"Lose 20 pounds by the spring." "Fit into my jeans from high school by summer." "Tone my legs enough to wear a bikini in time for vacation." These are just a few of the New Year's resolutions that we begin to hear as Jan. 1 creeps up on us. Often rooted in weight loss, aesthetic transformations, and the need to "look better," it's clear that body positive New Year's resolutions are few and far between. But that doesn't mean we can't evolve. Arguably more than ever, conversations about the importance of self-love have been infiltrating our news streams and social media timelines in 2015, so why not carry on in a similar vein come the next set of 12 months?
The thing about "resolutions" is that they should, in theory, be goals we create for ourselves that we know will make us happier; that will somehow make us feel like better individuals; that will somehow allow us to help others. Weight loss goals don't tend to do these things. If anything, focusing on slimming down your waist line is likely going to add quite the dose of misery into your everyday, unless you're doing it purely for you, and no one else.
So come 2016, I think we should be aiming for a different kind of resolution: One rooted in concepts of body positivism, inclusivity, and diversity. Here are just some ideas to get you started.
1. Avoid Diet Talk
Oftentimes when women are surrounded by other women, the conversation can take a turn into the realms of diet talk. Diet talk can take many forms, from musing over the many jean sizes we want to shed in the coming season to chastising ourselves over wanting dessert to bonding over juice cleanses and sautéed kale. There's nothing wrong with liking kale, of course. But I genuinely believe that diet talk not only has the potential to trigger folks who are already struggling with their body image, but also to take away from a hell of a lot of potential conversations far more enlightening than lettuce.
Chances are you and the people you dedicate your time to spend that time together for a reason. Perhaps it's your shared love of books, or your fascination with Star Wars. Maybe you work in similar fields, or you love to shop at the same indie retailers. Maybe you met at a political rally, or you share overlapping spiritual beliefs. Whatever your common ground, there's always something more interesting to talk about than the calories in the Olive Garden breadsticks.
2. Don't Assign Moral Value To Words Like "Fat" Or "Skinny"
The simple truth is that size-related descriptors, like all aesthetic descriptors, don't actually hold moral connotations. Being "fat" isn't bad. Being "skinny" isn't good. It's all relative. No matter what — no matter your clinical health status or the lifestyle you lead or the carbohydrates you consume or the hours you spend at the gym — your body is already a good one. It allows you to live, breathe, eat, watch Netflix, read books, and more.
If, however, you feel as though you are in a body that somehow isn't yours, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking steps to change it. That being said, it's pretty imperative that you're making the changes for yourself, and not because mainstream media, your parents, your partner, or the world at large are convincing you that you "have" to do so.
3. Think Of Fitness And Weight As Separate Entities
I would never deny the ridiculous amounts of benefits working out can have on your body and mind. From making you feel more alert in the day to boosting your sex drive to helping you poop better, working out can undoubtedly make people feel good. And that's precisely why we need to keep weight out of the equation.
Why have we allowed something that has the potential to be about increased serotonin and more sex to become something rooted in numbers on the scale? Exercise should be fun, but we have this tendency to suck all enjoyment out of it. But when we allow our workout routines to be about how they can make our bodies (and brains) feel rather than how they can make our bodies look, we can start to re-inject some of the empowerment into those routines.
All that being said, we seriously need to eradicate some of the fitness shame from our vocabs, which is just as noble a resolution for 2016. It's no one's place to judge someone for how much or little they work out. Not everyone enjoys fitness or wants to participate in it, and that's OK too.
4. Try A Style You've Always Wanted To Wear
There are a sea of rules out there of fashion "do's" and "don'ts," some rooted in bogus weight-related constructs, others based on... nothing at all. Whether you've long denied yourself midi skirts for fear that they'll shorten your legs or crop tops in case they're too revealing of your not-flat stomach, challenging yourself to try a style you've always loved but never thought was "for you" is a great way of realizing that fashion "rules" are make believe.
Fashion has the power of helping change the world for the better, and not just in a macro sense. The moment I put on my first crop top and went out into the world with just a sliver on my fat belly on display, I felt a shift. Sure, some people stared; but the world didn't come to an apocalyptic end. When you take a fashion risk, you'll likely realize the same.
5. Leave Pseudo Body Pos Phrases Behind
Although I can understand where phrases like "real women have curves" or "bones are for the dogs; meat is for the men" come from (likely a place of anger, resulting from decades of larger bodies being told they are unworthy), the simple truth is that all women are real. Body positivity has never been about pitting one group of individuals against another. Rather, it's been about highlighting the fact that everyone has a place in the conversation.
Not only do we shame certain body types when we opt for such mantras, but we're also being inadvertently transphobic. Transgender women who may not have passing privilege or the means to afford high cost ops likely won't have "curves" as we tend to conceive of them when it comes to individuals assigned female at birth. But those women are no less "real" simply because their bodies don't align with benign beauty standards.
