Well, folks, here we are in 2019. As Eddie Murphy famously said in Trading Places: “Merry New Year!” We are just a little over a month into the new year and I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with “New year, New you” and weight loss posts. Allow me to rant a little – when one sets an intention, the intention shouldn’t originate from a place of negativity. A reverse of a negative does not necessarily equal a positive. Does that make any sense? Let me see if I can explain: “I love how my body is and appreciate all it can do, but I’d like to be stronger and more fit. I’d like my [glutes, thighs, abs] to be stronger so I can kick serious ass. I’d also like to eat better and see if that helps me [gain energy, sleep better, meet a medically-related health goal] while at the same time not starving myself of the necessary nutrients or fun foods I enjoy,” is a positive intention with no repercussions or berating yourself to achieve it (and no beating yourself up if you fall short). Versus “I hate how my body looks. I want to lose weight so I [look better in pictures, can fit in that dress for that specific event, because I think it will lead to me and others loving me more]. I’m going to crash diet and join the gym to make this happen. My body is fat and flabby and doesn’t look good and it can’t do anything right and I will die alone because I eat too much crap and never go to the gym. I need to look like that magazine cover over there and that billboard over there,” is NOT a positive intention. It’s an intention set from a place of negativity and self-loathing. Perhaps both intentions are driving toward the same results, but an intention set from a place of negativity will not ensure that you achieve lasting results, nor will it bring you joy and self-love. See the difference?
Look, I’m not a bullshitter, I’ve been there. I’ve joined the gym on Jan. 1 and been suckered in by their waiving of the registration fee ( I know some people LOVE the gym and that’s great – it took me well over a decade to admit I am NOT one of those people and to quit it forever. A decade in which I spent thousands of dollars on monthly fees for some place I rarely used and always hated). I’ve told myself, “I will go to the gym 3x a week this time; this time it will stick!” I’ve started and re-started Beachbody’s 21-Day Fix multiple times. I’ve stormed the library’s self-help section on January 1st. A couple of years ago, I even signed up for Weight Watchers and paid their stupid high fees just to end up obsessed with point counting and seeing stars every time I worked out or ran because my body wasn’t properly fueled. I’ve weighed myself every Monday and fretted over every pound, fuck that, ounce, gained and lost. I’ve done this for years on and off and mostly in the last 5 years in tandem with my running. I did it because I was watching my weight balloon and my body change as I went through pregnancy and childbirth, got older, and because a slowed metabolism is an often overlooked side-effect of my anti-anxiety meds. I deemed these changes in my body to be “bad” and I also believed I was “bad” because I wasn’t controlling it and that my body was now “out of shape.” I was also dating as a divorcee in her 40s and was afraid of being overweight and not being attractive. Not to mention, everywhere I looked, I was seeing evidence of what I was allegedly “supposed” to look like, especially as a runner – this picture of how “fit” and “healthy” allegedly look. I even slightly obsessed about weight at one point in an attempt to become a faster runner because I was likewise beating myself up about how “slow” I was. Spoiler alert: none of it ever took. And even when I did lose 5 or 10 lbs, it made zero difference in my happiness, self-love, or, frankly, health. And the weight loss never lasted long. I’m not saying don’t lose weight. Many people need to lose weight for health reasons. But, the intention behind your weight loss goal is important. The “why” of it is important. And the intention and “why” will directly correspond with whether you’re successful and how long that success lasts.
Success is tricky. We decide how we define it for ourselves, but unfortunately we live in a society that still largely defines it by the number on the scale and the size of your clothes. I’m lucky that until my late 30’s/early 40’s, I’d never been overweight. As I talked about in a prior blog post, I have been technically clinically overweight for the last couple of years, but that’s bullshit. I spent most of my life skinny – skinny but not strong, skinny but not healthy either physically or mentally/emotionally, skinny but not exercising at all. Now, I am “overweight” but stronger and healthier than I have ever been on both fronts. So, I’ll take the current number on the scale – it’s fine with me. Most of the time. When I was skinny, it did nothing to deter me from engaging in pretty constant self-hatred. The number on the scale will not and cannot make you love yourself. But, it can make you hate yourself pretty damn easy. All of the weight loss attempts I talk about above were purely born out of a place of self-loathing and a feeling I wasn’t good enough as is. They were a reaction to what I was seeing when I looked in the mirror, a reaction to something I didn’t like (mainly, myself). I thought my weight was something I should be able to control, unlike many other things in my life. But, it wasn’t my weight I needed to learn to control, it was my perception of myself and the negative voices in my head. I also needed to start fighting tooth and nail against the images we are bombarded with in our culture.
