Home > rant > A New Year’s resolution you can keep

A New Year’s resolution you can keep

December 31, 2011

Ladies, I know what you’re thinking. But don’t do it. If you need any more proof of the impossibility of losing weight, look no further than this New York Times article which describes it in excruciating, painful detail.

But that’s not even my angle. I’m not going to argue that you shouldn’t try to lose weight because it’s so hard. In fact, it’s possible for some people, as the article describes, as long as they are willing to think about nothing else for the rest of their life. But in fact, even if it wasn’t hard, even if it was an achievable goal, I’d still be arguing against it.

My angle is this: it’s just not interesting enough. You have better things to do than devote yourself to vanity. And plus, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sexy is something you do, not something you look like.

Do you know how boring those people must be who think about food all the time? Have you ever spent time, real time, with someone who is singularly obsessed with food or exercise? I got news for you, if you haven’t, it’s insanely boring. They can only talk about their plan and how it’s going. And I’ve got news for you if you’re one of those people: you are insanely boring.

Get a hobby that involves other people, that gives you a higher sense of purpose. If you’re a lefty, join your local Occupy Wall Street group. Start writing a blog. Start a book club. Read stuff.

Do you know, I’ve heard this story, that some pollster asked a bunch of people what they’d do if they could do anything. It was left as an open question like that, if you could do anything, what would you do? And the majority of women said they’d lose weight (on average 10 pounds). WHAT?! They could have mentioned closing the income gap? Stopping wars? Improving climate change? Making sure people everywhere had access to clean water? And they chose to lose freaking 10 pounds, are you kidding me?

Actually it’s probably a myth, but it doesn’t really matter, because I believe it. And looking around at the world we live in, with all of the ridiculous assumptions of vanity and, what gets me even more riled up, time spent on crap like that, I can believe that women are typically so bombarded with self-image issues that they can’t think beyond them to bigger issues like wars and clean water and global warming. WTF, culture??

So my New Year’s resolution this year is to fight back against that crap. I’m starting today, one day early, by writing this post. Can I get a fuck yeah?!

I am officially out of the fat ladies’ closet, in full armor, ready to fight against that idea that we have any time to waste with vanity. We have way too much to do, ladies (and gentlemen), and not enough time to do it all. Let’s start now. For starters, I’m going to start to emulate a woman I read about  a few years ago on Overheard in New York: “Mom, yeah, I got a Ph.D., I live in my own apartment in Manhattan, and I’ve got a fat ass. How about it?”

I am not ranting against humanity here. I think humanity can be great. But not when our culture is encouraging us to gaze at our navels. We need to actively create greatness, which we can do, but it takes thinking beyond ourselves and asking, what do I really want to do this year?

Categories: rant
  1. Pat
    December 31, 2011 at 10:38 am

    FUCK YEAH.
    Love the blog.
    Happy New Year!

  2. SisofmySis
    December 31, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Fuck YEAH!

  3. Brian
    December 31, 2011 at 11:24 am

    As a representative of the male half, I also wholeheartedly say Fuck yeah!

  4. December 31, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    While people especially in New York are too obsessed with their looks and weight, I still believe exercise is an important part of all our lives – be it a walk in the park, a 50 mile bike ride or a jog on a treadmill – it helps to stay healthy, happy and focused on important things you mention – ie Other People and need to give back to society.
    So, in short, F.YEAH to happy, healthy and not self-involved New Year.

  5. December 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Oh hells yes. Yesterday I was trying on bras and went through a freak out about my layers of insulation, so reading this is exactly what I needed. My last few years of physicals have been outstanding, I keep active (hard not to when you live on the fourth floor). I’ve seen what weight obsession can do, its not healthy or pretty.

  6. Claudia Sahm
    December 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I want to join your chorus…but sometimes I worry that to “change the world” women need to exude lots and lots self confidence. Being consensus building listeners may not be enough (sadly). And try as I might to ignore it, the extra post second pregnancy pounds zap a bit of my confidence. So I am with the commenter who promotes a healthy balance of exercise, nutrituion, taking care of one’s self. Nevertheless, I will put up a sticky note with your more forceful refrain. Keep up your blogging…here’s to 2012.

    • December 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Babe, the second pregnancy gave you a second child. That’s powerful, and the fact that your body still knows about it is something you should be proud of, not embarrassed by. It’s not enough to be a listener any more, you need to project a message too. I say ignore the pounds and focus on your message.

      And yes, I love to exercise, but I do it because it makes my body feel great, and when I feel great I _love_ my body instead of feeling bad about it. Go team!

  7. December 31, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    FUCK YEAH!

    Thanks for this post, Cathy. Our culture has convinced many of us that if we look the “wrong” way, we won’t be loved. Feeling loved is such a fundamental human yearning that we go to great acrobatic exertions to secure it, including battling against our own bodies. It is sometimes hard to remember, but true, that the best antidote to feeling unloved is to be loving toward ourselves and others. Here’s to a more loving 2012!

  8. julie
    December 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Awesome post – In many cultures, particularly those that value fertility, women who are too skinny are less appealing. The point is that women are biologically, darwinistically (is that even a word??) SUPPOSED TO have fat on their bodies – particularly in the hour glass shaped places….What kind of culture are we creating when the French government has to spend $75MM dollars to replace the fake breasts of woman who had these implants after losing this fat?

