And What If I Don’t Want to Diet?

Sofia Weiss 17 January 2019
Image Credit: LibreShot

In our society, weight-loss propaganda is ubiquitous; however, I find that it abounds with particular intensity at this time of year, as if in the air itself there hangs an accusatory ‘you should lose weight’. Whether intermittent fasting, ketogenic or raw food diets, we’re encouraged at every street corner and by every online advertisement to adopt the ‘new year, new you’ maxim by diminishing an integral part of ourselves: our weight.

To me, this seems very much a thinly-veiled market manipulation of the human psyche at a time when it is vulnerable, particularly regarding its perception of the body. Yes, almost all of us engage in a joyous month of festive overindulgence over Christmas, for which we feel a little sluggish and a little tired in the New Year; but we absolutely should not have to add ‘a little – let alone very – guilty’ to this collection of adjectives. Equally, we should not face a barrage of media inviting us to reinvent ourselves. Restrictive eating, over-exercise, and an ultimately dwindling body mass are not passports to contentment, rather one-way tickets to desperation – I speak as a verified source.

There is, however, another way. This year we can give ourselves one final gift: that of permission to stay as we are, and perhaps even work to have healthier, more functional and even joyous relationships with our food and our bodies. Having lived for years with a very much antithetical attitude to both of these, I’ve pondered for many hours about this may best we achieved. My conclusions are two-fold.

First, I’d argue that the term ‘body positivity’ is either a misnomer, or an over-stretch – it is not only exceedingly difficult to be ‘positive’ about our bodies when we are conditioned to a culture that relentlessly demands aesthetic ‘perfection’ (which itself has the narrowest of definitions), but it also misses the point. The utility of our bodies lies not in their form, but in their function; they are the vehicles through which life can be lived, and enjoyed – not pieces to stand in a museum. To this end, the body revolution we need is one of learning to accept what our bodies look like, and shifting our focus to maximising what we can do with them. Therein, we can reframe acts such as balanced eating and moderate exercise as being for our wellbeing, so as to allow us to truly take advantage of what we are capable of, using our body as the effector. Getting healthy then stops being coded language for looking healthy, and begins to adopt a kinder – and frankly more important – character: taking steps to care for oneself.

Secondly, unless you stole the food, eating is not a moral dilemma. Even labelling items as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is unhelpful; apples are not ingested with more righteousness than muffins. Alas, these ways of talking are so embedded in our culture that it is tempting to think that they are both harmless and natural. In fact, they are neither. We should be more mindful of the language we use and wrongly moralistic buzz-words with reference to both our food, and our shape; maybe this can be the New Year’s resolution.

Our relationships with food and our bodies are two of the first we ever have, and certainly two of the most intimate and long-lasting. This January, chose to respect them by sprinting away from unhealthy rhetoric & offers. The promised land is accepting yourself as you are, flaws and all. It always will be.