As we come into the new year, the time of New Year’s Resolutions comes around. While in some cases these can be very helpful, and allow you to break a bad habit or start up a new activity, often resolutions focus on changing the way we look, usually through dieting of some kind. Resolutions such as ‘lose 10 pounds’ or ‘cut out carbs’ are common and the idea that we will be better off if we are thinner or eating better is encouraged. This can be very dangerous and although there has been a huge growth in the body positivity movement in the past couple of years, more needs to be done to stop this damaging culture that we must lose weight in order to be happy.
The idea of New Year’s Resolutions is to change oneself for the better in the new year. Whilst this in itself is not a bad thing, and many resolutions can be positive changes such as quitting smoking or giving more to charity, the idea can also give rise to a damaging narrative that says that you are not enough, and so you must change things about you in order to be better. When these are focused on weight loss or bodily appearance, this can be even more dangerous. The idea that the less you weigh the happier you will become also adds to the damaging culture of fat-shaming and pressuring people into wanting to change their appearance when they don’t need to. It also makes the focus looking better rather than feeling better.
This is especially damaging for children and young people, as being brought up on the idea that we must pick something we don’t like about ourselves and change it each year can give issues such as eating disorders and low self-esteem the fuel they need to develop in a young person. Resolutions such as needing to work off the ‘Christmas weight’ also add to the unhealthy view that in order to enjoy ourselves at Christmas time, we must then be extra strict afterwards. As if enjoying yourself and eating too much cheese at Christmas is something that must be earned.
The pressure of New Years Resolutions can be hard to ignore and when people are always asking what you are going to give up this year, it is easy to see why so many people make resolutions. But when most people fail at achieving the resolution, if it was focused on body issues and appearance this can make us feel even worse. Rather than losing weight like we wanted to, we end up failing at our goal and this negativity is then reflected on our sense of self. We start to view our bodies in this negative light, having failed to lose the ‘Christmas weight’ and continually vowing to start a new diet or exercise regime. Therefore, rather than the desired effect of losing weight in the new year, we begin to obsess over the fact that we haven’t been that successful.
Obviously, in some cases, a resolution to lose weight or get a bit fitter is completely fine. As long as your goal is realistic, and set out for the right reasons, it can be beneficial to your health to start a new exercise regime or diet and is not necessarily a bad thing. The important thing to remember is that the aim of the resolution should be to improve body positivity and embrace our bodies for what they can do, rather than focusing on, and trying to eliminate, any flaws.
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