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Why I don’t believe in diets

Shoot, I said it. Anyone who knows me well has heard me rant (likely on multiple occasions) about frustrations with societal beauty standards and the modern, largely Western, insistence that one’s attractiveness or even worth increase the lower the numbers on the scale go.

In some respects, things have been improving lately thanks to increasing numbers of people speaking out regarding body positivity and size inclusivity. For a lot of folks, curves are cool again.* But there’s still fine print there. Curves might be in, but only around a woman’s chest and butt, and waists should be artificially tiny. Stretch marks should be seen nowhere, and acne must never be allowed. Hair has to be glossy and voluminous, with copious time devoted to the “no makeup” makeup look, and effortless-looking but pricey attire.

And that simply doesn’t reflect the wide spectrum of normal, beautiful bodies.

I’ve been so impressed by how many of my friends have made it a point to push back against all these supposed standards and set a wonderful example of shining exactly as they are.

But… the holidays are approaching.

We’re still a full week out from Thanksgiving, and I have already heard far too many conversations about holiday diets (either prior to, planned for after, or both). And I’m already tired of it.

Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for that type of talk. I don’t diet. It’s a personal decision because of certain health predispositions in my family history, and an awareness that if I did, I would be likely to unhealthily fixate on wherever I placed the “goal.” I step on a scale maybe once every few months, and I’d prefer to do so less. While wedding planning, I kept a slightly closer eye on my weight with the sole purpose of staying around where I was and not letting stress do too much of a number on my body. If I overeat at one meal, I might have more conservative portions at the next. I stop eating when I’m full, and eat when I’m hungry. I don’t eat as many vegetables as I’d like to, and should exercise more, but I make sure to listen when my body is telling me that it needs more of those things.

This isn’t to say I’ve mastered body positivity or that I always like the way my clothes fit. Far from it. But I’m working on it, and hope that together, more of us can.

Let’s be clear: I’m not trying to say that all dieting by anyone ever is bad. It’s important to take care of your body, and a holistic diet — with adequate portions, a variety of nutrients, combined with exercise — can be an excellent way to improve one’s health, quality of life, and even lifespan. But when diets become all about the number on the scale, or certain measurements, or what other people think of you, or plain and simple control, that’s no longer promoting your health.

One of the most important, under-discussed aspects of adulting is identifying the messages we were told growing up, how they impacted us, and whether our reactions to them have benefited us or harmed us.

I’ve been on my no-diet soapbox since elementary school because I was taught that health was about way more than a number and people are beautiful no matter what they look like. But over the years, I also internalized a lot of negative messages about how I ought to look and they’ve taken a toll on my self-confidence. And that’s for someone who by and large fits a lot of those “standards.” Folks with especially small or large frames, who have disabilities, whose hair has a mind of its own, or who are considered too short or too whatever, get handed even more negative messages about the way they ought to look. And after a while, the boundary starts to blur between taking care of one’s body out of self-love and restricting ourselves because of others’ opinions.

If you are from or currently in an environment where people tend to place a high priority on needing to look a certain way, check in and see how you might have internalized unhealthy messages. If necessary, make adjustments to take care of yourself better. That can mean a more balanced meal and some exercise, or having a treat for dinner and giving yourself distance from people who aren’t building you up. And please, please don’t be afraid to talk to loved ones or a doctor if weight or food are interfering with your quality of life.

If most of the compliments you give people are focused on their appearance — especially things like “you look great!” to mean “you’ve lost weight” — it might be time to re-examine what sorts of messages you’re sending to other people. Appearance-based compliments aren’t bad, but they should be balanced by compliments about who a person is, or how happy they seem that day, and other positive elements that don’t reinforce false, constricting standards of what a person should look like.

And for goodness’ sake, it’s the holidays. Eat as much dessert as you want to.

Got something to add? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

 

* It is necessary to note here that people of color, especially Black women, have been at the forefront of this movement and that the dominant culture has historically profited by widely popularizing and capitalizing upon trends, traditions, and innovations within marginalized communities. We should be learning from other communities, not stealing from them.

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The timeline is relative

Based on our current understandings of the universe and physics, time is relative. It does not pass exactly the same at different elevations, speeds, or levels of gravity. And that’s super cool if you’re a physicist. For the rest of us, it can seem like that has little impact on our everyday lives (fun fact: it’s actually a necessary element in GPS satellite calculations, but you get my point).

