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Eating Disorders

A New Kind of New Year's Resolution: Practicing Peace with Your Body

Ten ways to pursue a different kind of New Year's Resolution

In my previous blog, I suggested that perhaps it's time to re-think your New Year's resolution, particularly if your resolve centered on weight loss. Instead of vowing to shape up and trim down, how about committing to practicing peace with your body?

What follows is a list of suggestions for practicing peace with your body. While it's not exhaustive, it is enough to help you get started in building a more healthy relationship with food and physicality. In a series of future blogs, I will elaborate how each of these suggestions can play a role in moving you beyond the superficial fantasy of a "born-again" body to a deeper sense of happiness, well being, and purpose.

1) Practice cultural criticism of The Religion of Thinness. This means questioning the assumptions behind our society's images, beliefs, rituals, and moral codes that encourage you to find "salvation" through a thinner body, and asking who benefits when you buy into this narrow promise of fulfillment.

2) Recognize your desire to be thinner for what it is. Look deeply at your yearning to lose weight and see the desire for peace and well-being beneath it. Then, ask yourself if losing weight will really give you these things.

3) Cultivate a new relationship with exercise. Shift from a fitness paradigm of punishment to one of enjoyment by creating exercise rituals and habits whose primary aim is not to help you burn calories but to reduce stress, strengthen your body/spirit, promote overall health, and take pleasure in physical movement.

4) Eat foods that nourish your body and spirit. Instead of deciding what to eat based on caloric content, commit to eating more whole, organic, local, and fresh foods, as well as those that are prepared with love and kindness. As often as possible, try to eat in a way that is mindful of others and that enhances your enjoyment of what you are eating.

5) Practice awareness of your body from within. Shift your attention away from how your body looks on the outside to how it feels on the inside. Use meditation and breathing exercises to do this.

6) Contemplate your larger sense of purpose. Ask yourself: what is most important in my life. Take time to explore some other big questions: What is the meaning of my life? To what should I be devoted? How should I deal with suffering? To what or whom am I accountable?

7) Recognize your need for a sense of community and connection. Spend more time with those who nurture your overall sense of well-being, and choose not to invest in relationships that fuel your feelings of bodily inadequacy and competition.

8) Examine the icons you look up to for inspiration and self-definition. Consciously choose role models-real people or historical figures, famous or unknown-whose lives exemplify the compassion, bravery, love, and service to which you aspire. Discard those that are not worthy of your esteem, energy, and devotion.

9) Transform your right-and-wrong approach to food and your body. Instead of judging your body for being "less-than-perfect" and obsessing about "good" and "bad" foods, widen your moral perspective to highlight the connections between the health of your body and the well-being of the planet.

10) Practice mindful awareness. Observe often what is happening in your body and in your thinking in the present moment. Use this awareness to practice acceptance of your body/yourself and compassion for others.

These are just some of the ways you can pursue a new kind of New Year's resolution this January- one that enables you to relinquish the never-ending quest to improve your body, and embrace instead a path that allows you to accept, appreciate, care for, and enjoy your physicality. I look forward to elaborating each of these suggestions in the weeks to come.

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