It’s becoming a bit of a tradition this – my new year post. The one that says be a little kinder to yourself, and don’t push too hard. But in this world of ‘skinny coffee’ and ‘3 important ways to lose belly fat’ and gym adverts on the telly just as soon as the clock veers past midnight on 31 December, it still feels like we need a reminder.
So first things first:
- Detoxing IS NOT A THING. You can aid your bodies own detoxing systems (liver, kidneys, pancreas), but putting a laxative filled teabag in a cup of hot water, or a patch on the soles of your feet and expecting it to rid you of the guilt you feel about eating lots of sweet stodgy stuff and drinking loads isn’t going to happen. Nor is a face mask, smoothie or a week on a spin bike going to remove that feeling. Only you can do that by absolving yourself of that guilt because you bloody loved that tin of Quality Street really didn’t you? You enjoyed it. And you’ll do exactly the same next year.
- The diet industry is a mean fucker. Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Skinny Tea/Coffee, Jenny Craig etc etc, sit there and wait. Wait til you are feeling tired, sluggish and hungover after the break and then show you two pictures. Look at them. Really look at them. The person in the before image is slouchy, grey faced, tired looking, bags under their eyes, no make up, hair drab and limp. Sure they might have a tummy, but is it that much different in the next picture? Or are they just standing up straight, topped up with fake tan, make up, hair did, and wearing a nice dress? This is how they get you. It used to be the massive difference pictures where someone has lost loads of weight. Now it’s far more subtle – mostly because they’re using social media and influencers who just have to chuck on some spanx, visit their beautician and look massively different. Achievable in a couple of hours.
For all of the above I’m not saying don’t eat better, be better, do stuff. You want to eat broccoli for tea, you go ahead and do that. You want to lose weight, sure, your body, you do that. Challenge yourself to veganuary, learn a language, train to run a marathon, take up something new. Go for it. But whatever it is, make it achievable. Make it fun. Look into intuitive eating – learning your body’s cues as opposed to punishing yourself by restricting your dietary calories to that of a four year old. Move more – find something you enjoy doing and do it more often. Swim, dance, find a yoga class, chuck on a pair of trainers, download a podcast and go for a walk in the park. Food and exercise are not a punishment. They are ways of showing your body that you’re taking care of it, and for you to enjoy doing. Found yourself in a rut of same old, same old? Change it. Only you can. New job, new hobby, find something that interests you and, well, do it.
If you do want to lose weight and go through a strict diet, be aware that not everybody wants or needs to know about it. People are finally beginning to realise that they are worth more than the numbers of the scale, and your Facebook post talking about it can easily move people into old habits. It’s insidious. I’ve been working the last 6 months to fix my metabolism after it’s been completely ruined by consistent restriction. I’ve put on weight, no bones about it. But I’m OK with that, because I haven’t been eating the calories my body has needed to exist properly for years. I’ve been functioning on far less than my body needed, and it’s had all sorts of impacts. At one point it looked like I was going into early menopause, but I upped my calories and my protein and, suddenly, I’m normal. I’ve been told it could take years to fix the problem, but I’m working on it by unlearning all the diet industry has been pushing into my head for the last forty years.
But every time someone talks diet in my social media feed, I feel that guilt kicking back in, that little voice. You need to lose weight. You’re too fat. And those habits come back. I find myself subconsciously restricting foods. I mean I don’t need all that on my plate do I? I’m not going to eat it all. That would be bad. Naughty. Wrong. All those negative emotions come back. It reinforces the idea that if I’m fatter than you, my existence means less than yours. That if you’re fat, you’re worthless to society. And that’s a message you’re putting out to everyone in your world.
As I spoke about last year, I’ve learned to filter my feed. So if your first post on Facebook in January was ‘I need to lose weight’ (and yes, there were a few I saw as soon as I opened my phone on 1 January), I’m afraid I unfollowed you. Muted you. I still love you, but I’m working through my own diet related hangups and yours are too much for me to carry too.
Please. Be aware of your impact on others.
Away from all that negativity – I feel like I’ve just poured black tar from my finger tips – there are so many positive things you can do. As I said above, make changes, make them positive ones. Let go of the guilt. Let go of the shame.
And if you don’t want to change anything, don’t. Either way, you’re already pretty damn awesome as you are.