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Gray January skies can be depressing!

As I look out at the cold gray skies of early January I’m thinking about all the people beginning 2011 with a renewed resolve to lose weight, eat less fat and sugar, and exercise more and I’m feeling a deep sadness. I know from my work as a therapist and also from personal experience, how unlikely most people are to follow through on New Year’s resolutions about food and weight, particularly people who live in colder climates.

It wasn’t so long ago that extra weight at this time of year was desirable and helped us to survive the winters when fresh produce was less plentiful. It was natural to eat the starchy foods of the late autumn harvests and to hunker down in front of the fire for the duration. But that was before electricity created the availability of 24 hours of simulated daylight and before our local grocery stores carried organic lettuce and fresh lemons 365 days a year. Even if we still feel the ancient pull to hibernate with our bellies full of carbs, there’s no excuse not to get to the gym after work and have a salad for dinner. In other words, no excuse for not being thin.

Almost every woman I know has been battling with food since they were teenaged girls. Most women are not naturally skinny and while not fat by any means, they don’t have the wispy-willow, blown away by a puff of wind, kind of bodies that we have been brainwashed by the media to believe are most attractive. Many women’s natural bodies always want to be at least a few pounds heavier than they want them to be and they valiantly fight skirmish after skirmish with anywhere from 2-25 lbs. And as we age, it becomes harder and harder to win these battles but most of us can’t seem to just give up the fight and accept ourselves the way we naturally are and simply enjoy eating good food.

I often wonder what life would be like if our culture didn’t value thinness so highly. If we could be considered lovely in all the various sizes and shapes our bodies naturally are as opposed to being programmed to believe that only wafer thin is truly beautiful. We all know that obesity is a growing problem in the US and I’m certainly not advocating ignoring the health risks of a serious weight issue, but there’s a wide gap between a size 0 and a health risking weight problem. And I’m not talking about people with serious food addiction, eating disorders, or survivors of sexual trauma who gain weight trying become invisible. Those are different categories and I know these are difficult issues to untangle, but here I’m talking about folks who simply enjoy delicious food but feel constantly tortured by culturally skewed body image issues.

The average woman (or man) does not even come near to today’s standard of beauty naturally. We diet and exercise, and torture ourselves trying to come as close as we can to what we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking is valued and attractive. For many, when failure to achieve the standard norm is inevitable, surrender seems the only choice and then the fat wins. But most of us fight the good fight, at least to some degree, never willing to wave the white flag but also never winning the war. When New Years rolls around (or Monday, or a significant birthday, etc.) we take up the banner again and vow to attack the fat with a vengeance, mostly to be defeated by the first offer of something scrumptious to eat.

This year, I invite you to join me in saying NO to an unreasonable resolution to be thin. Let’s support each other in accepting our bodies’ natural beauty in all the various shapes and sizes that are healthy. Let’s say NO to buying into the Western culture’s distorted message about the value of extreme thinness and YES to good health and a deep appreciation for the rich bounty that is available to us. Let’s surrender and finally win this thing!

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