Note: these ramblings talk about dieting, and not-dieting.
Happy New Year, lovely friends! I hope your night was exactly as you wanted it, whether that was asleep at 11pm in flannel pyjamas, or bungee jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. I was somewhere in the middle: with my family and friends in London on a high balcony, watching hundreds of fireworks displays happen simultaneously all around the city.
And now, 2016. There was certainly lots of change for me in 2015, and no doubt plenty more in 2016, because that’s what life – and entrepreneurship – brings. The beginning of the year is always a bit of a mixed blessing for me, though, because I find it one of the trickiest times of the year to be body positive.
What is it about January 1 that prompts so many of us to decide our bodies must change? Perhaps it’s the natural inclination for a new start in the new year, or maybe the bombardment of messages letting you know that you’re clearly a “before” picture, and must be in desperate pursuit of your “after” (yes, Oprah, I’m looking at you and your awful WeightWatchers ads). It doesn’t matter if you’ve always been roughly the same size, eat healthily, have great blood work, regularly exercise; the message is loud and clear: you must be in need of an intervention.
I’ll admit: I find it really hard. Being positive about your body and secure in its inherent goodness can be difficult enough at the best of times, even when you’re surrounded by like-minded people and communities. But this time of year is a major challenge. Can I resist the urge, in the face of overwhelming pressure externally and internally, to go on a hare-brained scheme to change my appearance? When surrounded by people excitedly talking about their diets and dreams, can I stay calm and quiet and remind myself I’m OK just as I am, even if others don’t feel the same way? I find there’s something very seductive about even thinking about changing your body: the excited hope that if you changed yourself your life could be better – if only you can “just have a bit more willpower”.
And yet. Diets don’t work in the long term for 99.9% of people. Extreme exercise isn’t sustainable for all but a few. Not everyone is genetically determined to be slender. Not only that, but after years re-training my mind and body to be stable and accepting, both through learning to sew, and adopting Intuitive Eating, I know that it’s a treasure far too valuable to throw away for the cheap and destructive high of going on a diet. But most importantly? I don’t need to be smaller to have a good life or improve myself. I can be happy and fabulous just the way I am.
So I’m holding strong, and I hope you are too. Let go of the magical thinking. You’re not a “before”, you’re you, now, fine. Want to make changes in the New Year? Awesome. How about making friends with your neighbours. Going for hikes in the woods. Being kinder to yourself. Starting that hobby you’ve been thinking about for years. Riding your bike. Trying adventurous new foods. Challenging yourself to be brave, just to see what happens. Dance. Learning a language and traveling somewhere new. But the fervor to take up less space in the world is one thing I’m happy to leave behind, not take forward.
Are you in? What are you going to do to build yourself up this year, rather than whittle yourself down?
This lady is just fine as she is.