However, colloquial relativity is all around us. Kids grow and learn at different rates after all. Still, up until we graduate high school a lot of big steps tend to happen to us at about the same time as our peers: moving up grades, learning to drive, and so on.

Recently I was chatting with a friend about how we try so hard to remind ourselves that everyone does — and should — do things at their own pace.

Because after high school, all the structured timelines kind of go out the window. Some people don’t go to college, some people take longer for a bachelor’s, some people do graduate degrees. Some people climb the ladder quickly and some spend more time bouncing between jobs or careers. Some people settle into long-term relationships quickly, and every relationship moves at its own speed. Some people have kids, and those who do might have them soon or wait until they’re well-established adults.

There might be a timeline that’s best for you or for someone else, but there’s no guarantee that those will align. Nor is there any need for them to.

It’s easy to feel like you’re behind or you’re missing out if it seems like peers (or just people you see on social media) are doing all the things you haven’t done yet. But chances are you’ve reached milestones they haven’t yet. There’s no one right path, and there’s no rulebook. And as much as that can feel really intimidating when we’re new to the whole grown-up thing and would just like a little guidance, I’m coming to realize that it’s one of the most freeing things about being an adult.

So here’s to us, living life and learning, each in our own time.

Chime in below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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It only takes a word

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how soft skills, especially in terms of communication, are underappreciated and under-emphasized by so many people. Of course, this is coming from someone who majored in communication, but I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed from folks in fields from business to STEM.

Some people espouse that to get ahead — particularly in one’s career — you can’t be kind or agreeable, or at least not too agreeable. And of course there is an element of balance; if you only ever say positive things, it will be hard to make your own ideas known and to point out risks or issues in the ideas of others.

Especially when I’m busy, my default is to be fairly stressed and fairly serious. I’ve had to learn how to make time to build good professional relationships, even if it means a task takes a little longer. But on the flipside, it’s also hugely important to me that everyone be as content with a given situation as possible and that I take regularly opportunities to boost morale. Often that means bringing in treats for coworkers or saying “thank you” more times than perhaps necessary. And these are great, but they’re also a little shallow.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some absolutely phenomenal bosses and mentors as I’ve gained work experience. I’ve also had the chance to be a boss or mentor to other folks, and to experiment with what comprises a successful leadership style.

Some of the elements are fairly standard: clear training and instruction, open communication channels, well-rounded feedback that includes praise for elements done well and actionable critiques on ways to improve.

The biggest thing that I’ve learned from my mentors, though, is how incredibly important it is to empower those who are learning from you — whether the setting be professional, familial, or otherwise. While “empower” has become a bit of a buzzword and lost some of the meaning it ought to possess, it captures exactly how we should be made to feel by those we’re learning from (and how we should be making those we’re teaching feel).

As an example, a brief anecdote: Yesterday was not a great day for me. I’m behind on a lot of at-home tasks (*ahem* cleaning) and my at work my number of tasks and the stakes are increasing. It was just one of those days I felt ill-equipped for all I was facing. During the course of separate conversations, both my boss and a former boss/mentor offered unsolicited, generous compliments on my competency and the impact of my work. They both absolutely made my day.

The comments meant so much because both of them conveyed that they actually believed in me. Which, for starters, is something we could all stand to hear a little more often. But it also made me want to prove them right, instead of trying to prove negative thoughts or voices wrong.

I’ve long held to the belief that small kindnesses can have radical impacts in people’s lives. For emerging adults in particular, it’s crucial that we not only embrace that idea in our personal lives, but also our professional ones. As we do so, we can foster and eventually create environments that encourage people’s growth through support or cooperation rather than relying on competition.

In the future, I’ll be looking for and taking more opportunities in which I can offer a word or gesture to help other folks feel as valued and full of potential as comments like the ones yesterday made me feel. I just hope we all do.

As always, comments, questions, and miscellaneous input welcome below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

P.S. I know it’s yet another sunset ocean pic, but this place was home for a long time and not only taught me a lot of what I covered in this post, but could use any extra love available as the community continues to heal from tragedy.