New Year, New You?
Have you ever set a New Year’s Resolution? Have you ever broken that resolution? Statistics show that the average American gives up on their New Year resolutions just 32 days after making them and 68% of people report giving up on their resolutions even before that (Gervis, 2020).
For many in recovery from an eating disorder, the phrase “New Year’s Resolution” can carry a negative association. Diet culture capitalizes on the opportunity to sell more gym memberships, diet plans, diet pills, etc. at this time of the year all in the name of self-improvement. Have you ever fallen victim to the hope of creating a “new you” in the New Year? Often, the idea that there is a fresh start on the horizon on January 1st can encourage a rise in disordered behaviors from the start of the holiday season through the New Year. On top of that, hearing the weight loss or diet goals of the people around you can feel triggering and can even cause slips or relapses in recovery.
If you’re dreading the increase of potentially triggering comments and conversations that are likely to come in the next week or two, here are some practical tips to help you to still enjoy the remainder of the holiday season and make it to the New Year feeling confident and secure in your recovery!
How to cope with the diet talk and focus on weight loss that occurs around this time of year?
- Remind yourself that what is best for you isn’t going to be what’s best for everyone. There will likely always be people in your life who either will be dieting or who talk about what they want to change about their bodies. Remember that everyone is on their own journey. Maybe next year at this time, those same people will be coming to you for advice on kicking diet culture to the curb.
- Another option is to set boundaries. If you feel able to be assertive with the people in your life who are making comments about their New Year’s weight loss or diet-focused goals, explain to them how this makes you feel and ask what other things they may be looking forward to in upcoming year aside from changing their bodies.
- The weeks before and after the New Year could be a great time to take a break from social media as the different media platforms often serve as a place for individuals to blast the internet with detox plans or weight loss goals. This can be a helpful way to protect yourself from sales that are occurring at this time of year on weight loss programs or diet plans.
- Increase support! This can be a difficult time of year for those in recovery from an eating disorder or for those struggling with mental health concerns, in general. Schedule more frequent sessions with your therapist if you see one. Open up to family members and friends about ways they can support you.
- Know that you’re not alone. There are others around the world working hard to maintain recovery amidst an abundance of influences encouraging the opposite. Knowing that others are fighting hard for recovery alongside of you might be the motivation you need to keep going.
Like the idea of setting intentions or visualizing what you want in the upcoming year?
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying setting goals or creating a plan for your year ahead if that’s something that you know you enjoy doing. However, instead of basing your goals on things that could harm your health or recovery, focus instead on aligning your New Year intentions with your highest values. For example, how could you strengthen your closest relationships throughout the upcoming year? What cause or organization do you want to get more involved with? What would it look like to increase the amount of self-care that you give yourself on a daily basis?
Try to focus on how you want to feel vs how you want to look. Choose goals that are more meaningful to you than the potentially less meaningful but sometimes more tangible goals of weight loss or aesthetic change.
If you know that creating goals for yourself is helpful or want to try it out this year in a more beneficial way than what you’ve done in the past, make sure to create SMART goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. Writing goals down has also been shown to increase the likelihood of following through with them.
Also know that if creating goals for yourself for an entire year feels like too much pressure, focus on one step that will take you closer to the life you want to live in the current day, week or month that you’re entering.
Regardless of what it looks like for you in envisioning your upcoming year, it’s often beneficial to take time to reflect on the year that has passed to learn from mistakes, remind yourself of the things that have changed you for the better and to think about the things that you want to bring with you into the upcoming year or continue to build on. Even if you don’t typically enjoy journaling, writing out a bullet point list of your successes or favorite moments from the past year can create space to remember and reflect on what has gone well or what you might need to grieve/leave behind.
It can be helpful to have something to work towards and set your sights on for the year ahead. Doing so in a way that aligns with the life that you dream of living is the surest way to maintain recovery while also building up the life that you’re recovering into. Remember to take life (and recovery) one moment, one hour, one day at a time. Small steps in the right direction can create huge changes. And news flash- can start your day, week, month, or year over at ANY time to become more of the person that you want to be if you’re trying to make changes in a positive direction. You don’t have to wait until January 1st!
By: Dani Castro, LISW-S
Gervis, Z. (28 January, 2020). The average American abandons their New Year’s resolutions by this date. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2020/01/28/the-average-american-abandons-their-new-years-resolution-by-this-date/