11 New Year's Resolutions for Body Acceptance
I quit dieting at age 28 after realizing that it made my body image and eating issues worse. But after the birth of my second child—with a decade of solid body acceptance and recovery from binge eating disorder under my belt—I thought I was strong enough to dip my toe into dietland again.
Wrong. Dieting's focus on weight and food tracking brought my body troubles and binge eating zooming back, along with even more extra pounds. I’ve put diets in my rearview mirror again, and with New Year's resolution season upon us, I'm glad to say I'm resolving not to go on any weight-loss plan.
If you're tired of starting January 1 by launching a diet and judging yourself by what you do or don't eat and what the bathroom scale says, consider one of these 11 body acceptance resolutions instead. They'll set you up for a healthier, happier 2020.
Clean up your social media feeds
Before-and-after pictures bragging about drastic weight loss. Celebs flashing their abs while hawking “detox” teas. Fitspo. Some say these types of social-media posts are motivational. But they encourage unhelpful comparisons, body shame, and unhealthy dieting practices in many people. Resolve to unfollow or mute any person or brand that fosters a harmful dieting mentality or makes you feel bad about your body. For healthier attitudes and body diversity, follow yoga star Jessamyn Stanley and supermodel Ashley Graham.
Ignore body-type fashion advice and start wearing what you love
Like most women, you probably have some item of clothing you really want to wear, but you hide it in the back of your closet because fashion advice experts have convinced you it's unflattering for your size or shape. Thing is, if you're in a velvet jumpsuit kind of mood, who cares if your butt looks big—and why is bigger bad, anyway? Who are you dressing for, yourself or some judgmental stylist?
In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), this is called “acting opposite to shame,” and it can change the way you feel about yourself in an instant. Put on that horizontal-striped turtleneck or clingy sweater dress one morning and give it a try.
Quit forcing yourself to eat what you don’t like
Yes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good for you, and yes, they're part of a balanced plate. But that doesn’t mean you have to stuff your favorite pasta dish full of extra broccoli if it ruins the taste, or that you need to pour chia seeds in your smoothie if you don’t actually like them. Eating out of guilt (“I should do this”) increases stress and takes pleasure out of eating, which sets the stage for feelings of rebellion and overeating later on, says Dana Notte, RD, lead dietician at Green Mountain at Fox Run, a wellness and healthy eating retreat in Vermont.
Do a weekly self-compassion meditation
We are harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else, and most of us tend to frame thoughts about ourselves negatively rather than in a positive light. (Ever bash yourself for the minor offense of veering off a diet while telling a friend that her own diet slip-up was no big deal? Exactly.) But treating ourselves with judgment, punishment, and shame makes us less motivated to take care of ourselves, not more.
Start flexing your self-compassion muscle at least once a week by searching for “self compassion” meditations on a free app. The goal is to make self-love affirmations (such as "I am worthy" and "I can do this") a reflexive habit.
Try a new workout once a month
“I once had a client who said she hated 99% of all exercises she had ever tried,” says Bibiana Sampaio, fitness manager at Green Mountain at Fox Run. “She found out that her 1% was shooting hoops.” If you’re not honestly enjoying your workouts or view it as the other half of a weight-loss plan (rather than as a way to pump your energy level and mood), no surprise that it's hard to get motivated.
Resolve to try a new physical activity every month and think outside of the box: hula-hooping, trampolining, snowshoeing, laughter yoga, ecstatic dance, and other ways to work out that don’t require a gym. I’ve been dying to try roller derby for years. I’m petrified, but 2020 is the year.
Check your inner fat-shamer
Even if you think you don’t have prejudices against people who live in large bodies, guess again: Research shows that “implicit bias”—underlying beliefs and attitudes that are often totally subconscious—against big people is rampant. If some part of you deep down believes that a bigger size means lack of willpower, less attractive, or less worthy, then no wonder you're hard on yourself. Take the brief weight bias online quiz created by Harvard’s Project Implicit to test your own level of weight-hate, and think about how it may be affecting your acceptance of your own body.
Hit mute on body-obsessed friends
I actually muted my best friend’s Instagram because her frequent fitness posts distract me from my own journey. If a coworker, friend, or family member’s diet talk or body bashing is negatively affecting how you feel about yourself, do something about it. You can physically walk away, leave a group text, block or hide a social media post, or text something like, “Hey, guys, you know I’m a diet-free zone! Let’s talk about [blank] instead.”
Buy yourself two new workout outfits. Or at least some crazy tank tops
Because it’s much more fun to move your body while wearing a shirt that says “Let’s Punch Today in the FACE!” than it is to sweat in an oversized, stretched-out gray T-shirt. Also, once you've found yoga pants or other gym gear you love to put on and feel amazing in, getting to the gym is that much easier.
Be imperfect, on purpose
At least once a month, do something you are either totally unfamiliar with or truly bad at. Here's why: Those of us who obsess about food and weight are often perfectionists at heart, and confronting and exposing ourselves to failure is a way to decrease the fear of it.
Take a mindful breath before every meal
Mindfulness simply means paying attention to taste, smell, texture, and other sensations of the food you're about to consume. Sure it sounds woo-woo, but eating mindfully helps you enjoy your meal more and notice if you’re truly full or still hungry. Start by taking just a few deep breaths before meals and setting the intention to notice your food. That includes noticing how delicious it is, and if you have room for seconds. Food is nourishment that's meant to be savored, after all.
Care for the body you have right here, right now
Not five, ten, or 50 pounds from now. Not next year. Not when it feels safer, or easier. Not when you think you finally “deserve it.” Now. You deserve it now.
Sunny Sea Gold is a health journalist and author of Food: The Good Girl’s Drug. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @sunnyseagold.
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