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As a woman who has struggled with body image issues for years, January tends to be a difficult time. It feels like every advert you see is for some weight loss diet or new "get fit quick" app, and it’s harder than ever to look at your body and feel acceptance.
The society we live in places a premium on beauty and on thinness, and if you are lacking in either, you’re simply... lacking. Most people will agree that beauty is subjective, and yet still it feels like every face in the magazines is a variation on the same theme. This ideal that somehow we’re supposed to measure up to, despite how much it’s been cropped and airbrushed and posed.
So when January rolls around and everyone’s making their New Year’s Resolutions, there’s a boom in people getting fit or getting thin or going on a diet. People pay for gym memberships there’s a good chance they won’t use come February. They order diet books and download fitness and weight tracking apps. And for those of us struggling to love the body we’ve got, just the way it is, everything becomes just a little more strained.
Because my body is not wrong. My body keeps me alive, my body keeps me warm or cool as needed, my body does its job, and what more can I ask?
I know the argument gets used that "of course it’s natural that we want to look appealing because it’s human nature to want to procreate" but the thing is procreation has very little to do with modern beauty standards. My wide hips have done me very little good after all.
The other argument is that it’s not about appearances, it’s about health. Which is fair enough. But there’s not much about someone’s general health that you can know just by looking at them. And athletes come in all body shapes and sizes and no one’s going to accuse them of being unhealthy now, are they?
What it comes down to is the culture we’ve let ourselves be drawn into of idolising celebrities and what we see on screens, and trying to emulate them (Instagram has not helped with this one bit, but don’t even get me started on that).
The body needs fuel to survive (of course not all fuels are equal and I’m not suggesting that man can survive on chicken nuggets alone; you’re gonna have to throw some vegetables in there) and fad diets aren’t going to work in the long run. They’re just going to make you tired as your body tries to work without the right nutrients. And sure exercise is great, get those endorphins, but is exercise as a punishment or a chore really going to make you happy? There are ways of getting your exercise in without forcing yourself to the gym or on a cold morning run (although if you’re fond of the gym or cold morning runs, then you do you. I can't say I mind early morning runs much myself).
I think it’s far more important this January to make time for the things and the people that make you happy, and to get rid of the things that are making you miserable. Making healthier choices can be about cutting down on the number of takeaways, but it can also be more about not punishing yourself for the way you look and instead embracing yourself as the person you are, exactly the way you are.
So my New Year's Resolution this year is to spend more time with my family, and to love myself a little more.