It’s a new year, and that brings New Year’s resolutions. Losing weight is always a popular resolution; it’s the first or second most common resolution year after year. But what if, for 2019, you resolved NOT to try to lose weight? What if, instead, you resolve to love and honor your body at whatever size it is? To stop hating your body, stop thinking that you’re not good enough?
You can do this! I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s a journey that usually takes years and hard work, but it will be so worth it. You will be so much happier, more self-confident, and more satisfied with your life.
I’m not a health professional or any kind of expert, but I can tell you what has worked for me and what continues to work for me as I unlearn fatphobia, self-hate, and the assumptions that society has taught me about size, beauty, and health.
At all. Obviously if you have dietary restrictions because of allergies, sensitivities, religion, or personal ethics, keep those. And if you have a medical condition requiring a supervised diet, don’t do anything without advice from your doctor and/or nutritionist. But don’t diet to lose weight. No Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig (is that still a thing?), keto, Atkins, low-carb, low-fat, Zone, Whole 30, blah blah blah. No counting calories or fat grams or carbs. And remember, even if you call it a “lifestyle change,” if you are restricting your eating with the goal of losing weight, it is a diet.
Stop reading “women’s” magazines
Do not read any magazine that mentions weight loss on the cover. Do not read any magazine that promises the secret to slimming down in X weeks, getting the perfect abs or butt or beach body, or losing a certain number of pounds (stone, kilos, etc). Don’t read about celebrity diets or workout routines. Don’t read about “bad” or “good” foods. Just stop. That also goes for TV shows, websites, YouTube videos, and the like. This is honestly the most important step (in my experience, at least). You will be amazed when you realize just how pervasive anti-fat messaging is in our daily lives.
If you still want to keep up on fashion and beauty tips, there are plenty of media outlets where you can avoid the fat hate. Try magazines such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, The Every Girl, and Bust; and blogs such as Jamie Je T’aime, In My Joi, and Musings Of a Curvy Lady. Explore tags such as #fatshion or #plussizefashion on Instagram. Even if you’re not big on fashion, go ahead and look at fat women wearing stylish clothes and flawless makeup. It’s inspiring to see bodies of diverse sizes and realize that weight and beauty are completely unconnected.
Throw out your scale
If you can’t bear to throw it out because that seems wasteful or extreme, pack it away and put it in your attic or basement or somewhere you can’t easily get to it. Your scale does not tell you anything about your health, your beauty, your character, or anything that matters. You do not need to know the number on the scale. It doesn’t help you in any way. All it does is make you feel bad about yourself and encourage you to be obsessed with getting that number lower. There’s no reason for that. I know that for many people a bathroom scale seems like a basic household item that everyone should own, but it really isn’t. I haven’t owned one in years.
Learn about intuitive eating
This is a mindful practice based on noticing and honoring your hunger and fullness cues, respecting your body the way it is, and eating what you want, whether that’s a salad or an ice cream sundae. There’s more to it than that, of course, and I encourage you to explore books, websites, videos, podcasts…. whichever is your preferred way of learning. Here is a good introduction.
Focus on your health, not your size
Let me be clear: you do not owe anyone health. You don’t need to prove that you are a “good” fat person because you’re doing the “right” things. Having perfect cholesterol and glucose levels is not what makes it okay to be fat. A fat person who starts every day with a kale smoothie and an hour at the gym is no more deserving of respect and love than a fat person who is sedentary and eats a fast food burger and a milkshake for lunch every day. No matter your health or your habits, you deserve to be respected and treated well.
But, if you’re thinking “this is all well and good, but I need to lose weight for my health!” or if you just want to make some changes to be healthier, there is plenty you can do with a focus on healthy habits and not on your weight. Contrary to what you’ll read in most mainstream media, weight and health are only loosely correlated. There is a lot of evidence showing the validity of the Health At Every Size philosophy.
Find some form of movement that you enjoy. You don’t have to go to the gym, and you don’t have to be in pain to get health benefits from exercise. Walk the dog. Walk in the park. Dance. Ride a bike. Do yoga. Just make sure it’s something you enjoy, and move your body.
Eat fruits and vegetables. This might sound dangerously close to diet territory. I’m not advocating that you eat broccoli when what you really want is cake. I’m saying eat the cake, and also eat whatever fruits and veggies you enjoy. Go ahead and eat your veggies with butter and cheese if that’s how you like them. Explore new fruits and vegetables. Try different colors and textures. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your food.
Drink when you’re thirsty and maybe a little more, but you don’t actually need to drink eight glasses a day. That’s just a myth. Try to get enough sleep.
Take care of your mental health as well, whatever that looks like for you. That might mean seeing a mental health professional, or meditating, or enjoying a hobby or regular time with friends. One thing that is definitely bad for your mental health is berating yourself over your size, your food, or your exercise habits, so try not to do that.
Stop postponing your life
Are there things you want to do but have been putting off until you lose weight? Do those things now! Buy that cute outfit, take that vacation, pursue that new job… whatever it is, you deserve to live a full and happy life now. Happiness is not something you earn with your size.
Let me reiterate, I’m not a health professional of any sort. And I’m not a spokesperson for all fat people. All I am is a fat woman who has spent some years on this journey of loving myself at the size I am. I stumble often. I have days when I’m not thrilled with my body. There are still parts I am learning to love. I’m still coming to terms with middle age and the changes it’s brought. All I can talk about is my own experience. I sincerely hope it helps you and that 2019 is a year of happiness and self-love!