Hello, friends, and welcome to 2020! While I love the fresh start that January of a new year brings, and the renewed sense of purpose people feel as they purchase a new calendar, the first month of the New Year always fills me with dread. Not because of the frigid cold that January brings. Not because I’m guaranteed to date every document with the previous year’s date instead of the current year (though I will probably date everything as 2019 until at least March). I hate January because of one simple reason.
That’s right, y’all. Buckle in because I’m about to go on a rant about diet culture.
Every January is the same—our senses are bombarded with messages about feeling guilty for whatever we did or ate during the holiday season. Ads lecture us on television about losing x amount of pounds in x amount of weeks. Magazine covers shout loudly to us in checkout aisles about diets and making ourselves smaller. It’s inescapable. At best, it’s annoying. But at worst, it’s doing some serious damage to our mental health as a society. It’s bad enough that the dwindling daylight hours have depressive effects on us, but to couple that with the constant barrage of ads telling us our bodies (and by extension, we) aren’t good enough? Well, that’s just a recipe for disaster.
And the problem is that somehow, through sinister means from the CEOs of the diet industry, our value has been inextricably tied to the way in which our bodies are viewed and accepted by society. We are expected to be thin but also strong, with big butts and a thigh gap, straight blonde hair that is also effortlessly wavy and big boobs but small waists and perfect skin without a trace of makeup. And if we aren’t? It’s made to seem like we aren’t trying hard enough, like we are less than. Social media has exacerbated our body anxiety, offering us curated photo after photo of blonde, white women in leggings holding acai bowls telling us that it isn’t that hard to look the way they do. And we believe them. Because why wouldn’t we? Our whole lives, we have been told this lie. It’s so entrenched in our brains that we can’t see how absolutely absurd this ask is from society. It’s just fact.
So every January, we start again. No carbs. Or no sugar. No alcohol. Go to the gym five times a week. Lose ten pounds. We make resolution after resolution in an attempt to change our bodies to look the way they are “supposed to look.” And inevitably, we fail, because those bodies we see in the media? They aren’t real. They’re photoshopped and airbrushed to the point that they barely resemble the original.
And when we fail, it’s our fault. We didn’t try hard enough. We have no willpower. We suck.
WHY. Why are we worth less simply because we weren’t able to shrink ourselves to fit the box society build for us? I mean, how is this our fault? Diets aren’t meant to work. If you think about it, if these diets were supposed to work, how would the diet industry be making money off of us? We’d diet and be done. And yet we are stuck in this yo-yo, this hamster wheel, unable to get off for fear of…what, exactly? Not fitting the mold? Why are our bodies not good enough as they are?
Well, no more. I refuse to ring in another January trying to take up less space. In fact, I’m going to take up all the space I possibly can and I will own it. Life is short and I will not spend my days obsessing over numbers on a scale and tags on clothing. Some of the most beautiful people I know aren’t beautiful because of the size of their jeans but because of the depth of their souls, and I refuse to compromise my inner beauty for the sake of whatever arbitrary “outer beauty” is trendy these days. My body is my home, and I will love and protect it.
No Diet 2020, here I come.
Kristy Cloetingh is a Philadelphia native who is currently trying to figure out her place in the world. Her passions include reading, singing, dancing, nature, yoga, chicken fingers, and puppies. An anorexia survivor and mental health warrior, Kristy has made it her life’s mission to remind every single person that their bodies and minds are worthy of unconditional love and respect, regardless of size, shape, or whatever “normal” is.