Donald J. Trump wants you on a diet.
I hear what you're saying. "Donald Trump doesn't even know me!"But we know him.
By now, we're all familiar with Mr. Trump's standards of female beauty.
Thanks to tapes leaked and public, thanks to well-publicized remarks about the women he suggested weren't attractive enough for him to have assaulted, a decade of chats with Howard Stern, the models he has married, the beauty pageants he owned and the compliments he's lavished on his daughter Ivanka, we know that beauty, in the eye of the president-elect, is tall and slim and young.
If you fit that mold, you're fine. If you don't? January's when you'll feel the most pressure to squeeze yourself inside.
Before you do, consider the stakes."A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience," Naomi Wolf wrote in "The Beauty Myth."
Diets can monopolize your energy, take up your time and do a number on your self-esteem. They turn your attention inward, on changing your body, not the world. And they have a well-documented propensity to fail, no matter the level of dedication or resolve of the dieter.But here we are, once again, in the month of New Year's resolutions; the month where even the staunchest believer in self-acceptance can find herself falling for the pitchmen and the first-month-free come-ons.
This year, the notion of self-improvement feels especially seductive.
Diets, and resolutions in general, are all about hope — hope that things can get better, hope that you are going to actually learn that new language, declutter that junk drawer, lose those 20 pounds for good.
No matter what bit of 2016 has left you feeling battered and bludgeoned and blue, the siren song of self-improvement has never sounded louder.
We can't heal the divides in the country, can't stop violence, can't keep death from taking the artists and actors who defined our youth. We can't magically extend the term of a president who did not tweet as if he was channeling a furious, academically challenged 12-year-old, but maybe we can at least squeeze into our jeans from the era before it all went wrong.
Plus, the chorus of body shamers has never been louder, or more empowered. Mr. Trump once called Miss Universe Alicia Machado "Miss Piggy," then doubled down on his derision.
Ann Coulter's new hobby is posting shots of larger women at rallies with captions like "Without fat girls, there would be no protests" (prompting the author Jennifer Wright to tweet: "As long as we're body shaming, congrats on losing that last half a pound where a heart would be").
As long as we're body shaming, congrats on losing that last half a pound where a heart would be. pic.twitter.com/fnisrbOF8B— JenAshleyWright (@JenAshleyWright) November 12, 2016.
Once upon a time, you had to hear diet talk only from your intimates — your co-worker who'd gone Paleo, your grandmother who'd tell you how "healthy" you looked before adding, pointedly, that you could order the salad without dressing. These days, if you're on Facebook or Instagram or anywhere else, you're being inundated, not only with paid ads but with updates from your former roommate, your book-club buddy and your second cousin once removed who have decided to post pictures of their workouts or their Fitbit stats.
With social media comes curation, and competition, societally approved notions of what beauty and happiness look like, and the implicit belief that, if you just tried again, tried a little harder, then you, too, would be just as successful as that second cousin you haven't seen in six years.
It can be hard to say no to the temptation to forswear all temptation. Experts agree, though, that January pledges hardly ever lead to positive, permanent change.
Christopher Wharton, a professor of nutrition and sustainability at Arizona State University, isn't a fan of resolutions. "They come from an idea of, 'Here's this thing that's flawed about me. I haven't done it right, now it's time for me to do it right,' " he said. "It puts you in a negative place."
Part of the trick to resisting is just understanding how hard the world is working to influence your thinking. "The only time the fish notices the water is when the water's gone," says Bernard Luskin, a psychotherapist who specializes in the impact of the internet and other media on behavior. Right now, we are swimming in a sea of advertisements.
Those messages are coming at us online more rapidly than ever before, and that "intensity and velocity of communication is causing an impairment of critical thinking," Mr. Luskin said.
If you still want to make changes, understand that you are where you are not because you're weak or you're flawed, but because you've adapted to an environment that encourages you to drive instead of bike or walk, to watch TV instead of doing anything else. It's a lot for three hours a week of gym time to counteract, Professor Wharton says.
His suggestion is to go big. Don't just swap half-and-half for skim milk, or take the stairs.
Reorder your life to reflect your values and your priorities instead of just tinkering at the margins.
Or you could focus on the political instead of the personal.
If the weight-loss industry and the fitness industry and even, it seems, the president-elect would rather have you counting calories instead of all the frightening ways the world has changed since November, if they want you spending your money on commercial diet plans instead of giving it to Planned Parenthood, then you can recommit to self-acceptance, and on doing work that will ultimately matter more than the shape of your body.
Personally, I'm planning on taking the money that previous Januarys might have gone to Weight Watchers or the diet book of the moment, and using it instead on bus tickets from Philadelphia to Washington for the women's march on Jan. 21.
My workout that day will be marching on the mall with my mother and her partner, surrounded by women from all over the country, united in our opposition to a president who routinely engages in the kind of toxic machismo that would get any of my daughter's third-grade classmates put in the timeout chair.I will take up space in a world that tells women they shouldn't and be loud in a world that tells us to be quiet and compliant.
I will work toward better days for myself, for my peers and for my daughters.
May their Januarys be about self-acceptance, not self-improvement; may their leaders appreciate women for their talents, not their appearance. May they always understand that, of all the things in the world to change and to fix, the least important will always be their looks.
This op-ed by Jennifer Weiner appeared in the New York Times on January 1, 2017under the title Try A New Year's Resolution.
January 2, 201
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