Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Examining Resolution Season

[Content note: body shame, weight loss]

Happy New Year!

And welcome to one of the most triggering times for fat shame and weight loss talk. As our attention turns to resolutions, the overwhelming message we receive at every turn is that we're disgusting. Weight loss product and gym membership ads will be at an all time high. The same culture which just told us to engage in the excesses of the winter holiday season, will now tell us we're ugly, lazy, sacks of fat who need to tone up, trim down, and burn calories, at any cost.

I've written before about New Year's resolutions and how weight loss goals are problematic. I stand by that idea, and it's certainly important to remember, given all of the fat shaming messages we're about to encounter. But the more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to wonder if maybe the whole New Year's resolution thing is a bad idea all together.

Let me clarify. Self reflection and self awareness are incredibly important to me. I think there's nothing more critical than leading a proactive and mindful life. And that's kind of why New Year's resolutions bother me. What's the point in making empty goals one time a year? The whole joke about resolutions is that they last until about mid February and then become promptly forgotten. Wouldn't it make so much more sense if we were all involved in year round, thoughtful, self analysis? I understand that the new year is a helpful time to be reminded to do these things, but it's not helpful when we only think about it once a year and then really do forget all of our hopes and ambitions.

Basically, there's little that worries me more than complacency, and I think that resolution season encourages exactly that 11 months of the year.

Beyond that, I hate the judgmental feel of the New Year's resolution process. Maybe this is me getting all hippie dippie, but it just seems to be so negative. Instead of a more active, on-going process of self-care and improvement, it just seems to encourage damaging self talk, along the lines of "God, I'm so fat. I want to change that." or "I hate how lazy I am." or "I'm so boring. I've got to take more risks!" Being proactive and self aware does require you to think about the ways in which you want to improve, but it's not about beating yourself up and it's certainly not critical.

The last thing that feels off to me about the resolutions season is the idea of a clean slate. I understand how a clean slate can feel empowering and motivating to the self, but let's not forget that there are no truly new beginnings. Regardless of the changes we hope to make for ourselves, our past actions do have consequences into the future. In other words, you don't get a pass on being an asshole the last 12 months because it's time for a new cat calendar on your wall.

This is particularly important to remember when your resolutions will have an impact on other people; for example, getting back in touch with estranged friends/family or apologizing for past wrongs. Just because you have determined that it is time to mend fences, doesn't mean that the other party can or should accept your gestures of good will. They have a right to their boundaries and they also get to choose when they are ready to have those conversations. Even though you've got your clean slate and you've turned over a new leaf and every other cliche for starting over...their feelings are still important. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try; just remember others don't see your clean slate and they can set their own boundaries.

Like I said before, what I'm ultimately getting at is that I wish our society would encourage proactivity more in general, and with a positive spin. I don't think it's helpful to err on an "easy way out" mentality which only focuses on goal setting once a year and implicitly promotes forgetting said goals.

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