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I’m not going to lie—I gained weight in 2020.
I don’t know how much because we don’t have a working scale in our house.
But I’m not making any resolutions to lose the weight. Instead, I’m asking myself questions.
I remember all too well when the blank slate of a new year entranced me with fantasies of the new and improved body I’d soon possess. That feeling of intoxicated hope. I was all in—I just knew that if I could get to a certain weight, or change a certain part of my body, my life would be transformed. I’d feel better about myself. I’d be worthy of love. I’d shine.
It took me years of therapy and 12-step meetings, of yoga and motherhood and a scale-free home to excise those old beliefs. I’ve come to have compassion for my body. Gratitude. Respect. Sure, I still have times when my pants feel too tight or I catch a glimpse of cellulite in the mirror and the old thoughts flood me. I’m human, and part of being human seems to mean suffering through the occasional bout of self-loathing. But those moments are now the exception rather than the norm.
When we’re desperate to change our bodies, we’re usually longing for something that has little to do with the actual margins of our skin. When I was chasing a better body, what I really wanted was love. To feel like I was enough. To have purpose.
Slashing calories or counting macros or climbing the Stairmaster to nowhere? Those actions would never help me achieve those goals.
Instead of focusing on what we want to change about our bodies, what if we asked ourselves, “How do I want to feel?”
Do I want to feel strong? Fantastic! Ask ourselves what would make us feel strong. More yoga? Starting a strength-training program? Being able to do a certain number of pushups or run for a certain number of miles?
Do I want to feel more clear-headed and alert? If I want to feel sharper, are there particular foods that make me feel the opposite of clarity—logy and hungover? Is there a type of meditation or exercise that infuses me with mental clarity?
Do I want to feel sexy? How many of us have swallowed the lies fed to us by the diet industry and the fashion industry and Hollywood, telling us we’re not sexy unless we look a certain way? It’s time to call bullsh*t on that. If you want to feel sexy, drench yourself in sexy. Read some erotica. Dance. Wear lush fabrics. Order that fancy vibrator you’ve been hearing about. Do whatever makes you feel sexy. Sexy is not a number on the scale. It’s about flesh and pleasure. It’s about letting go.
Do I want to feel loved? Ask your loved ones to, as Karamo Brown recently said on Dan Harris’ Ten Percent Happier podcast, “love me a little louder today.” Speak to yourself the way you speak to your favorite pet. I have a theory that the phrases we utter to our pets are the things we want to believe about ourselves. “You’re such a good girl, and so pretty,” I might say to my dog. “You’re enough.”
Do I want to feel self-compassion? I’m going to get a little intense for a moment. Sometimes, when I’m struggling to have compassion for my physical body, I think about its mortality. The truth is, my body will change and die. I don’t want to arrive at the end of my life only to realize I’ve spent my life at war with my body. There’s something about remembering that my body is temporary that floods me with tenderness. I’m not merely housing a self-improvement project that will get better with time and go on forever, getting closer and closer to some beauty industry standard. Parts will break down. Organs won’t work as well. Skin will sag. This is life. And I don’t want to waste another damn minute not cherishing my skin suit.
Yes, I gained some weight last year. But also? I feel stronger. I can do pushups. I can walk for miles. I feel loved. I’m learning self-compassion. When I ask myself what I want to feel more of in the new year, I want to feel more clarity. More present. More gratitude. More purposeful.
What if this was the year, the day, the moment—that instead of trying to revise our bodies, we asked ourselves how we wanted to feel?
What if we got down on our knees or in front of the mirror or just closed our eyes and simply said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you?”