Hooray! It’s January! The time of year where everywhere you look, there is the typical ‘new year, new me’ rhetoric, which usually means finding reasons to beat yourself up, and going on a diet. It’s not good for us to repeat these patterns every year. A message like ‘new year new me’ implies that our current selves aren’t enough as they are. That, plus the bombardment of diet talk and weight loss tips around this time of year end up making us feel like our bodies are not good enough either.
So, how can we combat this? How can we stick two fingers up at diet culture, beauty standards, and a society that tells us we’re not good enough? It’s hard work, and can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. So I’ve put together some top tips and reminders to help you beat the January blues.
1. Unfollow people who make you feel bad about yourself.
We spend so many hours a day scrolling through our feeds on Insta, but how often do we actually take note of the people we follow? If you find yourself scrolling down someone’s feed thinking ‘I wish I were as skinny/pretty/cool as them’ or ‘I wish my life was like that’, just unfollow them (or mute their stories/posts, which is just as effective!). If we keep engaging with media that makes us feel bad, that’s only going to make us feel bad too.
Start following people who post things that really help you, or people with a similar body shape to you. I started following body positive activists, fat activists, and therapists on Instagram who have really contributed to helping me heal my relationship with my body. They teach me something new every day!
2. Remember: hating our bodies is something we learn.
When I learnt this, my mind was BLOWN. Here’s an example: cellulite. In the 19th century, cellulite was just a general term applied to cells, and had nothing to do with dimpling or fat. In 1933, a magazine called Votre Beauté featured an article which changed the definition to ‘water, residues, toxins, fat, which form a mixture against one is badly armed’.
In 1968, cellulite’s definition was changed forever, thanks to a little ol’ magazine you may have heard of called Vogue. They came out with the headline ‘Cellulite: The Fat You Could Not Lose Before’. It was no coincidence that this came out around the time the diet industry was BOOMING. People were thinking more about weight loss and feeling negative about fatness, and the media had successfully found something for us to feel insecure about.
Now, as a society, we spend millions on anti-cellulite treatments and creams. The media is so good at creating social norms and beauty standards that it makes us not even question where they came from, and why they exist. This is just one example of how the world around us teaches us what to feel insecure about.
When you’re feeling down about your body, remember that it’s not a coincidence that so many of us don’t like our bodies; we’ve all been taught the same thing by the world around us.
3. Remind yourself that negative thoughts are not facts.
I know it is so easy to get caught up in our self-hating thoughts, especially for those of us who struggle with mental health issues. Our minds can be our own worst enemies sometimes, and we can pick ourselves apart better than any bully. However, so many of these thoughts are a product of the nasty things that get said to us, and the horrible things society teaches us about ourselves. The problem is that we don’t think to question these thoughts, take them as a given, and we get so bogged down by them.
When you’re in that negative state, it can be really tough to break, so if you can, try to remind yourself that the horrible things you think about yourself and your body are not facts. Michelle Elman, the creator of the Scarred Not Scared movement, once said to think of negative thoughts as clouds, and try to let them float by rather than focus on analysing them and beating yourself up with them – I always thought that was a really handy tip.
4. Clothing sizes don’t dictate your worth.
Who else has gone to one shop and been able to wear one size, and then went into another shop and that same size doesn’t even go past your legs? This happens to me ALL THE TIME and I know so many other people this happens to as well. I compared two online clothing brands online, and for one brand a size 14 was a 32” waist, and the other said a size 14 was a 30.5” waist!! I can be anything from a 14-18 depending on the shop.
It used to send me down a self-hating spiral if my clothing size went up, but now I remind myself that these numbers don’t mean anything and I buy what fits me, rather than going by what the number on the label says.
Keep an eye out for what sizing charts say if you’re shopping online, because there is no uniformity between brands when it comes to sizes. And most importantly, don’t beat yourself up for whatever clothes size you wear, and whether that number goes up or down. These numbers are arbitrary and don’t define you.
5. It’s natural and ok for your body to fluctuate.
Our bodies are in a constant state of flux. When I was in the worst stage of my body image issues, I would weigh myself multiple times a day, and get so upset when I had gained weight by the end of the day. I would wake up and my weight would be different again. I mean think about it – we bloat after eating, and when bloated our bodies can look totally different.
Our bodies are never going to stay the same, and that’s ok! It’s ok to gain weight. It’s ok for your body to change. It can be scary, and it can unsettle us, but it’s just our bodies doing their thing.
6. Your self worth is non-negotiable.
Your self worth does not depend on your size, your gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity or ability. You are ALWAYS enough. And you don’t need to change your outside or try to fit in, in order to be enough either. I promise you that.