Lose the diet, not the weight: how to be body-confident

It has commenced. The dubbed as ‘national diet month’ by podcast-host Julie Duffy Dillon is here. And this year the typical post-Christmas persuasions come hand in hand with an additional array of lockdowns and restrictions. It seems that even when the world is out of control, you have to stay on track with the scale.

A yearly ritual, around this time, people attempt to fulfil their newly committed vows. “Doing more exercise or improving fitness”. “Losing weight”. “Improving my diet”. These have been the top resolutions two years in a row according to YouGov. All-health related, they ultimately highlight our diet-obsessed culture, one that carelessly pushes people into fitting a cookie-cutter standard. This year, my resolution is to lose the diet and not the weight. 

Health should be among our top priorities. But the way we approach this is vital.

Duffy Dillon puts “respect” as the foundation on the context of ‘food peace’, but I think this is also the foundation to be confident about your body post-Christmas. Respect for our bodies. “Not necessarily loving your body, which, may happen at some point but it’s moving to a place where you are respecting [it]”. She proceeds to highlight it’s also challenging the lies told to us “as not a means to live our lives”.

“The Love Food Podcast” Credit: Green Mountain at Fox Run

If you want to complete any health-related new year’s resolutions it should be for your right reasons, not because you feel compelled to. Googling “how to get a…” I feel like I’m getting a caricature. “…thigh gap”. “… flat stomach”. “… six-pack”. “… bigger bum”. “…smaller waist”. Of course, these are individual searches, but together they represent an idealised canon of beauty. Some people may hold all those characteristics. But for others, it’s just not their natural features. Recognising this is essential to be confident about your body, that it may just not be our genetics, that bodies are diverse, and we have been heavily exposed to a few that fit the standard. I’m never going to get a thigh gap because that is just not my genetics. I may be able to get a flat stomach (will I ever know because I never seem to keep up with Chloe Ting’s shred challenge). But confidence needs to be there either way because unlike the magazines we grew up seeing told us, science says a flat stomach is not the norm. It doesn’t need to be the goal. And you certainly don’t need one to be ‘summer-ready’.

But like I mentioned, we have been told otherwise for years. Which is why we need to exercise our mind and speak kinder to ourselves. If we catch ourselves thinking something negative about our body, we can combat it by thinking of a feature we do like. We need to acknowledge that our bodies have gotten us through lockdowns, let us rest, celebrate, move around. And I know, it’s cliché, but we need to remind ourselves our bodies are not perfect and that’s okay. Despite multi-billion-dollar businesses having hijacked this. And despite, as Sarah Doyle told Image, “[them having] invested a lot of money into keeping our insecurities in fashion” we can step away from it and walk into gratitude.

“a love note to my body:

first of all,

I want to say

thank you.

for the heart you kept beating

even when it was broken

for every answer you gave me in my gut

for loving me back

even when I didn’t know how to love you

for every time you recovered when I pushed you past our limits

for today,

for waking up.”

From Heart Talk: The Journal by Cleo Wade

To move from words to actions, which go hand in hand, self-care is key. Whatever that means to you. Maybe it is quiet meditation or a fast-paced Zumba class. Taking that lockdown walk and watching the sunset after a hike (sunrise for the early birds). Taking care of your mental health is essential, and it will have a direct impact on your relationship with your body. As activist Dianne Bondy shared on the Food Heaven podcast, we need to redefine what exercise looks like, turning it into what is branded as a “joyful movement”. “Not seeking any kind of aesthetic,” but mentioning how it has been helpful for her to burn off energy and get through lockdown. Find what works for you, and start the new year embracing a new lifestyle, kicking off or continuing your journey towards body confidence.

Resources for a further look into body confidence and body positivity (including quoted)
  • The Love Food Podcast, Julie Duffy Dillon (Mentioned EPs.: 191, 193)
  • Heart Talk: The Journal, Cleo Wade
  • Food Heaven Podcast, Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez (Mentioned EP.: Joyful Movement for People Who Don’t Like Exercise, w/ Dianne Bondy)
  • Plastic Bodies (2003) Sheila Pree Bright, a photography series where she explores cultural beauty standards through the Barbie doll, particularly focusing on its impact on women of colour. Via The Huffington Post
  • #LoseHateNotWeight, campaign started by body-positive activist and author Virgie Tovar

Header image credit: Kate Emmenegger