Create Body Positive Resolutions in 2015
The holiday season is joyous—what could be better than times with dear friends and family, expressing thanks, sharing gifts, and setting resolutions for a fantastic new year?
However, the holidays can also be a very stressful time. Often, family tensions are high and your personal budget is stretched. Then of course there’s the ever present pressure that women and girls feel to look a certain way, which can become particularly intensified at this time of year. I found an image online last year that pretty well captures the mentality:
When you are someone who personally believes in body positivity and you work at an agency that is actively trying to change the culture which tells girls they aren’t good enough just as they are, you can’t help but notice a problem here. Just a few days prior to January 1st the message du jour is of INDULGENCE, but once that calendar page turns, we’re supposed to turn back toward a goal of thinness. It’s like we’re set up for failure.
That is, if you believe that success or failure is determined by your body size. Luckily, I don’t. But sometimes it’s not that simple.
The chorus of “DIET” gets so loud in January, it’s nearly inescapable. If you’re not inundated with ads on radio, TV, online, and in magazines, then it’s your friends on Facebook postings statuses with their weight loss goals or your coworkers bemoaning how the holidays wrecked their bodies. It’s all too much!
(I’d like to add a note here that there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to change your own body or seeking to engage in behaviors which improve your personal health. I’m critiquing cultural pressure and messaging, not anyone’s individual choices. There’s a big difference between 1) making a personal change and 2) making a personal change and then saying, “I just can’t eat like that anymore!” when your friend grabs a cookie for herself.)
Body and food shaming messages don’t exist in a vacuum. They go hand in hand with a culture and media which promote dieting at every turn. This is particularly dangerous for girls, who are just creating their sense of self. Media pressures which encourage thinness are shown again and again to impact self-esteem, especially for adolescent girls. In fact, young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents and devastatingly, nearly 50% of girls aged 3 to 6 are already concerned about their weight.
So as we embark on a New Year and the impending resolution season, how can we work to change these statistics? I believe that one of the biggest ways to make change is to model what you want to see in the world—so think about this as you set your own resolutions.
Without further ado, here are my 5 tips for the New Year to build body positivity in your home:
1. Choose resolutions that are framed positively and avoid shame. If you do want to impact your health in the New Year, try a resolution that positively focuses on what you actually want. Instead of “I’ll quit sugar,” “stop snacking,” or “be less lazy” try saying, “I’m going to make more mindful food choices this year” or “I will exercise 30 minutes a day.” This might seem like semantics, but simple shifts in language like this help point out what you really want to accomplish without promoting shame or negativity.
2. Carefully select what is “success” for your resolution. Weight is not actually a reliable indicator of overall health, so instead of defining success as dropping a dress size or losing 20 pounds—focus on how you feel. Does your resolution behavior give you more energy in the morning? Does taking a Zumba or Yoga class twice a week make you happy? Are you able to go up 4 flights of stairs without getting out of breath? Celebrate these victories and don’t make it all about the scale.
3. Encourage critical analysis of the media. This time of year can be a wonderful teaching opportunity for the young folks in your life. When you see an advertisement that bothers you, engage others in a dialogue about it. Questions like, “What is the message this is sending? Do you agree or disagree with it? What are they really trying to sell us?” are great starters.
4. Think outside the box! Resolutions don’t have to have anything to do with your body at all! Set a resolution to learn that language you’ve always wanted to study, pick up a new instrument, or reconnect with old friends. Remember that “health” also includes mental and emotional components.
5. Try a resolution which actually builds self-esteem. Best of all—the New Year is a perfect time to put body positivity into action. Set a resolution to end negative body talk or to journal one thing you like about yourself each day the whole year.
So, what resolutions are you setting? Tell us on Facebook!