I celebrate not only the Gregorian new year, but the Jewish one, plus the all the new moons and witch holidays. I love an opportunity to reflect on how things are going, and to think about what I’d like to shift. I have planted my intentions with seeds, and watered them with wishing well water. I have written myself notes and ceremonially burned them. I have mailed myself letters for the future. I have gotten tattoos to remind me of lessons I am still working on learning.
All this to say that New Years resolutions should be right up my alley…but they’re not, because more often than not, the way the dominant (white, North American) culture approaches these resolutions is through stunning self-effacement.
I will erase myself and overwrite a better version of me (who I am is wrong)!
I will stop all my bad habits (stop employing my coping mechanisms)!
I will become better, faster, and stronger (suddenly demand more of my body than ever before, and expect it to cooperate without injury or protest)!
I will lose weight I will lose weight I will lose weight (I am too much)!
In truth, I believe in body autonomy over nearly anything else, so I actually think it’s fine to want to lose weight (or gain it! or change your body in other ways!); and you sure don’t need my permission to make a resolution for yourself.
What I want is for us to get value-neutral about body size and about food. I sometimes err on the side of YAY FAT because the opposite voice is so loud and omnipresent, but legit what I think would be the best is if everyone got to decide for themselves what felt right and good and healthy and hot for their own body, and we got to be less fettered by literal constant messaging that thin bodies are sexy/healthy/desirable/virtuous and that fat bodies are lazy/unhealthy/unloveable/a project that can never be abandoned. My body is not a problem to be solved. It is not a disease, and I need no cure. I’m just fat (and honestly, I’m kind of into it).
I do workshops about body image with young people at a TRULY AWESOME summer camp. As an opening exercise, I give everyone paper and a pencil, and I ask them to make a list, as long as they can, of things they love about their bodies. I give an additional prompt that folks can think about a) how their body looks, b) how their body feels, and c) things their body can do. Then we sit in silence for a few minutes and I watch these strong, smart, powerful, visionary youth struggle to think of something, anything, they like about their bodies (I promise the workshops get less depressing from there).
Here is a short list of a few of the things I love about my own body, to use as reference or inspiration in case you decide to try this exercise for yourself (and I recommend that you do)!
soft belly/ juicy butt/ impressive armpit hair/ truly amazing for being the little spoon/ summertime freckles/ cute little feet/ dexterous fingers let me knit fast/ my eyes change color/ multiple orgasms/ strong legs/ strong bones (never broken one)/ general sturdiness/ great lips (for coating in lipstick)/ soft skin/ cool hair/ tattoos/ being a shorty means I always have enough leg room on trains on in the backseat.
I could go on (it miiiiiight get a little more NSFW if I did).
At this time of year, it seems like there is a big, resounding WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER thing ringing through the air about disciplining our bodies into something different, and folks, I am not in this with you. This is not a universal project. It can be yours; but don’t you dare suggest that it should be mine.
This doesn’t mean I love everything about my body all the time. I sure don’t. But I want to love most of it most of the time, and I am way more interested in working towards that goal than towards the utterly Sisyphean one of making my body conform to the standards expected of me. Not only is that unattainable, it’s not actually what I want! I have come to love the physical power that comes with living in a larger body, and I don’t want to give it up. My body is extremely well suited to standing firm, holding fast, and comforting people I love. These are precious gifts.
If you want, even as a tiny thought experiment, to try on body positivity or body neutrality, or whatever words you want to give to the deliberate shifting of how you evaluate and understand bodies (yours and other people’s), here are some ideas of ways forward. YMMV, and I support you in the struggle, however it goes.
1. If someone you care about announces that they have lost weight- instead of leaping to congratulate them, first ask- “how does that feel for you?” (or something like that) and listen to the answer.
2. Don’t talk shit about your own body. See what happens if for 24 hours, or a week, or a month, you don’t speak out loud (even when you are alone) a single disparaging comment about your body (it can hear you). You may even owe it an apology (or several million of them). Might that be delivered by a massage? A pie? A love letter to your abundant thighs? A thank you note for every orgasm you’ve ever had? A long slow run through a wooded area? Several glasses of cool water with lemon? Acupuncture? Doritos? A nap? What is your body asking you for?
3. Make whatever choices feel right to you about what you eat, but don’t then coat them in a veneer of virtue. Your food is not “clean” (my food is not dirty). Your food is not “good” (my food is not bad). Your food is right for you, and that is awesome. Avoid the “cupcake? I couldn’t possibly!”s and the “I’ll have to work this off later”s. Eat what you eat, don’t eat what you don’t eat, and don’t shit on someone else’s pulled pork sandwich.
4. Try taking an appreciative approach to your body. What are the things you love about it, and how can you cultivate those (rather than trying to erase or modify the things you hate). This might lead you to the same actions- for example – if you want to be smaller, you might decide to dance more. If you love how your body feels when you dance, you might decide to dance more. Even with the same result, I promise doing the thing will feel differently if you’re doing it from a place of cultivating love and connection with your body rather than punishing it for existing too much.
5. Fake it. Fake that you think you’re hot as fuck. Fake that you “can pull off” that dress. Faking is actually doing, in a lot of circumstances, and eventually it might not feel like faking.
6. Make a change to the kinds of images of bodies you are exposed to. Find a blog or an instagram account or a porno (or twelve) that shows different kinds of bodies (fat bodies! hairy bodies! genderqueer bodies! disabled bodies! bodies with scars! bodies with stretch marks! bodies like yours) like, having fun. Wearing cute shit and going to the aquarium. Wearing sexy things or doing sexy things. Doing sports or dancing. Notice your own judgements, and try to let them go.
7. Get mad! Get mad about little kids who refuse to eat because their fear of being fat is so visceral. Get mad about the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry that is SO INVESTED in us hating ourselves. Get mad about Oprah repping Weight Watchers. Get mad about the misogyny that is embedded in a deep societal hatred of bodily squishiness. Get mad about how much we could all accomplish if we spent as much energy learning Russian or ASL or solving mathematical equations or cuddling our small humans or making soup for our sick friends or starting a small business or dismantling the prison industrial complex as we did picking apart our bodies and planning their (partial) demise.