To be real, I still hate on myself from time to time – who doesn’t? When I look in the mirror, I actually am really proud of my body – I see a lot of strength where I used to see flaws. I see aging and I’m getting OK with that. But, when I see pictures of myself…eek! I sometimes see “fat.” I see “double chins.” I panic and hit the “delete” button or tell my friend or fiancé never to share that picture! NEVER! This doesn’t happen all the time, but still more frequently than I’d like. We live in a culture now where we are constantly taking pictures and having pictures taken of us. It’s an added pressure to look a certain way. What I’ve begun to realize in the last year or two is that actually, I’m just not used to how my body looks now. After almost 5 years of running and working out, my body is completely different than it’s ever been. It’s strong and big and beautiful. It’s not skinny, it’s not fat, it’s healthy. That’s not a bad thing at all. I’m still getting used to seeing it in a picture and being like “oh! That’s me! That’s 5 years of sweat and hard work and setbacks and successes and hitting my 40s. Cool.” I look to role models like Serena Williams, Kelly Roberts, Mirna Valerio, Latoya Snell and many other for images of what healthy bodies look like.
Back to the title of this post – I hate the “New Year, New You” shit. Every year we change. Hell, on a molecular level, we change minute by minute. Whether we want to or not, every year will see changes. But, that doesn’t mean we should strive to scrap who we were during the last 365 days and flip on a dime to become someone else, designating the old me as “bad.” After yoga class the other night ( a class in which the instructor said a couple of times “New year, new you, right?” but with a definitely sarcastic bent), my friend said the same phrase to me as we chatted and she talked about changing her diet to lose weight. I said to her “Fuck that. New year, same awesome me still kicking ass.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t changes I want to make, things I want to work on or goals I want to strive to achieve (NONE of them are weight-related), but it does mean that after 41 years, a lot of trauma and upheaval in my life, a lot of therapy, some anti-anxiety meds, and a shit-ton of hard work, I’m finally at a place where I love and appreciate myself as is and where the work I do is with an eye at trying new things that bring joy (and joyful people) into my life and yes, keep me healthy as I get older, with full knowledge that the number on the scale doesn’t always reflect healthiness and definitely doesn’t reflect happiness.
So to all my friends making resolutions that stem from a negative place, please don’t. If your doctor is telling you you need to lose weight to make sure you live a long time or to treat a medical condition, do so, but do so knowing you are not “bad” as you currently are. Do so under the watch of your doctor and a nutritionist – not by engaging in crazy crash diets or unsupervised exercise solely with the goal of making the needle on the scale move. Try instead on resolving to do things during the next year that will result in you loving yourself and talking nicely and encouragingly to yourself. Things that will bring out and sustain your inner warrior. You will be surprised where it takes you and yes, it sometimes results in losing weight and/or gaining muscle and getting stronger both physically and mentally/emotionally. But, if it doesn’t, I guarantee you that you will still be in a better spot next year than you are this year, just for trying to be gentler with yourself. If you’re struggling with negative self-talk, there are so many tools at your disposal: therapy, moving your body in ways that make you happy, creating and building a supportive and inclusive community, etc. I guarantee you that just trying to lose weight, crash dieting and wasting money on some fad exercise program, will not result in anything lasting or helpful. Maybe you’ll fit in that dress for that one event, but the results won’t last and when you see those pictures in years to come and you can’t fit into that dress anymore, you’ll just feel sad and mad at yourself for not being able to maintain that outward appearance.
Happy new year. New year, same amazing you.