Want a Healthier 2013? Ditch the Weight Loss Resolutions!
Every new year, we come up with resolutions that often have a lot to do with how we look and little to do with real health and happiness. Profit-driven companies are busy bombarding us with slimy weight-loss slogans like Cheerios’ “More Grains, Less You” and Special K’s “What Will You Gain When You Lose?” They promise that losing weight will bring you health, happiness and success, but all they really do is replace a well-balanced meal with a 150-calorie serving of cereal. Not a health and wellness breakthrough, guys. These magic ladies’ cereals and all the other New Year’s marketing schemes are NOT the key to health, happiness or love! In fact, those fear tactics scaring you about all you are missing out on by being your current size are only benefiting companies, not individuals. We hope you’ll join us by pushing back against the degrading weight-loss marketing with REAL health and confidence-boosting resolutions, like the ones we’re recommending below. In 2013, we want MORE you and for you to WIN, not lose! Take that, Special K and Cheerios!
If you’re like me, my New Years’ resolutions used to revolve around clothing sizes, weight and measurements, and little to do with actual health or happiness. I know I’m not alone in realizing that even if the number got smaller, it had little to do with my actual health or happiness. What research and real-life experience make very clear is that when we can begin to see ourselves as more than just a collection of body parts on display and respect our bodies, that’s when we make better health choices and feel more confident.
I can look back in old journals and see that sometimes I resorted to extremes in eating and exercising to get to that random number I thought would bring with it all the joy I could imagine: “If I can just lose this much weight, I’ll be SO happy!” or “I’ll love myself and someone else can love me if I can just lose this many inches.” But personal experience, academic research and body image advocacy have taught me something very different: An arbitrary number is never the key to happiness, confidence or even health and fitness. While profit-driven media would have us believe the “Weigh Less, Smile More!!” and “Perfect Your Parts, Perfect Your Life!!” headlines plastered across the globe, those messages rake in billions for companies and get us women nowhere closer to health or happiness.
As PhD candidates and owners of Beauty Redefined, Lexie and I spend a lot of time writing and researching about the ways media objectifies females and asks us to view ourselves (to self-objectify) as parts to be ogled by those around us, perfected and shaped by surgeons, judged by each other, and constantly in need of repair with the help of makeup, waxing, tanning, bleaching, plucking and posing — and now cereal. Watch a Blockbuster movie and see how the camera pans up and down the females’ bodies, zooming in on their parts. Drive past billboards that cut the heads off of women and invite them to give themselves the gift of implants or liposuction this year — “Do it for YOU!” In a media world more powerful than ever before, girls today grow up viewing themselves as parts to be looked at and we spend our lives perfecting those parts and feeling inadequate when those parts aren’t yet perfect. Because of that, our New Years’ resolutions often reflect our self-objectifying views that often don’t get us to real health and happiness and don’t last too long (ex: “Fit into my jeans from 2003″ or “Lose 20 lbs.”). Have you ever reached one of those goals and then realized you still weren’t happy with where you were? It’s because the ideals we see in media and set for ourselves are designed to be unattainable — we’ll work forever trying to reach them but they’re forever out of reach so we’ll spend all our money, time and energy working toward them!
Instead of Photoshopping ourselves out of reality, this is our year to take back beauty for every female that needs to grasp her beautiful reality. These days, when we hear the word “beauty,” it doesn’t feel like a happy word. It feels like work. The youngest of girls on up to the oldest of women often hear the word and immediately think of all the work it’ll take to get there. But beauty should be a happy, all-encompassing word — it’s something we have and are — not something we have to fight for to never obtain! When you think of the females you love, you see their beauty for what it is; it is smile lines from years of laughing, scars from playing, freckles from the sun, stretch marks from growing, the list goes on. The Body Hate Apocalypse is upon us and in this beautiful new year, our resolutions reflect the fact that the end is near — the end of body hate, self-objectification, body shaming, appearance obsession and extremes that hurt our bodies, minds, souls, pocketbooks and power.
This year, we challenge you to join Lexie and I in pledging to fight toward reaching goals that have little to do with the way we look and everything to do with what we can accomplish. We urge you to pledge resolutions that reflect how valuable, capable and powerful you are. We beg you to join us at the battlefront and link arms with females around the world to end body hatred and begin a life of loving yourself that will be reflected in your healthy choices and happy smiles. Here are 15 empowering, achievable goals we came up with to kick off the Body Hate Apocalypse of 2012, and we’d LOVE for you to renew your efforts for 2013 or make a fresh start with these resolutions as your guide! We, in turn, promise to do our best to support you, encourage you and cheer you on as we all usher in the Body Hate Apocalypse together. Are you ready to end this body hating epidemic?!
