The sound of self-improvement noise gets loudest at the start of the year. Our social media feeds get full of diet plans, wellness goals and life-change ‘gurus’. Harri Rose is here to remind you why you don’t need to change who you are or what you look like for your wedding day… or any other day for that matter!
DEAR YOU, YOU’RE AWESOME.
You’ve made it one more turn around the sun, hooray! Even if you’re a shadow of your former self (hello, pandemic), you did it! Also, the fact that you’re here probably means that you’ve found love, SO GREAT that you want to hitch your wagon to someone else’s FOREVER…this is marvellous news!
You’d think that simply doing your best would be enough each year. Ooooh no, sadly not according to the society we live in. We must be striving for our ‘best life’ at all times. I don’t know about you, but to me it’s exhausting.
Now I know that many Rock n Roll Bride readers have good resilience skills when it comes to not falling into the diet trap, but January is a tough time even for the most cool and confident cats. So here I am. Consider me your Jiminy Cricket/fairy godmother against the New Year New You BS.
Here’s my first piece of advice. Stop putting all your worth and happiness on your body.
We’re conditioned to believe that all our problems will go away if we could only drop a dress size (or two). This is A LIE.
We live in a (fatphobic) world that is OBSESSED with thinness. Diet companies (that includes toxic wellness, whose business is to promote a restrictive view of ‘health’) and the beauty industry bombard us with messages that tell us we’re not measuring up. This is purely to make us part with our hard-earned cash. They’re not actually interested in our health. They’re very persuasive and assure you that if you pay for their product or service, it’ll change your life.
This whole idea is hugely problematic for many reasons. At the top line, becoming fixated on changing your body is likely to cause you a lot of stress and make you more unhappy than when you started. It also steals a hell of a lot of energy you could be putting into other things that actually have the potential to change your life. Just make a mental tally of all the hours you’ve put into thinking about food and/or your body in the last month/year(s). Now think about what that time could have been used for instead. Big time.
Focussing on your body as your main value of worth is like spending all your time on a houseplant without realising that you live in a beautiful forest of trees. It stops you seeing the full spectrum of awesome that is you!
Here’s a truth bomb: diets don’t work.
The hard truth is this. 85-95% of dieters put the weight back ON plus MORE weight within five years of losing it. So, you are statistically more likely to get FATTER the more you diet. Read that again. Now get really, really angry at the industries telling you trillion dollar lies.
Here’s another truth bomb for you: there’s nothing wrong with fat!
Have you ever wondered why we hate fat when it’s a perfectly normal feature of having a body?
Since 2020 we’ve seen a change in discourse with lots of people wanting to ‘do the work’ in combating racism, but did you know that fatphobia has some racist roots?
In her incredible book Fearing the Black Body (2019), Sabrina Strings tells us how fatness has been demonised in Western society since colonialism. Colonialists (white men) saw the black bodies they were encountering in Africa and associated them with savagery. Fucked up right?! White folks (women included) in America and Britain wanted to distance themselves from the black and brown immigrants (who often had genetically bigger bodies) they saw arriving in society. To keep white superiority, thinness became revered, and fatness stigmatised. Thin bodies were also linked to abstinence and the Protestant work ethic, i.e. thin = more ‘godly’ and pure, and so began the stereotypes that fat people are greedy, lazy and less worthy.
Fast forward all these years to the present day, and we may not openly talk about a supposed link between morality and bodies, but you only have to scratch the surface to note the language of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ still widely being used to describe our behaviour, especially towards food.
More worryingly, we still have a hierarchy of bodies and we still demonise fatness and wrongly stereotype fat bodies. Fatphobia is rife and should be challenged.
What’s great about realising the lies we’ve been sold about bodies? It means you get to opt out! You see that all bodies deserve respect and to be free from discrimination, and that your body is also worthy of respect (regardless of what it looks like now and on your big day!).
Truth bomb: health is not a dress size.
BUT WHAT ABOUT HEALTH?! I hear this all the time and here’s what I say to this argument. Health is not determined by the size of your body. You can be fat and healthy just as much as you can be thin and unhealthy.
If you want to focus on health this year, GO FOR IT!
Focus on moving your body in ways that make you feel joyful, kick the cigarettes, drink less alcohol and more water, eat your greens, focus on your mental health, detox relationships that make you feel like shit, start a new hobby, meet new people, aim to reduce stress and prioritise sleep.
Notice how NONE of these necessitate the use of a weighing scale. Health is holistic. It is not a number.
When someone chucks around the health argument, be aware that healthy is different for everyone. It is ableist to think that everyone has the same markers for health. What about those with chronic illness or disability? What about the importance of mental health? One person’s measure of health may simply not be accessible for another. Let’s debunk Instagram’s version of what a healthy person must look like.
Let’s also put in the bin any ideas of what a wedding or people getting married should look like too, particularly when it comes to weight loss. Ignore what traditional magazines tell you. You DO NOT need to ‘shred to get wed’. These ideas are so prevalent that we often just accept them as truths, but they’re not, and moreover, they should be debunked as bollocks.
Final truth bomb: you are a one-off, a collective of magic, a whole universe of awesome.
Remember that cutie pie in your life? They love you just the way you are. Magic! Believe them and let that love take you forward.
RuPaul says, ‘When you become the image of your own imagination, that’s the most powerful thing you can ever do’. I love this quote because Ru is right. We can become anyone we want to when we push past the insecurities, the doubts, the shame we all have from our past. This year, spend some time dreaming about the person you want to become. See if you can take out a fantasy body and put yourself into that dream life with the body you have right now. Hard, but I really encourage you to stop living for an imagined point in the future.
When we reclaim our present self from diet culture, we can stop waiting and start building our dream life right now.
Harri Rose is a body acceptance coach, writer and Co-Director at Anti Diet Riot Club. Her first book ‘You Are Enough’ is out now (Octopus Publishing). She is currently studying for an MA in Food Anthropology. Get your free introduction to her book at harrirose.com/signup or say hi on Instagram
This article originally appeared in issue 46 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?
- Photography: Polly Thomas