“This is the year I’m going to drop 10 pounds!”
How many times and for how many decades have we heard girls and women of all ages tie their New Year’s resolution to weight loss? The pressure to become a ‘whole new you’ too often means starting a diet, joining a gym, and ultimately weight loss. Despite a recent uptick in the call for self-love and body acceptance in our culture, weight loss remains a top resolution among girls/women in particular. In fact, for girls ages six to eighteen, body image is still listed as a constant source of thought and concern. Is there any way we can change this? The MEDIAGIRLS Youth Advisory Board, comprised of teens who care passionately about how media influences girls, shared their thoughts.
Marlie, age 14:
I think that if one has the resolution to lose weight, it is actually another way of saying, I want to feel good and happy in my own body, and that’s ok. When it becomes not ok is when it turns into harming oneself to achieve the goal, or it becomes an obsession. However, it should not be denied that this is a valid goal to have. Perhaps it can even lead to making healthier choices, like working out and eating healthy foods. Or even, perhaps, it can connect a girl with people who feel the same way about themselves, and create a strong bond through empathy and encouragement. And if young women see weight loss from hard work they put in at the end of the year, and can feel happy about it and more confident, then isn’t that a good thing? I want to state it again, though, when it becomes all one can think about, or they are willing to hurt themselves to get it, that’s not good.
My 2020 resolution: be more confident in sharing my opinions, and less nervous and self-conscious when talking to those I admire and/or look up to. I want to be brave, because they do care about what I have to say, and, in addition, I will never get the chance to learn from them unless I take a chance first. People are just people, we all want to hear what each other has to say. Once I can remove the invisible barrier that sometimes holds me back, I can open up so many more opportunities.
Priscilla, age 14:
I think that it’s very sad and reflects badly on our society today that weight loss is still a top resolution for women. I think that beauty standards are always changing, and we should remind women that they shouldn’t feel like they have to change themselves just because society tells us we have to. I think every girl/woman should feel confident and comfortable in her own skin. I also believe that the media is heavily responsible for the constant voice that tells women they aren’t good enough the way they were made. On the plus side, some companies such as American Eagle have made improvements to support the cause of defying beauty standards through their wide range of diverse models with different races and body types. Although we are slowly improving, we still have a lot of work to do in regard to getting rid of beauty standards.
My 2020 resolution: Stop comparing myself with others, particularly my friends. I think it is important to try my best as an individual instead of expecting to be as athletic, smart, and pretty as other people who have different levels of talent and skills.
Mia, age 14:
I have mixed feelings about the topic. One the one hand, conventional beauty standards can often push girls and women to lose weight. This process can become negative and harmful, as girls who feel pressured to lose weight may feel like they can never be good enough unless they reach an unrealistic goal. On the other hand, weight loss can often be a positive process. Many girls and women, or anyone, will lose weight for themselves: to feel healthy and happy, or to improve their own self-esteem. You can be in anybody to be happy and love yourself, but no one has the same standards or goals for themselves, and people who go after their goals are so admirable.
My 2020 resolution: I want to, generally, be more confident and self-assured. Specifically, I want to stop worrying about little things, and instead focus on the future and what I can do now that will matter for the rest of my life.
Addison, age 13:
In the past, losing weight has been my New Year resolution. I had lots of trouble with self-confidence and was overall not happy with my physical appearance. But after some time, I overcame my fear. I feel much more confident and I love myself and my body. That is also why I wanted to join MEDIAGIRLS – so I can help girls who were in the same situations as I was overcome it and be confident in their own bodies. I think weight loss as a resolution is not being kind to yourself. Every girl and woman should love their true self, and not judge it on what you see in the scale. It’s more important to be healthy and happy than thin.
My 2020 resolution: Limit my screen time. I want to be more present in the world and can’t wait to start it off in 2020!
Angela, age 16:
We strive to be healthy and create good habits in progression to become a better person. The term “better” can be identified with physical appearance, like weight loss. When I see different advertisements about “staying fit” in magazines or social media, I always notice that they portray the model to be thin and pretty. As a result, the diet companies benefit from the consumers because they portray their product as successful which leads to profit. Women should not make impossible body standards as yearly goals because it relates to the idea of perfectionism and produces pressure on yourself.
My 2020 resolution: I do not like New Year Resolutions because I feel as though they are meant to be broken. People create goals for themselves yet never follow through with them. Something I would like to improve on, however, is to making time for self-care. We can become better mentally and not just physically. It is critical to relax during stressful times and let our minds breathe and grow into our best selves.
Janelle, age 12:
I don’t think that weight loss should be the top resolution for New Year’s for girls because we all have our insecurities and I don’t think that what we look like should have to coincide with the “new us,” or the new personality that we want. There are also many dangerous ways of losing weight that some women and girls try/do.
My 2020 resolution: To be a better me and to take care of myself better.
Zoe, age 13:
The media and our peers influence our body image and self-consciousness. Girls might think that weight loss will make them feel better or be popular, when it does the opposite. This also leads to girls wanting to look like the people in advertisements or TV shows, which is definitely not realistic. I think that a way to prevent this is to provide diverse and different examples and advertisements in social media. This will allow girls to see themselves and their body positively, and not want to change it.
My 2020 resolution: I want to spend less time on my phone, specifically on social media. Although I am already better at this, it is always good to improve. I also want to help out more with my family around the house. I am busy with homework and dance, which leaves me with a little time at home to help out. I am hoping to manage my time better so that I am able to do these things. Additionally, I am always trying to make new friends and try new things.
Megan, age 16:
Since I was seven years old, I’ve been focused on my weight: constantly wanting to be as skinny as possible and not liking my body. My New Year resolution is always to try and be healthier. Over time though, this has changed. I realized that instead of losing weight, I should be focusing on being healthier both mentally and physically in whatever forms that may come. Girls should never feel pressured to lose weight if they are happy in their own bodies. Resolutions should only be focused on how you can grow and improve as a person so you can be happier.
My 2020 resolution: Go on frequent walks. It seems very small but walks help me clear my head and overall calm me down in any stressful situations and if I go on more, it will help eliminate the stress that comes from external factors (such as school and the upcoming SAT exam).
Caroline, age 16:
I think that females tend to be more mindful and observant of body image, type, size, and looks much more than men do. It is unfortunate that many girls and women are worried over a number on a scale and what their body looks like, instead of actually trying to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. But if some truly do want to lose weight for the year as a positive goal, then that it perfectly fine!
My 2020 resolution: Qualify for the World Irish Dance Championships, and place at the North American Irish Dance Championships. I have to work towards this goal all throughout the year until July and then November!
Tyeisha, age 13:
I feel like women/girls have the resolution of weight loss because of the impact of society. Women and girls want to change their body because of the way they are treated at school or at work and to change themselves to get back their self-esteem. That said, some women or girls choose to lose weight because they want to be healthy and to start a new year with a new body. That’s different.
My 2020 resolution: To keep up the good grades at school and all throughout high school
Have you thought about your own New Year’s resolution?
Is it tied to weight loss, and if it is, have you truly considered why? As our wise teen girls say, it’s always positive to love and take care of our bodies. But there are so many gentle ways to do it – adding a physical activity that’s actually joyful, managing our stress through meditation, laughing more, limiting screen time, being out in nature, etc. Our New Year’s resolution here at MEDIAGIRLS is to encourage our audience to set intentions for themself that are meaningful, thoughtful, and kind inwardly and outworldly.
Happy New Year!
This piece was originally published on MEDIAGIRLS.ORG and is republished with permission. Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.
She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.