In the coming days, the chatter about resolutions for the New Year become fervent. Talk of weight loss, exercising more and getting healthy will consume social media posts, advertising and talk amongst friends, family and coworkers. Marketing about 30 day cleanses, pills, wraps, various diets and exercise plans will become all-consuming. Holiday treats in the break room will be replaced with diet talk and goals for having that "swimsuit body" ready for the summer. Gym memberships soar and diet products sell in mass supply. Believe me, the dieting industry LOVES January 1st.
For some people, a goal for weight loss is for health/medical reasons, but that has nothing to do with January 1st and should be an ongoing conversation with a person's medical provider. What I'm talking about is the start of the New Year and how these diet resolutions play into our culture's obsession with body image and the thin-ideal. Resolving to lose weight remains one of the top resolutions every year. It also remains one of the resolutions that people feel most defeated by year after year.
So how does this resolution impact our quality of life? First off, it implies that we are not good enough unless we are a certain weight, size or shape. We are told that the number on the scale is far more important than the numbers on our lab values, blood pressure or the strength and endurance we acquire though balanced living.
This message of the thin-ideal comes in many forms. It absolutely comes from the multi billion dollar dieting industry, but it also comes from us. It's the talk amongst friends about how much weight was gained over the holidays or the "I'm so fat" comments. How many times have you complimented someone on how great they look and they have returned the compliment with a derogatory statement about their body or weight? People don't do this because they are fishing for more compliments. They do this because we are culturally taught that our body is never good enough.
As if the talk amongst the adults is not enough, children are also getting an earful about the thin-ideal. Kids pick up on everything they hear and are not immune to their own body image distress. Studies have shown that more and more children, as young as age eight, are dieting and report poor body image satisfaction. When we opt out of playing in the pool or ocean with our kids because we don't feel comfortable in a swimsuit, we inadvertently teach them that negative body image trumps living life.
So, maybe this is the year to scrap the diet resolution and focus on adding more to your life and those you love? Commit to working on changing that negative body image and diet talk on a daily basis. Instead of saying "you look great", greet a friend with "it's so great to see you". When someone compliments you on your looks, change the topic to the things going on in your life that you are excited about. And, when the topic of New Year's resolutions comes up, it's ok to say that you are focusing on embracing life this coming year. You might be surprised at how many people are happy to change the topic from weight loss to something more meaningful!