About Last Night :I feel overweight and unattractive: should I bother with New Year’s resolutions? 30-12-18

December 30, 2018

Q: I’m 34 with two children under five. I didn’t lose my baby weight before my second pregnancy, when I gained even more, and I have been unable to lose any weight since the birth, I’m not obese, but I feel unattractive. Last year, I bought a subscription for a gym and made a resolution to get back in shape, but I only ended up going three times. I have no willpower. Should I even bother to make any resolutions this year when failure is so depressing?

A: Sometimes, New Year’s Day can be a great day from which to date a major achievement, like giving up smoking, having some alcohol-free days each week, or cutting up your credit card. The trouble is that, often, we make resolutions that set us up for failure, and we make ourselves miserable.

I have mentioned Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F—, a couple of times. Its first chapter suggests your solution – “don’t try”.

Our consumerist society is fixated on self-improvement. After all, constantly chasing a better body, job, car, lover and so on is good for business. The trouble is that all this positive, aspirational goal-oriented thinking actually causes us to focus on what is wrong with us, what we lack, and where we are failing. We are not enough as we are, and this dissatisfaction causes us to care too much about things that do not matter.

Mark Manson says: "The desire for more positive experience is, itself, a negative experience, and, paradoxically, the acceptance of one's negative experience is, itself, a positive experience."
Mark Manson says: “The desire for more positive experience is, itself, a negative experience, and, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is, itself, a positive experience.”

This leads us into what Manson calls “the feedback loop from hell”. In your case, you feel bad about your weight. Every time you try to lose weight, and fail, you feel bad for having no willpower. You get anxious, and then begin to feel you are a loser for obsessing about your weight. The images with which we are bombarded, of beautiful, happy, successful people, cause us to feel that there is something wrong with us.

Society’s fixation on positive thinking and self-improvement leaves us feeling overly stressed, neurotic and self-loathing.

Manson argues that the only way out of this loop is to stop giving a f—. As he explains: “The desire for more positive experience is, itself, a negative experience, and, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is, itself, a positive experience.”

This is what philosopher Alan Watts called the Backwards Law. The more you pursue feeling better all the time the less satisfied you become because the more you pursue something, the more you become aware of what you are lacking. Chasing wealth makes you focus on your lack of funds, regardless of how much money you actually have. The more you want a slimmer body, the more you focus on being unattractive.

You might argue that if you do not try, if you do not strive and dream and aspire, you will never achieve anything. Manson, however, points out another paradox, which is that we often do best at things when we are not anxious and trying hard. When you acknowledge and own your failings you often do better. When you do not hide the things you are ashamed of you have more confidence.

If you can stop giving a f— about your weight you are more likely to stop comfort eating, for example.

Not giving a f— does not mean being indifferent. It means saving your energy for the things that are really important to you. Richard Carson made the same point in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. You are more likely to be happy and effective if you choose your battles, and do not get ground down and emotionally defeated by every minor issue, like being cut off in traffic, or a waiter’s mistake.

Your weight is what it is at the moment, and that is all right. Your beautiful body has successfully produced two children. You are lovely as you are, and if a change is to occur that will happen, organically, as you go about living, and loving, the life you have. This year, make a list of all the things you like about yourself and for which you are grateful.

Email: abtlastnight@gmail.com

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