The end of a calendar year brings with it endless conversations of new year’s resolutions. Setting these notoriously lofty goals is often an attempt to pull oneself out of the seasonal funk that can settle in with shorter days, colder weather and a barrage of holiday stressors. When people make resolutions, it is often done with the intent to completely overhaul their life. They look to make a sweeping change that will fix all that is wrong, and get them back on the “right track”. Unfortunately, this particular type of goal setting usually backfires – as evidenced by the fact that most people end up making the same exact resolutions year after year.
New year’s resolutions also send a message that today doesn’t count – it gives us permission to stay unhappy or unhealthy “just a little bit longer” until January 1st rolls around. This could mean different things for different people depending on whether you are working towards recovery from an eating disorder, still struggle with chronic yo-yo dieting or are trying to quit smoking. So, how do you pull yourself out of the winter blues without jumping on the resolution bandwagon? Here are a few ideas to get you started…
1. Don’t wait. Start making small adjustments today that have nothing to do with food, eating, or your weight. Creating small but positive disruptions in your daily routine can help you stay grounded and may even help to break a cycle of negative thoughts or eating disorder symptoms that are associated with certain places or a time of day.
- Try taking a different route to work or school. This small change could open up new possibilities, even if its just observing the new scenery or discovering a park along the way that you never knew existed! Who knows, you may even find out that your new detour involves less traffic or fewer lights.
- Do some interior designing. Consider rearranging some furniture or updating a picture wall inside your house or apartment. Visible changes such as these can offer a sense of renewal without the obligation or pressure.
- These are just a few examples…you can come up with your own ideas for “minor adjustments” and share them on our Facebook page.
2. Setting goals is a great thing but not if the goal is unrealistic, unhealthy, too vague, or involves intense pressure to succeed. All of these characteristics can make it very difficult to follow through with a resolution. Instead, focus on taking small, concrete steps forward in the direction of balanced living.
- If you tend to make resolutions that are unrealistic and unhealthy…“I have to get myself to the gym. I’m going to purchase a membership and force myself to go everyday, no matter what.”
- Try this instead: “I will commit to going to one or two community yoga classes by the end of the month and work on developing a positive and supportive relationship with my body.”
- If you tend to make resolutions that are vague and counterproductive… “I need to lose weight by the summer so I’m really going to stick to my diet this year!”
- Try this instead: “I give myself permission to stop dieting and to trust my body. If I need the help of a professional nutritionist to do this, I will seek one out.”
- If you tend to make resolutions that leave no room for error and put a lot of pressure on you to succeed…“As of January 1st, I am never going to act on my eating disorder symptoms again.”
- Try this instead: “Before the week is over, I will call and schedule an appointment to begin seeing a therapist.” This is an example of a small but very meaningful task that can result in long-term change. If you already see a therapist, consider this instead: “In the next week, I will use at least one new support or coping skill that I’ve never tried before.” Examples include: attending a support group, journaling, or enrolling in art therapy.
3. Now that you’ve resolved NOT to make a resolution, how are you going to cope with everybody else who feels inclined to talk about resolutions, weight loss and diets all of the time?
- Be the bearer of accurate news. When your friends start discussing the new diet they will begin on January 1st, inform them about why diets don’t work and be sure to let them know that 98% of the people who go on diets gain all of the weight back and that half of them gain back more than they lost.
- Try out the “shock and awe” technique. As others start to bemoan their hips and curse their thighs while resolving to change their bodies in the new year, employ the element of surprise – say something NICE about yourself and your body. Body bashing has become such an accepted form of conversation (especially around the holidays) that when someone (You!) is able to reflect positively on their own body, people are seriously caught off guard and may think twice about their own statements. Try one of the comments below or come up with a few of your own!
- “I am so grateful for all of the things my body allows me to accomplish.”
- “I’m much more concerned about feeling strong and healthy than I am about fitting into a particular size.”
- Even if you are not at a point in your life, or in recovery, where you actually believe these statements, say them anyway. Saying them out loud helps move you in the right direction toward real change. You will not only have helped yourself, but you will steer the conversation away from a negative place and become a role model for positive body image. This is particularly important if children and adolescents are within earshot of the conversation.
Here’s to a hopeful 2011 full of balance and mindfulness!
If you have any questions about eating disorders, please call our admissions coordinators at (410) 938-5252 to speak confidentially about your concerns and treatment options. Additionally, you can visit our website at www.eatingdisorder.org for more information, including an interactive on-line quiz that can help determine whether you, or someone you care about, might have an eating disorder that requires professional treatment.