I have a theory on New Year’s resolutions: they’re most appealing to people who are prone to all-or-nothing thinking. When everything (including yourself) is either “good” or “bad,” the idea of a magical clean slate on January 1st is hard to resist. If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of the all-or-nothing diet mentality – because it doesn’t work and causes a lot of suffering in the process.

That said, the beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect and celebrate your accomplishments and milestones in 2012…and also tune into what your heart most desires for 2013. If your first response is “weight loss,” try digging deeper. What’s the true desire underneath the desire for weight loss? Perhaps more confidence? Inner peace? More purpose or a meaningful pursuit? “Recognize your desire to be thinner for what it is” is one of professor and author Michelle Lelwica’s tips for practicing peace with your body (#2). I freakin’ love these tips, and grateful for her permission to share them with you here:

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

by Michelle Lelwica

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’re 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 health of your body and 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.

If you want more of Lelwica’s wisdom, check out her book The Religion of Thinness.

Healing body image means moving from conditional love to unconditional love.~Marc David

Healing body image means moving from conditional love to unconditional love. ~Marc David