We love our bodies. Decades into the body positivity movement—which technically started in 1996 when The Body Positive founders Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, LCSW, and Deb Burgard brought the term “body positive” into the mass vernacular—it’s almost automatic to comment yasss queen when someone posts their stretch marks on Instagram.
We’ve come so far on the road to self-acceptance, and yet in between Hoda Kotb and all the other affirmation quote accounts we follow on Instagram, it still seems like everyone—even your old high school lab partner who cheated on every quiz—has a Ph.D. in FaceTune. And so when January rolls around, we still feel this rumbling deep down inside of us to crash diet. Eliminate sugar. Cut carbs. Everything but water and celery juice, folks! As I kneel at the altar of Ashley Graham, I ask: Why?!
This year—the start of a new decade!—I think Ashley Graham would want us to have a little check-in with ourselves about why we’re unhappy with our weight before resolving to do any diet things. Because New Year’s resolution season does not mean you have to be at war with your body. If your doctor has recommended that you get your BMI level down, that can help you avoid serious issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Or maybe you don’t even want to go to the doctor—maybe even that causes you anxiety because you’re afraid of how they’ll make you feel—then, it’s still OK to want to lose weight. Maybe you aren’t able to play with your grandkids or sign up for the 5K all your friends are doing. But medical experts and body positivity activists agree: You want your “why” to be about feeling better, not because you want to get down to a certain size.
“When I was in college, I used to be obsessed with a size 12,” says Jessamyn Stanley, a body positive revolutionist based in California. “At the time I was like a 16, and I thought, If I get to this size, my whole life will be better. And that mentality—this idea that things will be better when you get this thing—is so toxic. It may be a dress size, a spouse, a house, or a job, but we get so attached to the idea of external benefits creating internal happiness that we don’t remember how ultimately, you could get down to a size 6, or for me that size 12, and be just as miserable as you were before, if not even more miserable.” Read that again, and again, and again until it sticks.
Then, after you’ve got a “why” that’s going to make you feel like your strongest self, you need a plan that’s going to be sustainable in the long-term. “Any diet that cannot be sustained over the long haul will lead to weight cycling and weight gain,” says Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., who specializes in Obesity Medicine and Nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. That why is simple: “If we eliminate an item and it leads to weight loss, it is highly likely that reintroduction of that item will lead to weight gain,” she says.
Where’s a good place to start instead? Call us biased, but we have lots of nutritional resources to explore here and here. Adding a fitness routine that you like to do will help by making you stronger and able to be more active for longer periods of time.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. “The most common form of bias in the United States is weight bias,” says Dr. Stanford. That means there is an enormous misunderstanding as to what people who are overweight or obese are going through on a daily basis.
If Day One just means signing up for a gym membership, that’s something! That’s progress. And don’t be intimidated. Stanley reminds us that a lot of people who would probably be deemed “healthy” by societal standards “because they’re obsessed with losing weight or obsessed with keeping their body a certain way” aren’t physically healthy at all. (As Jameela Jamil has talked about openly, many people are battling eating disorders and/or body dysmorphia and we don’t even know it.)
This January, instead of elimination diets or other extremes, consider these 10 ideas that have no daily, weekly, or monthly obligation. You can try one of them, rotate through them, or come back to them when you need a burst of inspiration. They’re simply meant to make you feel good about something healthy you can do just for you:
Eat a vegetable at dinner.
Play a song you love, and dance to it.
Drink a glass of water before work, or once you get to your desk.
Say “no” to something when it does not align with your needs and/or values.
Walk outside, on the treadmill, or around the house for one full song.
After a shower, look in the mirror and say something you love about yourself.
Read one page in a book.
Enjoy dessert, without guilt or telling yourself you’ll “make up for it” later.
Call someone you love, or send them a handwritten card.
Download and try out a meditation or relaxation app.
- Download and try out a meditation or relaxation app.