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December 30, 2009

The New Year is approaching again, and for many people, it’s the season of New Year’s resolutions. It’s the time of year when it seems that everyone I know is making a commitment to “lose those extra 10, 15, 50 pounds for good” and every third commercial on TV is advertising great deals on gym memberships and workout tapes and those freaky belts that stimulate your abs to convulse so they’ll get super-toned.

So, in making my resolutions this year, I looked to a different source for inspiration: Kate Harding. More specifically, her post on Shapely Prose from several years ago on what she calls “The Fantasy of Being Thin.” (I would recommend you read the whole thing; it’s really great.) “The Fantasy of Being Thin” is the

magical thinking about thinness, which I suspect is really quite common. Because, you see, the Fantasy of Being Thin is not just about becoming small enough to be perceived as more acceptable. It is about becoming an entirely different person – one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has. It’s not just, “When I’m thin, I’ll look good in a bathing suit”; it’s “When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep.” See also:
• When I’m thin, I’ll have no trouble finding a partner/reinvigorating my marriage.
• When I’m thin, I’ll have the job I’ve always wanted.
• When I’m thin, I won’t be depressed anymore.

The Fantasy of Being Thin tells us that what we don’t like about ourselves or our lives will magically go away when we lose weight. That we would be so much happier, so much more successful, so much better as someone thinner. In the Fantasy of Being Thin, fat comes to stand for everything we don’t like about ourselves. Thinness, then, is positioned as the ‘solution’ to all of these problems. And of course, this is just not true.

And if we buy into this fantasy, we lose the opportunity to spend our time and energy actually changing what we don’t like about ourselves and our lives. If we buy into the Fantasy of Being Thin, we spend our time dieting and narrow our goals to “fitting into a size 8” or “losing 2 pounds this week” rather than “applying for that awesome job”, “working on my relationship” or even “working out to feel healthier”.

Here’s my favorite part of the post, a quote I keep on my computer desktop, and one I thought about while making my resolutions this year:

The question is, who do you really want to be, and what are you going to do about it? The Fantasy of Being Thin is a really convenient excuse for not asking yourself those questions sincerely — and that’s exactly why it’s dangerous. It keeps you from being not only who you are, but who you actually could be, if you worked with what you’ve got. And that person trapped inside you really might be cooler than you are right now.
She’s just not thin.

So, with that in mind, I decided to make my resolutions about finding not the “thin person inside of me”, but rather, as Kate says, who I actually could be. I want to eat better, so I’m resolving to try 25 new recipes this year. I want to be less materialistic, so I’m resolving to focus on being with people and doing things, not having things. I want to become more adventurous, so I’m going to go somewhere new at least every other week, even if it is just a new park or a cool restaurant. And so on. And I’m NOT resolving to lose weight, because I know that a thinner me wouldn’t magically eat better, or be more adventurous. She would just be thinner.

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