Every year, as December comes to a close and January nears, our collective thoughts turn to new beginnings, resolutions and often, self-improvement. And for so many people, that means making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. For as long as I can recall, my yearly resolutions have been just that.
For weeks now, gyms and health clubs have been advertising membership specials. Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers ads are everywhere. And you probably know at least one diet and fitness “coach” who is starting up a workout challenge this month. And while I firmly believe that health and physical fitness is an honorable (and important!) goal, it’s never really been about that for me. Sure, I’ve made goals in years past to “get to the gym more often” or to finish a “workout challenge.” But the end goal is always the same: Become thinner, leaner, smaller.
Something about this hyper-focus on weight loss just doesn’t sit well with me these days, and I blame that change on the fact that I have three little sets of ears and eyes always paying attention to me and learning from example. My children are all still young – my son is 5 and my daughters are 2. But I’m already starting to see the ways that societal norms and pressures can sneak into their little minds. There is, and has long been, a pervasive pressure on young people – particularly girls – to look a certain way in order to be deemed “acceptable” or to “fit in.”
When I think back to my childhood, I know this is nothing new. I can remember looking through teen magazines and wishing that I was as tall and thin as the beautiful girls pictured in the pages. Never a very slender person, I went through what some would describe as an awkward phase as a girl. I was overweight, with thick glasses and mousy brown hair, and I was vividly aware of all the ways in which I believed my outward appearance to be lacking. I still vividly recall the first time a classmate made a nasty comment about my weight.
Thankfully, as I grew older I gained confidence, and learned to surround myself with better friends. But even with that awkward phase behind me, those feelings of inadequacy were hard to shake. And although I like to think I’ve shed most of my hang-ups and become a much more confident person overall, it’s painful to remember how I felt back then. It’s painful to think about how much time I wasted worrying about something that had so little to do with my worth as a human being. And this is something I do not want for my children. Tall or short, slim or not, I don’t ever want them to tie their sense of worth to a number on the scale or a size off the rack. They are so much more than that. We are all so much more than that.
So this year, I’m ditching the weight loss resolutions for good. This year, I’m resolving instead to spend more time outside, to breathe more fresh air and soak up more sunshine. I’m resolving to be kinder to others, and to myself. And most importantly, I’m resolving to teach my children that the most fulfilling things in life stem not from the size or shape of your body but from the goodness and love in your heart.