This New Year, Change the Way You Think About Your Body

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Chelsea Kronengold, Senior Program Associate

How many times have we heard variations of the motto “New Year, New Me,” as we reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead? Admittedly, I am guilty of this mindset too! Each year, I tell myself I’ll save money, meditate when anxious, and spend less time on social media. While all of these are positive and productive resolutions, when I was in the throes of my eating disorder, there was only one (albeit empty) resolution I made each year: to lose weight.

Unfortunately, I was amongst countless folks who make weight-loss their intention for the New Year. In fact, results from a Nielsen survey indicate about one-third of Americans make resolutions to lose weight, and U.S. News reports 80% of New Year’s resolutions – especially “outside-in solutions” like dieting and going to the gym – are abandoned by the second week of February.

In our Westernized society, we are conditioned to think that manipulating our body to conform to the appearance-ideal (sometimes referred to as the thin-ideal, beauty-ideal, and/or cultural-ideal) will result in happiness and success in the New Year. This unrealistic and unhealthy pressure we put on ourselves (and our bodies) is not only unproductive, but ultimately makes us feel worse about ourselves.

I, along with the other professionals and activists in the body acceptance and eating disorders field, argue against body-based goals and resolutions. Dr. Pamela Keel, professor and researcher at Florida State University, was recently quoted for her different perspective on New Year’s resolutions; encouraging folks to “consider what is really going to make you happier and healthier in 2018: losing 10 pounds or losing harmful attitudes about your body?” Instead of the fruitless resolution to change your body, Keel proposes changing your attitudes about your body. Keel reports, “When people feel good about their bodies, they are more likely to take better care of themselves rather than treating their bodies like an enemy, or even worse, an object.”

Along with encouraging people reframe their resolutions, Keel proposes the Body Project as a tangible solution to help people feel better about themselves. Backed by two decades of research and evaluation data, the Body Project is a dissonance-based body acceptance intervention project for high school and college-aged girls. It was developed by Dr. Eric Stice at the Oregon Research Institute and Dr. Carolyn Becker at Trinity University in Texas, and has been tested at numerous universities including Dr. Keel’s research lab at FSU, where she and then-doctoral student Tiffany Brown adapted the program for men.

NEDA has proudly taken on the training and dissemination of the version for high-school-aged girls. In 2014, we piloted our Body Project efforts with six NYC high schools, and as 2017 comes to a close, we have trained more than 300 facilitators from 27 states to deliver this important intervention. In 2018, NEDA will continue to expand our work with the Body Project by offering trainings across the country for individuals, schools, and organizations working with high school-aged girls. We know body image and eating concerns affect people of all ages and genders, and we will be piloting Keel & Brown’s version for boys/men in the New Year too!

So instead of those passé New Year’s resolutions to change our body, this is the year to change the way we think about our bodies by learning the tools and skills to confront unrealistic cultural ideals. Let’s work together to bring the Body Project to your community, effectively reducing body dissatisfaction, negative mood, unhealthy dieting and disordered eating among high school participants and adult facilitators – a resolution we can all get behind!

To learn more about getting involved with The Body Project, please contact Chelsea Kronengold, Senior Program Associate, at [email protected].

Chelsea Kronengold has been involved with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) since 2012 as a walk coordinator, youth outreach intern, and programs consultant. In 2016, Chelsea joined the NEDA staff after receiving a Master’s Degree in clinical psychology from Columbia University. Presently, Chelsea is a senior programs associate at NEDA playing an essential role with NEDA’s prevention efforts by training and disseminating the Body Project; an evidence-based body confidence program for women and girls. Chelsea frequently speaks on behalf of NEDA about her personal and professional experience with body image, eating disorders, media literacy, and weight stigma; she has appeared in national media platforms including Teen Vogue, Huffington Post Live, Seventeen Magazine, WebMD and SiriusXM Doctor Radio.