by Kaye, originally posted at SPARK Movement
Turn off the TV for a second, if you have it on. I want to have a little bit of a conversation with you, and the last thing I want is for it to be interrupted by yet another weight loss commercial gimmick.
They crop up more and more often this time of year, don’t they? I don’t watch a lot of TV, mostly because I simply don’t have the time and I don’t have a set in my room at university and so I’m not exposed to a lot of commercials, as a general rule. Maybe that makes it easier for me to notice the sheer numbers of weight loss commercials when I’m home and I have the TV on as background noise. It’s especially pervasive during programming aimed at women, or on networks like Lifetime, and it makes me equal parts sad and angry. I mean, I understand why they’re there. Many women make resolutions to lose some weight in the coming year, and what kind of marketing department worth its salt wouldn’t try to capitalize on that? And making us feel ashamed of our bodies is far more effective now, when we’ve been eating holiday dinners and holiday desserts for a week or so.
But look, can I just tell you something? Lean in close, it’s a secret.
It is totally possible to be happy without changing a damn thing about your body. And moreover, there’s nothing wrong with it as it is right now: fat or thin, tall or short, differently-abled or not.
I know, I know. You’re probably thinking Who are you to say, blog lady?! You don’t know my life! And you’d be right about that, kind of. I don’t know the details of your life. But here, you can have some details of mine. I am 21 years old, 5’8” tall, something like 210lbs the last time I weighed myself (I don’t bother very often), and I wear an American size 16. My measurements are 44” 38” 42”.
Not a single one of those numbers matters one good goddamn to my identity, my personal worth, or whether or not I’m making out with someone on the regular. They’re just numbers. Do they really tell you anything about me that’s worth knowing? What if I told you instead that I love dinosaurs? Or that I can contort my face into expressions that would make Andy Samberg, rubber-face extraordinaire, incredibly jealous of my face-contorting abilities? Or that my extended family has six Boston Terriers, total? Or what if I told you that I lived in England for a semester, or that I’m in an open relationship with my cat on Facebook (because let’s face it, anyone who sees that and doesn’t think it’s funny isn’t anybody I want to be friends with)? Isn’t that a little more important (and a heck of a lot more interesting) than a string of numbers? Doesn’t it matter more?
I used to make the resolution every year to lose weight. I was convinced that nothing else I did that year would matter if I didn’t also drop 10 or 25 or 50 pounds. Who the hell did I want to lose this weight for? I actually did it once – I dropped 70 pounds and as a result I went down one pants size and started fainting. And I was not one jot happier or one whit more comfortable with my body than I had been when I was 70 pounds heavier. If anything, I felt worse: I had dropped all this weight, and I still didn’t like myself. What was wrong with me? Because surely there was something wrong with me, right, if I’d managed to dump all this weight and I wasn’t suddenly happier or more beautiful or more successful?
I really wasn’t losing weight for myself. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has, which doesn’t mean they don’t exist but it does mean some things about women and weight loss, because nobody can give me an answer to the question “Why are you losing weight?” that doesn’t ultimately wind up being “Because I’ll be more attractive.” It’s an answer that tends to come in code as things like “Because my jeans will fit better” or “Because I’ll be able to wear a bikini,” but it all amounts to the same thing.
How about instead of a bunch of us making resolutions to lose weight – which is a nebulous and difficult resolution, tied into a lot of shame and self-loathing – we make a different resolution. We make a resolution that is better for us and better for our daughters and our sisters and anyone else who is watching our relationship with our bodies, and puts the focus on our health (mental, physical, and spiritual) instead of our weight. We make a resolution to love ourselves, instead. Because we are done with a culture that tells us we are never good enough, we are done with a culture that tells us our bodies are to be regulated and policed and shamed, and we are done trying to fit a standard of beauty that was not made by us or for us.
It’s not an easy resolution, that’s for sure. But we’re in it together.
Here are four awesome resources to start your year off bright: