I have a confession to make: I am not body positive.
I try to be kind to myself. After years of struggling with eating and exercise, I’m at a place where I can go through a day without panicking about calories and how much time I spend on the treadmill. I have a gym routine that makes me feel happy. I can sort through negative self-talk at mealtimes (for the most part).
January is difficult for me, though. It’s not just that it’s the month of self-flagellation and diets and discounted gym memberships. It also marks the anniversary of a support group ganging up on me, which led me to leave them and never engaging with BoPo ever again.
I don’t regret the decision, by the way. I appreciate the support I received and the lessons I learned. Truly. I even remained a member of the group so that none of the posts that I made (with the accompanying discussions and resource sharing) remained visible for as long as needed. But the experience taught me a lot about boundaries and healthy ways of dealing with stress.
If, like me, you struggle with your body but you don’t fulfill the criteria for an “eating disorder,” don’t fret. Here are a few strategies that help you get through January:
1. Block specific kinds of content in advance.
If something brings you down, then go out of your way to block it from your view.. Around January 1st, I usually put out a message along the lines of, “This month is hard for me, I’m blocking fitness and diet content, thank you for understanding.” Non-assholes get it and remember to invite me to events separately. Assholes get blocked and stay blocked. It makes life so much better.
2. Find a non-fitness hobby.
This year, I think I’ll try my hand at sewing. Last time, I got on the knitting bandwagon. I never get very far with these projects, but I stay strong, and usually by the time I give up, the January rush hour in my gym has passed and I can get back into my routines without worry. Plus, you might just end up with a life-long hobby.
3. Think of a non-food related goal you want to achieve this year.
Wanna go on a trip? Write a ten-part fantasy epic? Read your TBR pile? (Okay, fine, I know the last one is impossible, but you can try!) Use the January momentum to put in the groundwork for that, whatever it might be. Get your mind off eating habits.
4. Find a non-competitive way to move.
Downloading cool music to dance to in your room or going for a walk in the park are good ways to get moving without it turning into a giant competition. I like a half-marathon as much as the next runner, but it’s not necessary to sign up for one and start training as soon as the year starts. Long-term fitness goals are built steadily over time. Consistency is what matters, not riding the hype train.
5. Keep your eyes on your own plate.
I’ll say it again for good measure: Eyes on your own plate. What your colleagues and friends do is their business. They are not dieting AT you – you are not obliged to join in. Don’t allow their choices to make you judge your own body.
6. Resist classifying food as “good” or “bad.”
Some meals may be more nutritious than others, but assigning subjective values like “clean” or “good” or “naughty” is counter-productive. Even if others do it, you can resist the lazy typification and focus on the facts. Sweets are tasty and calorie-dense. Vegetables are high in vitamins. Lentils may need a bit of tomato sauce, but they’re rich in fiber, which is a recommended part of a balanced diet. Stay factual and you’ll be surprised how quickly other people follow along.
Remember, the goal here isn’t to convince anybody that you are right and they are wrong. The goal is to not stress yourself out when every single media outlet is trying to get you to buy unsustainable weight loss plans and laxative tea. You (and your body) deserve some peace of mind, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.