriarchy and self-racialisation”
Sander L Gillman