T’is the season to binge on baked goods and alcohol, buy too much, and write resolutions for the New Year. We often look at ourselves as problems that we must desperately fix in December and January more than any other time of year. We search for the next big fitness craze or miracle diet that can help us transform into a new and improved version of ourselves. And we don’t have to look too hard because every fitness guru and weight loss company spends their annual advertising budget between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
All those ads (and let’s be honest, our inner voices as well) encourage us to see ourselves as just a “Before” trying to become an “After.” For whatever reason, we (falsely) believe that reducing our clothing size will make us feel happier… and give us better hair. But is that really true?
Choosing which fitness or diet program to commit our new year to is almost as exciting as choosing a new anti-ageing skin regime or dating app. Clicking “Sign Me Up” floods our bodies with endorphins and sunny optimism. We vibrate with the hope that we may have finally found a fitness solution that will really work. As we ring in the new year, we long for that “afterlife” all the advertisers promise their program or product will help us achieve. Oh, the outfits we will fit (back) into, the praise and admiration we’ll receive, and the endless selfie angles we can choose that will highlight our new muscle tone and cheekbones!
I remember starting my annual journey to becoming an “After” in past years. This tingly excitement would flood through me as I clicked through the online fitness programs. I would think to myself, “With this program, I can finally be one of those people. Starting January 1st, I can use (insert magic diet, fitness plan du jour) to fix all of my problems!”
But then what? Every minute until Day 1 of that new fitness program, we live the “Before” life. We neglect our self-care, inwardly loathe ourselves for all of our poor choices, and defer feeling good until the “After” shot proves we deserve nice things.
And then it’s January 1st and it begins. Full-throttle effort, muscle pain for days, calorie-restrictions and liter after liter of water. Discouragement starts to outmatch motivation within the first week. Our New Year’s fitness goals, posted on the fridge (or Instagram), change from being a banner of strength into a reminder of how we always let ourselves down.
Then it’s February, and where are we? Possibly limping along in our fitness routine but mostly back to those December levels of seeing our bodies as a problem that we can’t seem to fix and definitely don’t love.
It’s hard to be motivated to help something you hate. It’s a cycle, and it’s hard to break.
As of today, it has been two years since I have fallen into the Before and After cycle. I am the healthiest, most balanced, and peacefully happy I’ve ever been. I love my body exactly as it is. And because I love it, I care for it. I give it what it needs and wants, like a slow walk one day and a body weight routine with yoga stretches the next. My body speaks and I listen with care and curiosity. As I age, I am more grateful each day for what my body is capable of, and accept the badges of the years with grace.
My body is not a problem to be fixed. I am worthy of love and care unconditionally, not just when I achieve perfection. But most of all, I am so much more than just a “Before” trying to become an “After.” And so are you.
Make 2021 the year you take care of your body, your mind, and your spirit from a place of love. Make that your goal this year, and everything will change for the better.