New Year’s resolutions have always been exacerbated for me. My birthday falls on January 21 meaning the first three weeks of the year tend to be fraught.
Added to that, living in a world that makes money from making us believe there is something wrong with us, that we could all use some fixing, and you can imagine some of the resolutions I have made in the past.
There was the year I decided to give up coffee. I lasted until 10.30am on January 1.
The year I tried to become a ‘hydrater’ – one of those people who carries a water bottle around with them, diligently sipping it through the day – that ended on January 6 when my bus home from work became stuck in traffic and I almost wet myself.
When I resolved to become a jogger, my aging knee decided to nip that in the bud after 10 days.
When I resolved to speak Italian every day until I was fluent, I was reduced to just swear words while stubbing my toe just after my birthday.
Then there are the years I resolved to lose weight, signing up to various weight loss programs. I’ve weighed myself and measured body parts and judged myself based on how carefully I have stuck to whatever regimen I have decided will ‘fix’ me.
None of them have been sustainable, and it has taken me years to understand that the reason I haven’t sustained them isn’t because of me, but because of the lies we are sold about the problem-solving ability of intentional weight loss is crap.
I’ve known this for a while now and written and spoken about this many, many times before, but I’m having to relive this nightmarish existence through my three children aged 16, 12 and 11 who are all experiencing body image issues thanks to living in a world that profits from making us feel there is something wrong with our bodies, and that by changing our bodies, we will be happy.
They don’t yet know that losing weight doesn’t solve your problems, it just leads to weight loss, and all the same problems.
Let me just qualify this by saying I am not talking about addressing health issues by losing weight. It is true that losing weight can improve some health problems. I’m talking about the various sizes and shapes that can reflect reasonable health but that we are still taught could use some improvement.
“They don’t yet know that losing weight doesn’t solve your problems, it just leads to weight loss, and all the same problems.”
If I could wave a magic wand I’d like people to feel okay, just as they are, today. There may be things they want to change about their bodies, but those changes aren’t a magic potion that will address every issue they are experiencing.
Losing weight, or gaining for that matter, doesn’t change who you are at your core. If only we lived in a world that realised this. If only we all realised this. If only we taught our children this.
I’m not saying don’t diet. In fact, let’s stop telling each other what to do all together. Diet if you want to. Lose weight if you must. But don’t let your happiness rest on the result.
You are perfectly okay today, just the way you are. So tweak your diet and exercise if you must, but don’t forget that it’s perfectly okay to set New Year’s resolutions that will make you happier, such as taking time to appreciate your body just the way it is.
It is doing it’s best, as are you. And the best is yet to come.
If you or someone you know is struggling with body image issues contact the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673.