What resolution or pledge could you commit to this year, which would have a momentous impact on your own health, and on others?
Alongside a promise to be kinder, and a more available listening ear to those in need, perhaps you’ll join me in being determined to eradicate the deeply harmful consequences of diet culture.
At this time of year in particular, we all know that a huge proportion of the population becomes conscious of their waistline, and perhaps eager to ‘repent’ after a period of Christmas indulgence and seasonal excess.
While there’s no harm in any of us wanting to embrace healthier routines and restore daily habits which are focused on mental and physical wellbeing, there is, sadly, a very fine line between a desire to selfimprove, and a mission to self-destruct.
Time and again in our work at Wednesday’s Child, we hear the stories of how those who fell into the grips of a devastating eating disorder, did so having initially intended to ‘shape up’, or ‘drop a couple of pounds’.
It’s not the case for all who suffer, but it has been the unfortunate and ugly experience of a large number who then go on to battle – often for years and decades – to free themselves from a mental health illness which causes havoc both physically and cognitively.
You can be sure that this next few weeks will see all sorts of media commentary encouraging us to lose weight and commit to restriction, avoidance and denial.
And yet, we all have an individual choice as to how we deal with that messaging, and how we choose to perpetuate it in our own – and others’ – worlds.
Our work reminds us every single day, that ‘diet culture’ and the surrounding diet dialogue that our modern world has become so used to, is deeply harmful in so many ways.
By making people feel that they must restrict, refrain and repent in some manner, and by branding choices of foods as ‘bad’ or sinful, this narrative ultimately leads to a cycle of harmful and disordered relationships with food, and to mistrust and abuse of our own bodies.
My wish, for this new year and beyond, is that more people learn the ability to enjoy ‘healthy relationships’ with their food and weight. I wish for more cynicism of the diet culture we’ve become so accepting of, and instead, for more self-trust in listening to our bodies and nourishing them appropriately, without a constant cycle of fear and regret.
If I could urge you all toward a new and easy to implement resolution this January, it would be to embrace a kinder dialogue around food, weight, body size and health.
Be it in the dialogue you have with yourself, or that which you engage in with others, think so much more carefully about whether the way in which you demonise foods, eating habits or the occasional (and normal) changes in weight are really helpful in your daily mental health and that of others.
Let’s be kinder this year. Let’s make this a decade where we make happiness and healthfulness our goal, without inducing potentially harmful behaviours in our own world, or for those around us.
Here’s to 2020.