The idea of this being the start of a “New Year” is not one that really speaks to me. I, like most of our Jewish community, think of the new year as being around September, when the first of Tishrei rolls around. I also cannot help but think of the start of the year as relating to school—though I am no longer a student—the time in September when there is a feel in the air of fresh beginnings.
So when December 31 hits and many of my friends and colleagues post about saying goodbye to the year, I typically shrug it off, noting that I’ll need to remember the year change when signing notes or writing a check, but otherwise not having much of a response, let alone an emotional response.
What does strike me, though, is the way we are inundated at this time of year with messages of “New Year, New You!” This is a time rampant with fat-phobia and diet culture. People market the idea of starting over with this point in the calendar—“Now can be the year that you get everything you ever wanted!”
It does not merely disturb, but also feels heart-breaking to me that people are made to believe that everything they want can be achieved by buying into a multi-billion dollar industry which promises dreams coming true, but yielding results of shame, judgment, fear and insecurity. It is true that my body is not judged as shameful by society and therefore I do not experience this type of marginalization. I have to acknowledge this, as I do not claim to be an expert in the feeling of that marginalization. I am an expert, though, in knowing that the pursuit of weight loss does not yield the happiness sought; instead, people are unable to “keep” their diets in the long run—this is based on research, not simply hearsay—and are then made to feel as if they are failures, which leads to a further spiral of shame. The diet is the failure, not the individual.
Society “tsks” at this; some even resist believing that this can be true. Instead they hold on to the notion that “fixing” the body will result in high confidence and unlock all they have been blocked from experiencing.
Your body does not need to be fixed—it is not broken. Our society is warped and chipped, believing a certain body type to equal certain values including healthy, determined, driven, etc. This is categorically false. People can pursue health at every size, and judging someone’s characteristics by the body in which the soul lives is short-sighted and, quite frankly, a cruel trap.
I find myself becoming so frustrated by the false promises (“You can lose the weight this year and you’ll feel and be amazing!”), and in the past have wanted to shake those advertising this along with those who subscribe to this. But I am learning.
Instead of responding with my own judgment, I would like to respond with curiosity, validation and openness. What has led some people to believe this is true? What are they battling internally that makes this false promise—seemingly so achievable—feel as if it will “fix” them? Are they open to the idea that they do not need fixing, but instead need love and acceptance—and at any size? Can I offer this to them? Can I provide a glimpse into this as an idea that can be believable—that it is not about the diet or weight but about something deeper?
I am doing what I can not to judge and instead to be curious. To offer support. To educate. When I judge, I am doing no better than what I am advocating for and fighting for—a world where we can pursue mental and emotional healing and not turn on or blame our bodies.
As we mark the new calendar year, I hope that you can remember—you’re the same you. A wonderful you that can live fully and also pursue growth and feel hardships. Do not be fooled—you need not strive for a new you. Instead, let’s strive to accept you and know that there is acceptance and even love out there waiting for you just as there is acceptance and love possible inside you.
Temimah Zucker, LCSW works in private practice in New York and New Jersey, virtually at this time. Temimah speaks nationally on the subjects of eating disorders, body image and mental health and specializes in working with those struggling within the Jewish community looking to heal their relationships with their bodies. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, visit www.temimah.com
By Temimah Zucker, LCSW