Aloha, my loves. How were your holidays? I was in Hawaii…yeah, it was amazing. Follow me on Instagram @maryadelle if you want to see obnoxiously beautiful pictures like the one above, captured by my sister-in-law, Phuong Vo.
I’ve heard a lot of resolution talk the past few weeks. Resolutions can be wonderful and motivating and enlightening and satisfying etc. One in particular (or I suppose a sub-genre in particular) I want to focus on within this column is the ever-faithful “get fit and/or slim” resolution. (Disclaimer: I realize this advice is not for everyone, nor is it intended to be for everyone. I’m not a nutritionist, dietician, doctor, nor psychiatrist—although I know some pretty amazing ones. This is just a message for whoever wants to hear it. A similar message came to me in 2016 and it changed me for the good.)
F E E D Y O U R B O D Y , B R A I N, S P I R I T , S W A G G E R , A N D O T H E R S
I am not here to shame anyone for their desire to be thinner or fitter. I know this desire, intimately. And it is OKAY to have this desire.
As soon as we became self-aware at that young age of five or six, we received the message that to be accepted and loved and admired in this system and society, you need to look “this way.” Diet culture is extremely hard to resist. Think: Media, toys, magazines, celebrities, government, health professionals, etc. pushing this message that skinny is more attractive, more fun, more successful, healthier, and more American.
If this is your resolution, or even if it’s not, here are some questions I would like you to consider:
How much energy do I spend worrying about what I eat, when I eat, how much I eat?
How much energy do I spend thinking about exercise?
How much energy do I spend counting my calories?
How much energy do I spend looking at nutrition facts labels?
How much energy do I spend hating my body?
Y’all…I have a feeling your answer to some or all of these questions was A LOT. What if we reversed all that energy and put it toward fighting oppression? Toward comforting a loved one? Toward taking a walk and counting different types of trees instead of steps? Toward resting? I get so frustrated that I want to scream thinking about all the time we waste (I WASTED) hating our bodies when we could be living, experiencing and feeling this one, rich life we have. (Perhaps learning the piccolo, talking to that person in the grocery line, addressing intersectional feminism, experiencing some deeply embedded emotion, dancing terribly, or hig- fiving ourselves for making the bed.) And no—I don’t want to scream at YOU, dear reader. I want to scream at all the influences that generate this self-hate. It’s not fair.
Want to break the cycle? Here are seven, (not easy, but simple), steps to begin your path toward greater body acceptance and, perhaps, a more meaningful and vibrant life:
- Release shame. Let go let go let go. Do not moralize your or others’ choices about food and exercise. Don’t use language like “good,” “cheat,” or “bad”—it’s just “food.”
- Stop talking about your appearance. Stop talking about others’ appearances. It’s boring. Talk about your favorite animal. Talk about how to protect the environment.
- Stop telling yourself, “I’ll be happy when [I’m thinner, richer, etc.]” Whenever this thought pops in your brain, think of one thing that is making you happy right now. Practice that and eventually you will rewire your brain to avoid the “I’ll be happy when” trap—I promise.
- Avoid restrictions (as much as possible—I see you, vegetarians. I see you, those with food allergies). Allow all foods. This will eliminate fear surrounding certain ingredients like MSG or refined sugar, and thus eliminate the power these foods have over you. (Note: I am aware of the terrors orchestrated by our food industry. I know animals are treated terribly; I know our packaged foods are pumped with fake, harmful ingredients, cheap and accessible. But, by releasing the fear around foods like processed meat or gluten and letting ourselves eat these foods when our appetite craves them, I truly believe we will crave these foods less and less, as your developing self-compassion will alert you to non-nourishing foods. And once you get all that time and energy back from ingredient obsessing, you can use it toward fighting the injustices of the food industry. 🙂 ) Keep those Little Debbie Zebra Cakes in the pantry! Don’t avoid them or hide them. Make peace with Little Debbie.
- Follow #bodypositive advocates on social media of all colors, ages, abilities, shapes and sizes. The more diverse bodies and body positive messages we consume throughout the day, the more normalized (and beautiful!) our diverse bodies will become in our brains.
- Switch out “workout” for “movement.” Perhaps this sounds hippy-dippy to you, but the main point of this is to move when you want and how you want. As soon as I stopped doing workouts I thought I should do, joy was tucked back into walking, dancing, yoga-ing, etc. I was so much more excited to move!
- Know that it’s okay to feel insecure and terrible and frustrated. I’ve recommended this in a previous column: FEEL YOUR FEELS. Sit with them. Get to the root, or don’t. Tell yourself, “it’s okay that I feel this way,” when you’re angry or stressed or devastated. That is acceptance, which leads to/helps with self-acceptance, body-acceptance, identity-acceptance, etc.
I’m still—big time—working on this. But I’m just a plain old Jane telling you the truth when I say this is working, more than any meal plan/diet/workout program ever has. It’s not that I’m happier—I still cry a lot, because I’m a crier. And I can feel and see that I’ve gained weight. But I care less. I have this yummy sense of peace and contentment growing and growing. And I’m doing a lot more “damn girl, your brain is big and your dimple is cute!” in the mirror, instead of “ABS—WHERE R U?”. Remember readers: we are not on this earth to be thin and fit.
I leave you with a quote that popped up on my Instagram feed recently, (I can’t find the author, so if you know the author, please email me so I can give credit): “How much did Florence Nightingale weigh when she founded modern nursing? How much did Rosa Parks weigh when she took a seat on that bus? How much did Malala Yousafzai weigh when she started writing about the lives of girls in Pakistan living under Taliban rule? You don’t know? That’s the right answer! Because it doesn’t matter.”
Trust your gut. Take good (self) care. Rock that bod.
P.S. Email me! Tell me your resolution: [email protected]