Before Christmas has even properly begun, “New Year, New Me!” is a phrase frequently heard as soon as December hits. The post Christmas ‘urgh’ is inevitably close – that feeling of bloat and uncomfortably after a week of hearty home cooking, biscuit tins, cold nights and duvet days.
Social networks have been plagued by lists of New Year’s Resolutions; the most frequent contender on my girlfriends list’s are “Get in shape”, “Get my eighteen year old body back”, “Summer body” and “Lose weight”. Often included is a photo of a Victoria Secret model on a beach looking AMAZING. It’s great to feel inspired and motivated after the holidays to start / get back into shape, but it will not happen over night, and there is no secret or quick-slim solution. I think what we really need is to re-think our goals.
Go into a newsagents and pick up any magazine – chances are, the front cover will be littered with images of female celebrities with headlines concerned with their appearance; whether it’s “Cheryl’s New Hair!”, “Victoria’s Skin Secret!”, or, perhaps the most concerning, “Reality-TV-Star puts on weight!”. Yet the same magazines feature pages upon pages of ‘perfect’ woman, with tiny waists, flawless skin, glossy hair, legs like giraffes and Hollywood smiles.
We compare ourselves to these women. But these women are not real. They may be pretty or even beautiful in real life, but these images have been tweaked to this perfection. When women look at these images, something in their brain says “I need to look like that.” This sort of perfection is impossible to achieve until some science genius invents a real life Photoshop machine. On top of this, when we see a teeny tiny skinny mini, chances are she has worked extremely hard for her body – whether she’s worked out a lot and eaten very well, or she’s been very un healthy with it (please don’t go down that route, it’s definitely not worth it).
All women (and men) have different body types. We come in many different shapes and sizes. In most cases, no amount of exercise, dieting or starving will change your genetic make-up. If you are holding onto a little extra padding, of course eating right and exercise will help you lose it. The naturally skinny women are the minority. The average dress size for women in the UK is a 14. Research has confirmed that it is more difficult for women to shed the pounds than men, because women’s bodies are simply more efficient at storing fat. It’s nature.
We women need to change the way we think about our bodies, our weight and this idea of ‘perfection’. We need to set ourselves realistic goals and concentrate less on our weight or size (unless you are unhealthily below or above your BMI) – and focus on our health, shape and happiness.
The best way to get this mindset working, is to establish your body shape – whether you’re petite, an apple or pear shape, an hourglass, curvy, tall, etc etc. Now, decide what your goal is – realistically. Forget about the fad diets, they will not work in the long term and are not good for you, mentally or physically. In fact, forget the diet mentality all together. You need to make these changes for life. I’m not saying “never eat chocolate ever again, it’s evil!”, because some ‘bad’ food in moderation will not kill you. The 80/20 rule is what a lot of women live by – 80% of what you eat is healthy and nutritious and 20% is indulgence. This means that you are not deprived of food that you crave, and you are therefore less likely to binge when you tell your mind that it’s not allowed. One piece of chocolate won’t make you put on weight – but the whole box probably will.
Changing your eating habits will make you lose weight, yes. But, this shouldn’t be the priority. What matters most is your health. We need to change the false views that ‘perfection equals happiness’. It’s not real, and you will never find happiness chasing something as real as Santa Claus. It’s health that can equal happiness.
But whatever you do, do not beat yourself up about it. Food is supposed to be enjoyed while giving you energy and keeping you healthy. Do not make food your enemy. Do not make exercise a chore. Do not waste your life stressing about how you look. Do not look in the mirror and hate yourself, because hating yourself will not make you look or feel any better. All women are different, and the most beautiful woman are those that are happy and healthy and confident in their own skin.