6. Acknowledge Your Privileges
Most of us have some kind of privilege in this world, be it related to class, race, upbringing, education, or our bodies. Of course, we've all grown up in a culture that perpetuates body shame, and so almost everyone — regardless of their weight or gender — is likely to have their own self-image issues. However, to deny the existence of thin privilege is wholly ignorant. A low weight is intrinsically linked to the beauty standards preached by mainstream media, by glossy magazines, by the fact that most celebs who "make it big" are physically small. In the first world, we cater to thin bodies endlessly while demonizing fat ones, so it's vital to recognize, as a person with a lower body weight, that your body is closer to the trope of aspirational beauty.
Similarly, plus privilege undoubtedly exists as well. Plus size humans on the lower end of the spectrum are still getting the most visibility on this continued quest for social size inclusivity, while bodies above a size 22 are largely left out of mainstream imagery. Just as a person who is a size 2 has more weight-related privileges than a size 14, so too does a size 14 have more weight-related privileges than a size 24. Being conscious of where we fit into this all is one way of ensuring we're preaching body positivity in the new year without invalidating the experiences of others.
7. Help Fight For The Visibility Of Others More Marginalized Than You
In a similar vein to the above point, being more body positive in the new year should hopefully mean we're being more body positive in our thinking of others as well as ourselves. When we've experienced any kind of marginalization, it's far too easy to get so caught up in our experiences that we don't remember to fight for the folks who might have things worse. This means that even in body positive conversations, we don't always fight for the visibility of disabled bodies, trans bodies, or larger fat bodies as much as we should be doing.
Thanks to the Internet, many of us have a platform on which to champion diverse representation of all bodies, and especially those that need the most visibility. So why wouldn't we?
8. Enjoy Your Food
Seriously, guys. If you have food at your disposal, you're already a pretty lucky human. I personally have a very difficult time coping with folks who throw out heaps of leftovers, refuse to eat something they genuinely want because it'll set them over 1,500 calories in a 24-hour period, or judge the diets of others. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not to mention that it keeps us alive. But because we've become so focused on weight and our meals' relationship to our weight, it's like we forget that the four cheese pizza our friend just homemade is a pile of deliciousness, rather than a pile of shame-inducing torture.
In 2016, try to enjoy your food a little bit more. Try to remember that you're pretty blessed to have it in the first place, that a lot of work likely went into it, and that — if only you allow it to have this power — a good meal can totally put a smile on your face.
9. Call Out Problematic Language
Whether in regards to misgendering, ageism, fat or skinny shaming, or anything else that inadvertently puts down another person or group, it's important to help those around you become aware of when their vocabularies have the potential to cause harm. Oftentimes, body shaming is so ingrained in a person's psyche that they don't even realize when they're perpetuating it. One obvious example would be when someone says something like, "(Insert characteristic) is the most attractive," without adding an "in my opinion" or "to me" disclaimer afterwards. Beauty, like most of our perceptions, is subjective. We all define "attraction" in different ways, and that's just as it should be.
So if you hear someone placing one body type over another on a pedestal, claiming that a certain weight is "ugly," failing to account for someone's preferred pronouns, or perpetuating racist, ageist, or ableist micro-aggressions, it's OK to tell them as much. Quite frankly, most of us could use some re-education when it comes to a lot of social conditioning.
10. Throw Out Your Scale
So this one is a little more of a drastic resolution, but unless you have a genuinely healthy relationship with a scale (I'm not even sure what that would look like), there's really no need to have one in your life. The number on the scale doesn't actually mean anything, even if many of us have been told the contrary for much of our lives.
If you're an average human, chances are the scale has caused at least some distress throughout your existence. But getting rid of it will mean that things like your fitness routine and self worth have a chance to flourish without the stigma of numbers.
11. Just Be A Little Kinder To Yourself
Perhaps the most important resolution we can make for 2016 is simply to treat ourselves better. We're not often taught that prioritizing self care and mental health are important or noble things to do. We're not often told that it's OK to like being fat, just like it's OK to like being thin. We're not often encouraged to see beyond beauty standards or gender norms. But just because we haven't been taught to do such things doesn't mean we can't learn.
Self care is bound to mean something different person to person. For some, it might equate to writing body positive affirmations on sticky notes, and pasting them throughout the apartment. For others, it might mean formulating a workout regime that fits in with their schedule and makes them feel happy. For others still, it might mean spending a good few minutes a day in their birthday suit, familiarizing themselves with their bodies and learning to perceive the beauty in those bodies.
No matter what self care means to you, though, it's OK. It's OK to dedicate time to feeling better and to falling in love with your body. It's not vain or arrogant. It's just a small way of making daily existence a whole lot more fulfilling.
Image: Marie Southard Ospina (1)