If I had a new year’s resolution list for 2015 it would look something like this:
1. Finally get that creme brûlée torch
2. Wear more crop tops
3. Host a Martha Stewart inspired dinner party with napkin rings and place settings I make from repurposed twine and corn husks
4. Learn how to use actual colloquial phrases rather than consistently butchering the English language (“get back on the wheel” and “don’t kick a gift horse in the mouth” are two of my staples).
5. Eradicate diet culture
Let’s focus on #5.
For many, many years I was like a lot of Americans who list “LOSE WEIGHT” as their top new year’s priority. I was utterly convinced that this was my mandate, my destiny, my greatest soon-to-really-really-happen-this-time accomplishment! January 1 was met with a mixture of jittery hopefulness and prescient dread. We understand this date to be the biggest opportunity all year to wipe the proverbial slate clean. And we collectively lunge forward into this opportunity to create a “new you.”
But what if I told you that the current you was actually pretty awesome and you didn’t in fact need a you-replacement?
I’m an anti-resolution enthusiast because my 250 pound body is perfect just as it is. I’m good with my belly, my thighs, my double chin. I’m good with how much kale I’ve eaten. I’m good with how many walks I’ve taken. I’m good with how many times I’ve broken a sweat. I already have a beach body (which, if the title is any indication, simply requires a beach and a body). I don’t want to switch to skim milk or skip my co-worker’s birthday cake.
What I’d like to propose is rather than pursuing a new YOU this year that you pursue a new VIEW, one in which you already have the perfect body to have the best new year imaginable.
Trading out the “new you” thinking can be challenging, so I wanted to give you the five most important tips for the switch:
1. DIVEST from weight related goal-setting. Chances are you don’t actually need to lose weight to do all the things you want. “Weight talk” saturates even our smallest and most private interactions. For instance, can you imagine going one single day without hearing anyone talk about calories, exercise or how they’re planning to lose weight? I can’t! This is the environment we live in now in the United States and the West in general. For a long time, my constant dieting felt like a harmless and normal part of my daily life. I couldn’t see the ways that dieting had taken over my life. I spent nearly every waking moment with a dizzying cycle of thinking about food, wishing I wasn't thinking about food, counting calories for the food I was eating, or working off the food I had just guiltily eaten. At times my dieting mindset pushed me to do things that were downright strange and even scary in the pursuit of weight loss, like that time I only ate lettuce and barbecue sauce for an entire summer. Lettuce and barbecue sauce! At the heart of diet culture is a troubling mentality of never-ending self-scrutiny. “Weight talk” is all about “wait talk:” wait until you’ve lost enough weight to do that thing you love or to go on that date or to wear that bathing suit. I say: do it now! Low self-esteem is literally REQUIRED for diet culture to work because we have to believe that we are not good enough right now.
2. REFRAME the ideology that positions your body as the thing that is keeping you from fulfilling your greatest (and skinniest) destiny. Your body is many things, but I promise that it’s not your enemy. I repeat: your body is not your enemy. And the size of your body will never be the most important or greatest thing about you. Your body does incredible things every moment of every day. Even reading this list requires complex synaptic activity and, like, linear algebra and physics. Everyday your body sweats to keep you cool. It lets you know you have to pee so you won’t just pee at your desk at work or while you’re ordering an iced mocha. Your eye perceives a million different colors, so many colors that language cannot even describe all of them. It’s thanks to your body that you can smell your favorite perfume. It helps you remember the most beautiful moments of your life. Because of your body you are able to laugh and experience and do and feel. Reframing what your body does for you is an excellent way to begin 2015.
3. MANAGE the people and things around you that make you feel like your current body is a problem. One of the things I’ve noticed in working with women around body image is that a lot of times they want to hop off the diet band wagon, but they feel like they can’t because there are people in their lives who are always fat shaming or calorie counting. Usually it’s co-workers, but sometimes it’s parents, extended family, or romantic partners. Managing your exposure to those “engines of self-loathing” in your life is important. Management can look like total and complete eradication, like deciding to unfriend every person on your Facebook feed who participates in fat shaming or ending your subscription to that totally self-esteem zapping magazine. If you’re not quite ready to do that level of house cleaning, try limiting time spent with those forces that make you feel like you’ve been soul snatched. Rather than talking with your weight loss enthusiast friend for 15 minutes, only spent 5 minutes talking to them. Rather than seeing your parents who remind you that you’re looking like you’ve put on a few pounds twice a month, visit them once a month.
4. RECLAIM New Year’s Day. Rather than getting caught up in the ritual of downloading that new calorie counting app, reclaim January 1 as a #NewYearNewView day and spend it how YOU want. Create a new ritual that is not based on pitting yourself against your body. Feel free to borrow traditions from other parts of the world, too. In Germany they eat marzipan pigs. In Finland they melt tin. In Argentina they eat beans. And my personal favorite is the ritual in Ecuador, where they burn effigies of their enemies on new year’s day.
5. UPGRADE your old mindset. Any resolution that falls into that “must wait until after weight loss” has to go! An important thing to remember is that we’ve been taught that weight loss is the sure fire way to make everything in life better, but the truth is that many of our deepest held desires are actually not dependent on weight. In working with women for years and years around the issue of body image, I’ve learned one very important thing: when we say “I want to be thin” we often mean “I want to be seen, I want to be loved, I want to be free of the ‘I’m never good enough’ mentality.” I know this might be hard to believe but losing weight will not automatically lead to those outcomes. Furthermore, many of our goals don’t actually require weight loss, they simply require a mental shift away from thinking that our current bodies are wrong. Take a look at your weight-loss resolutions and break them down. If getting more exercise was a goal, shift the outcomes away from losing weight to gaining strength or having fun. If going on more dates was a goal, you don’t have to wait to lose weight to go on more dates. If wearing a bikini was a goal, guess what? Just buy a damn bikini!
You’ve been a slave to the scale long enough! Break up with your old resolutions and start 2015 with the reminder that you’ve got your dream body right now.
Tell your friends that you’re not starting the new year with weight loss goals. Announce that instead of getting a new you, you’re getting a new view for 2015. Share your #NewYearNewView images and your body poz intentions for 2015 on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter!
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.