Tag Archives: new year’s resolutions

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Watch Your Weight

Laurie and Debbie say:

At this time of year, we are bombarded with mainstream media lists of New Year’s resolutions, and it’s almost impossible to find one that doesn’t include weight loss. Here’s what we hate about that:

Making good changes is often impossible if your focus is weight loss.

Here’s Ragen Chastain from Dances with Fat:

“Join the gym, become more active, get healthier!” There are no guarantees but this is ok advice if someone has access to and can afford a gym, if going to the gym sounds like something they want to do, and if they are interested in movement as a path to health.  “Join the gym, become more active, and then you lose weight”.   Horrible advice no matter what the circumstances-  there is no evidence to support that people will lose weight long term, in fact, there is a lot of evidence that increased activity increases health but does not lead to weight loss.  Sadly, since many gyms choose to grossly overstate what the evidence shows they can achieve, when people don’t lose weight, or when they lose it short term and then plateau and start gaining it back, they quit going to the gym (or whatever activity they picked to make them healthier) because they think it’s not “working” because they’ve been wrongly convinced by the gym that if they aren’t thinner then they aren’t healthier.

Humans are (as a group) goal-oriented. We like to know where we’re going; we like to see progress; we like to move forward. If the goal is “become more active, get healthier,” then that can work. Maybe we can walk further without getting tired, climb more stairs, lift heavier weights. Maybe something hurts less, or stops hurting. Maybe anxiety decreases and brain weasels shut up. Or maybe we are just more cheerful and enjoy life more.

But since weight loss for any length of time is not achievable for most people, it works against making the changes that have a fine chance of making our bodies feel well in one way or another.

The other thing we hate about dieting for weight loss is that it discourages us from listening to our bodies, from noticing changes, from appreciating success. It reduces everything to numbers. If you’ve ever said, or heard someone say, “I need to lose 7-1/2 pounds,” when you know perfectly well that your weight changes more than half a pound in the course of the day, then this is obvious. But it’s equally true if the number in your head is 40 pounds, or 150. Obsession with numbers gets in the way of seeing/feeling what’s actually changing.

So don’t watch your weight. Smash the scale. Listen to your body, and do what feels good.

New Year’s Resolutions: Lose Fat Hatred

Laurie and Debbie say:

Happy New Year!

We’ve been big fans of s.e. smith at This Ain’t Livin’ for a long time, so it’s great to have such a timely post to write about. In the maelstrom of New Year’s resolutions, she wants us all to remember:

Fat hatred kills. It kills every day in insidious, sneaky ways, and every January, the dieting resolutions are a reminder of how fat hatred kills, by creating such intense social pressure to lose weight. Some of the people pushing their bodies in the coming days and weeks may push them too far. Some people consumed in self hate may turn to more aggressive measures when their weight loss doesn’t go fast enough, like eating disorders and excessive exercise, or invasive surgical procedures to completely reroute their digestive tracts so they can’t absorb nutrients properly.

Others may push the people around them into bad places; the parent who stresses out a teenager, for example, with constant dieting and exercise talk and statements about how fat is disgusting. The ‘pacts’ to lose weight in the new year where people may become competitive, or may goad and push each other into dangerous activities. When one partner loses more weight more quickly than the other because of quirks of biology, metabolism, life, bodies, it suddenly becomes a measure of personal worth instead of a fact of life. The person who keeps the weight off by force of will, by radically cutting calories and exercising aggressively, becomes a figure of hatred and envy while the person who gains the weight back is ‘disgusting.’

Read the rest; it’s all this good.

It got us to thinking about several things: first of all, how New Year’s resolutions have a tendency to be slightly disguised lists of what we don’t like about ourselves. The whole standard list of resolutions–not just “lose weight,” but “cleaner house,” “more organized,” “finish my novel” and so many more–are really rephrased self-criticisms. They sound all virtuous and improving, and it’s a little too easy to ignore the ways in which they encourage us to undermine ourselves.

Second, the specific “lose weight” resolution has a nasty unintended consequence. Because losing weight, and keeping it off, is so extraordinarily difficult (and for some people, impossible without major intervention), it’s a resolution with an especially high failure rate. (Don’t believe losing weight is difficult? See this recent article, or Gina Kolata’s brilliant Rethinking Thin, among many other sources.) Resolutions to do things that actually affect your health and can be not only easy but pleasant, like eating more vegetables and getting more exercise, are a lot more effective in improving your life. Since the giant cultural push is to frame those things in terms of “losing weight,” people who don’t succeed at weight loss are more likely to go back to junk food and couch surfing because they feel like failures, while they might actually make real change if they picked more achievable goals.

Finally, s.e. smith is so articulate about how fat hatred kills that she doesn’t have to move to the next step: hatred kills. Being hated and oppressed is a key factor in life expectancy, health, and quality of life. And hating isn’t good for a person either. Fat hatred doesn’t just kill because it’s fat hatred; it kills because it’s hatred.