How do I deal with the onslaught of New Year New You weight loss obsession bullshit?
I want to bring you into my private life – my “bubble” – for a second, ok?
My little bubble, if it had a name, would probably be called the Island of Fat Power Babes. And on this island, life makes sense to me: I don’t have a strange and awful relationship to food. I don’t count calories or stare at cake. I make Miss Piggy shaped cookies with my boyfriend’s mom. Diets are seen as the evil and sexist misery-machines that they truly are and pretty much everyone is a feminist with excellent taste in whiskey and/or shoes.
And then I walk outside of my bubble, into a diet-obsessed culture, and life not only seems a lil shittier, but it also seems completely nonsensical, like I have entered a world of suck and no one else seems to be able to see it.
Like the Twilight Zone.
And New Years is like the peak Twilight Zone experience, like the Burning Man of Bullshit Town.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a group of kinesiology students and I asked them about the gym industry. I’d heard that the financial model of gyms not only expects but actually REQUIRES that people not use their memberships. I asked them: would the gym industry as we know it fall apart if people went to the gym regularly, after the first 3 weeks of January? The answer: YES.
According to an admittedly 5-year-old article, New Years is the “Black Friday” for gyms:
“…about 60 percent of gym memberships go unused” according to ABC News and another source said it was closer to 75%.
To me, this gym story is like an allegory for New Years bullshit. There’s something intense about the wretched hypocrisy and clear ridiculousness of it all.
So, here are some recommendations for dealing:
1. Take a step back
My twilight zone example is kind of a cognitive trick – pushing myself to question the world or culture I inhabit and to see it with the eyes of an outsider. This is what anthropologists and sociologists do. One of my favorite tools is imagining myself as that anthropologist or sociologist who was sent into diet culture to write about it, examine it and offer analysis to bring back to my home – Bitch Planet. This trick has helped me to create distance from otherwise fucked-up and hurtful realities. Imagine the weirdness that overtakes the culture around New Years as a subculture you were sent here to explore. It is not YOUR culture. It simply is A culture. Try and observe with a modicum (or more) of detachment, and allow yourself to see the absurdity of it.
2. Repurpose New Years
I LOVE creating rituals that help me reframe how I deal with something I hate. It is admittedly pretty hard to avoid dealing with the New Years Industrial Complex, but don’t let that stop you from creating a new ritual that you like. Globally there are probably hundreds of ways that people celebrate the beginning of a new year, and many (most?) of them have nothing to do with weight loss. Create a body love advent calendar just for January. Do something you absolutely love on New Years Eve. Make a zine or cross stitch a lovely portrait of your genitals. The possibilities are endless.
3. Remind yourself it won’t last forever
I’ve given this piece of advice for #DearVirgie before, and I will continue to keep giving it with impunity because it’s just that important. My therapist taught me this mantra:
This is unpleasant, but it will not last forever.
Now say it with me: this is unpleasant, but it will not last forever.
It works for almost any unfortunate situation. So keep it in a special compartment in your mind-purse throughout January.
4. Treat your precious time like it’s your precious time
It’s ok to go into self-protection mode if you know that New Years is going to be hard for you. Take a little extra time to manage the people and elements in your life that make you the most stressed out. Make more time for decompression. Manage the time you spend with people and make sure the people you choose to spend this time with are people who care about you and aren’t slinging weight loss resolutions. Maybe avoid that Hulu show or magazine that makes you feel a little lonely or failure-y. Cut time spent on social media in half. In short, you have the right to treat your time and emotions like they’re valuable, especially when you’re feeling tender.
Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, MA, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.