Set a true fitness goal: If you’ve held yourself back from running, biking, swimming, etc., because you felt self-conscious about what to wear, how red your face gets from the workout, sweating in public, (the list goes on), it’s time to set a goal and fight to achieve it! Make this goal about your abilities and you’ll be much less inclined to care about what you look like doing it. Run a certain distance without stopping. Swim 10 laps faster than ever before. Do a certain number of crunches, push-ups, pull-ups, new dance moves – any fitness achievement measured in actions and not numbers on a scale, measuring tape or clothing tag.
Leave your keys at home: If you drive or take public transportation to work, school, or elsewhere when you could be walking or biking instead, why not give it a try? Increasing activity is a beautiful way to release endorphins to feel happier, get your heart pumping and enjoy the outside world!
Forget your number: If you tend to fixate on your weight, measurements or clothing sizes, pledging to leave those numbers behind is your key to freedom! Make a goal to stop or limit the number of times you weigh or measure yourself. It turns out that when we fixate on arbitrary numbers, that often gets in the way of our health. Start judging your health through your activity level by setting a fitness goal (see No. 1) instead of a meaningless number, and you’ll get somewhere great!
Can the tan: Studies show the first time you set foot in a tanning bed, you increase your chances of skin cancer by as much as 75%! This stat alone is good enough reason to set a goal to limit the time you spend tanning or stop it entirely. The tan skin ideal is fleeting, leads to other “beauty” problems like wrinkles and skin spots, and is achievable through much less harmful means if it’s a look you just have to have.
Stop negative self-talk: Too many girls and women have a constant script of mean thoughts about themselves running through their minds. Recent studies show us that girls who don’t like their bodies become more sedentary over time and pay less attention to having a healthy diet. If you think you’re gross and worthless, why would you take care of yourself? Set a goal to stop saying negative things about yourself. Start with a day, a week, a month, whatever you can do, and make it a permanent practice!
Think nice thoughts instead: On the flipside of the last study, research has found that girls who respect their bodies are more likely to be physically active and eat healthy. They are less likely to gain unnecessary weight and they make healthy lifestyle choices way into the future. Since what we THINK about our bodies has a strong connection to how we TREAT our bodies, set a goal to shut out negative thoughts as they come and replace them with positive truths!
Put your $ where your mouth is: Make a goal to only shop at stores that treat females respectfully in their advertising and products. Speaking up with your pocketbook is one of the most powerful ways you can show retailers what you will and will not put up with.
Speak up: When you see a media message that goes against what you believe about girls and women, let your voice be heard. Make a resolution to write to companies that produce and distribute offensive messages, as well as those that you appreciate for showing females as valuable for more than being looked at. This year, we’ve seen major companies pull advertising and products that were offensive because girls and women speak up! Let this be the year you let your voice be heard.
Go on a media fast: Choose a day, a week, a month or longer to steer clear of as much media as you can. That way, you can see how your life is different without all those messages and images, and when you return to viewing and reading popular media, you will be more sensitive to the messages that hurt you and those that are unrealistic.
Just say “no”: Set a goal to cancel out any media choices you view or read that tell you lies about what it means to be a female. Cancel subscriptions, throw away crappy things you already own, find a new TV show to love. You’ll thank yourself!
Picture perfect: If you are a photographer or like to take pictures, set a goal to steer clear of any Photoshopping or image manipulation that Photoshops those in your pictures out of reality. Signs of life are important and we need to see reality!
Mother knows best: If you are a mother, set a goal to never speak negatively about your appearance in front of your children — especially daughters. Your kids are listening whether you like it or not, and they will learn how to view themselves from your example.
Mirror, mirror: Critically analyze how much time you spend in front of the mirror. Could any of that time be better spent? If you see a need to cut back, set a goal to shave off a few minutes in front of the mirror each day and set it aside for something more meaningful for yourself or others.
Be an advocate: If you teach or lead a youth group of any sort, set a goal to integrate body-positive messages, media literacy and real health goals into your curriculum. Young people are in desperate need of positive, empowering messages to counteract the harmful ones they’re surrounded by each day. It will absolutely take extra time and effort, but we promise it will be well worth your while.
Compliments that count: Make a resolution to compliment girls and women for more than those easy comments on pretty hair, weight loss, clothing, etc. When we minimize other females to just their bodies, we forget to remind them of their beautiful talents, characters, and gifts!
We are committed to teaching media literacy — the ability to critically understand and analyze the power of inescapable media messages in our lives. We speak, write, research and do interviews about learning to recognize harmful messages and reject them so we can grasp our beautiful realities. One of our favorite things to do is slap our sticky notes with uplifting phrases like “There is more to BE than eye candy!” on ads (or storefront windows, or catalogs, or mirrors…) to remind those who pass by that we need to question media messages that hurt us. Also, it’s pretty fun. Lindsay had a great time adding a little rear-end coverage to this very public Victoria’s Secret sign! If you feel inclined to join this movement, you can buy our sticky notes or postcards to help us spread body positive messages far and continue our work with the nonprofit Beauty Redefined. Join us today in welcoming the Body Hate Apocalypse of 2013! We’d love to hear your body-positive resolutions, and we’ll do our best to remind, encourage and support you all year long!