Congratulations, You Survived 2020!

Enough with New Year, New You; let's celebrate surviving 2020.

Posted Dec 30, 2020

As we close out 2020, I want to offer you a big gold star: Congratulations, you survived.

Almost all of us have been deeply impacted by the events of the past year. Whether you experienced loss, a change in routine, an unexpected move, loneliness, a heightened sense of uncertainty or danger in the world, or all of the above and more; few of our lives look the same as they did a year ago. We have been through the changing tides and miraculously managed to keep our heads above water. And that is freaking awesome.

Not surprisingly, many of our bodies look different than they did a year ago. Right alongside us, our bodies have been adapting too. The human body is designed to change over time. Our cells are constantly regenerating. One of my favorite facts that I learned while researching my upcoming book The Diet-Free Revolution is that our taste buds replace themselves every 1-to-2 weeks, so each time we taste something, we really are tasting it anew! Unfortunately, too often we focus on the changes in our body—especially changes in weight and shape—through a critical lens. In a culture that idealizes thinness and vilifies fatness, weight gain is often met with feelings of shame and judgement. We are taught that our value lies in making ourselves small and we should take up as little space as possible. It’s important to recognize where these messages are coming from—a $70 billion weight-loss industry and $4.5 trillion wellness industry that profits off us believing that we need to change our body.  

We are about to be hit with an onslaught of ‘New Year, New You’ themed messaging that suggests our best self is just around the bend. Whether it is advertisements selling us weight loss programs, coaches touting productivity hacks, or influencers hawking “health” tonics, the message is the same: Our current self isn’t enough. As consumers have become savvy to the fact that diets don’t work, diet companies have tried to obscure their messaging, claiming to be “anti-diet” or “mindful eating” despite promoting plans that involve calorie counting, food restriction, and a focus on weight loss. Don’t be fooled: If it looks like a diet, sounds like a diet, and tastes like a diet, most likely it is a diet. (Hint: Promises of weight loss are usually a clear giveaway something is a diet.)

While this ‘New Year, New You’ messaging is nothing new, it feels especially predatory this year in the midst of all we are going through. When people are struggling, they are especially vulnerable to pitches that promise a clear path to a better life. Mental health issues have skyrocketed over the past year, with agencies reporting a 93% increase in people screening for anxiety and a 63% increase in people screening for depression. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) reported a 70% increase in people seeking treatment for eating disorders. Therapists are having trouble keeping up with demand and many people who need services can’t access them. (This was a big problem even before the pandemic, but it has exponentially increased.) Even if you aren’t experiencing a diagnosable mental health issue, you may be struggling with the psychological effects of social isolation, uncertainty, increased parenting and work demands, unemployment, financial concerns, and instability in the world. Many (if not most) of us generally feel crappy. And now, come January 1, we are expected to add more demands to our already heavy load and feel as if what we have already been doing somehow isn’t enough?

Surviving 2020 has been hard work—and 2021 isn't going to be a walk in the park either—so I hope that instead of focusing on a ‘New Year, New You,’ you’ll offer yourself the rest and care you need to keep up that badass surviving in the year ahead. And if you are struggling with body image right now, please remember that the problem is diet culture, not your body. The ways that our body changes to accommodate stress, aging, trauma, and other life events is an incredible sign of resiliency and it’s a shame that anyone would ever try to convince us otherwise. So raise a glass (non-alkaline water is perfectly acceptable here) and join me in celebrating the fierce and spectacular you that has survived 2020.