  9. Claudia Sahm
    December 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Cathy, thanks for the extra encouragement…my co workers (and your cousin) can assure you that I have no problem running my mouth about “my message.” But it is tricky not to get pulled in to an intellectual shouting match. I do agree that this is a better thing for me to work on than a food diary (boring). Keep up the good work…it’s been encouraging to see other impassioned young women out there, particularly on blogs.

  10. Jeannie
    December 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    F2CK Y34H! Let’s GO, Ladies! And Gentlemen!

  11. Jackie
    December 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    What a great post! I’ve often thought that there are few things duller than someone talking about all the things they didn’t eat. The deeper message you’re driving at reminded me of this:

    http://missrepresentation.org/the-film/

    I’ve only seen this trailer, but I’m keen to view the whole film.

  12. bertie
    December 31, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    … and another FUCK YEAH!!

  13. Itsik
    December 31, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    No offense, but I beg to differ. Or, to follow your terminology, FUCK NO!

    First, personally, having gone from BMI=23 to 28 in 2011 due to an injury that put a wrench in my exercise routine, I’m determined to tilt the scale the other way in the coming months, and I’m moderately proud of this New Year’s resolution.

    Second, from a more general-population perspective, sure, when dieting and exercising is aimed at supermodel levels, this is vanity; but for us 70% of Americans, this is health. Overweight is a condition that in an over-fed society is associated with poor outcomes. Same for and sedentary habits. Keeping a healthy lifestyle is no more boring than keeping a balanced family budget, and boredom doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

    Note, that I’m completely with you in the fight against the culture of looks, but you are not writing about makeup, nail polish and branded fashion (you don’t have tween girls….). Instead, you have chosen to stand up against the one aspect of popularly-defined attractive that’s most supported by modern medicine. So, really, WTF? Yes, in our culture it does mess with one’s self image, but you’re a numbers wonk, and you should know better than to let that misguide you.

    In addition, having shared an inspiring race experience with 45,000 co-marathoners, I’d argue that exercising can definitely be a hobby that involves other people, even if it has a component that’s with yourself. Sort of like reading for a book club.

    There also seems to be a vibe of self-center vs. society-focus in your claims, which I partially accept, but it doesn’t seem to be your main angle.

    Finally, I’m sure there are one-track-minded people who are really boring, and it doesn’t matter if the one thing they can think about is climate change or calorie count. Yet, most of us can walk and talk at the same time, or, less figuratively in my case, kickbox and respond to a somewhat one-sided blog post one after the other. Give us exercise-freaks some credit.

    Now, if you’d excuse me, I’m going to top off my 2011 by beating the crap out of my Kinnect avatar.

    Happy and healthy new year!

    • January 1, 2012 at 7:53 am

      Itsik, I would like to respond at two levels. First, it’s true that as a population we are gaining weight- those are real numbers. However, the article I linked to above also makes it clear that in the case of an individual, it’s very difficult if not impossible to reverse this process. Also numbers. So please don’t accuse me of not understanding the underlying science or numbers. (Now please explain to me why skinny people like yourself seem to forget that second part when complaining about the laziness of fat people.)

      The second thing to mention is that, I have personally seen so many cases of my friends and acquaintances wasting so much of their time and emotional energy on- yes- vanity for 10 pounds or so, instead of focusing on something else in their lives that actually matters. So I wrote this post mostly to those people.

      Interestingly, people that are majorly overweight have probably gotten there *in part* by going on too many diets in the past, which eventually not only fail but end them up heavier than when they started. This creates a negative feedback loop which is devastating to them, partly because they are focusing so much on it and society is too.

      Should I have also mentioned in the post that it’s fun to exercise, that it makes your body feel great, and hey it may keep you from gaining even more weight? No, even though it’s all true, because the point of the post was to get people to that place where they are doing something they want to do rather than following orders from some negative authority who is constantly telling them they aren’t good enough.

      I hope your injury heals so you can run more. Happy New Year!

  14. January 1, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Fuck Yeah!!

    Have a greaty 2012!

  15. Mathmom
    January 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    F yeah! My new year’s resolutions include eating healthier and doing more active things that I enjoy, but absolutely not losing weight. In particular in response to Itsik–if your resolution is to lose weight, then that is vanity (and at the cost of increased mortality risk, e.g. see Andres R, Muller DC, Sorkin JD. Long-term effects of change in body weight on all-cause mortality: a review. Ann Intern Med 1993;119:737-743.). If your resolution is to be more healthy, and there are probably many healthy behaviors you can add to your lifestyle and good luck!

  16. January 3, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Yeah, mathbabe, right on — sing it, sister!

    Also on the insufferable lists: people talking endlessly about their juice diets.

  17. FrankJones
    January 7, 2012 at 5:19 am

    For shame that you are discouraging people from making positive change in their lives. Obesity is a real problem. Dieters may be boring but your average head-in-the-clouds OWS activist is intolerable. Likewise people who are obsessed with their careers.

    • January 7, 2012 at 5:36 am

      It’s fair to say you either didn’t read, or didn’t understand the point of this post.

  18. Tom
    January 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm
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