Out with the Old: Revolutionizing Resolutions
Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat “healthy.”
These resolutions seem as synonymous with the New Year as the midnight ball drop and fireworks display. Amid popping corks and clinking glasses, we hear the same tired promises each turn of the calendar year, as if they’re verses in “Auld Lang Syne” themselves.
As New Year’s marks the passage of time, so too it shows our sociocultural pressures and values. In the most popular resolutions, we see society’s expectations—the “goods” and goals worth pursuing in the name of personal betterment.
In a culture preoccupied with weight and food, it is no surprise that New Year’s resolutions frequently reflect these obsessions. Striving to lose weight—arguably the most popular resolution each year—is to affirm our cultural fixation on thinness and view of weight loss as a universal good. And while exercise and eating patterns can indeed influence health, many resolve to make these changes with the primary or sole goal of losing weight. Weight is mistaken as a proxy for health.
The Problem with Weight Loss Resolutions
It’s not just the fact that they don’t work.
Resolutions about weight and dieting are problematic for those at risk of developing an eating disorder as well as those in recovery. A resolution to diet, as innocuous as it seems in our diet culture, may introduce disordered eating that leads to a full-blown eating disorder. Indeed, dieting is a significant risk factor for developing an eating disorder; at a neurobiological level, it can trigger the illness in individuals with a genetic predisposition to it.
For individuals with eating disorders, weight loss resolutions can exacerbate disordered thoughts and behaviors. Conversations about diets and gym routines reinforce the very attitudes those in recovery are fighting to challenge. In justifying fears about fat and gaining weight, they can echo an eating disorder’s voice and impede efforts to recover.
In this prime time for reflection, let’s rethink these common and damaging resolutions. Let’s reject the intentions set by society and resist from focusing on our failure to meet these unrealistic expectations.
Here are some new resolutions to consider in eating disorder recovery:
More Revolutionary Resolutions
- Abandon the “New Year, New Me” philosophy and give credit to the “you” you are right now. The you who is fighting invisible demons every single day—the you who is learning to sit with feelings and make peace with imperfection. The you who has lived through conflict and stress and exhaustion this year, through relapses and recovery wins alike. No matter how far you have or have not come in recovery, your experience this year matters. Acknowledge it.
- Make your social media feeds more diverse, relatable, and empowering. Show yourself a broader range of body shapes, sizes, abilities, ethnicities, and orientations than you see in traditional media. The feeds are yours to curate. Show yourself content that leaves you feeling intrigued, inspired, and understood, not inadequate and insignificant.
- Challenge diet culture talk. When food is described as “good,” “bad,” “naughty,” “guilt-free,” or any other descriptor suggesting morality, say to yourself (and others, as appropriate): food is just food. It has no inherent moral value. When “feeling fat,” try to identify feelings that are, well, actual feelings. Is it guilt? Fear? Loneliness?
- Advocate for eating disorder and mental health awareness. Many people find strength, support, and community in sharing their experiences of struggle and recovery. Sharing your story may not only help in personal healing, but it may also serve a larger purpose—reducing stigma, raising awareness, encouraging others to get assessed, and providing hope for recovery.
- Prioritize and protect your recovery. As you read and hear popular resolutions this year, filter them with the perspective that our culture has an obsessive, warped relationship with food and weight. This relationship is one you’re trying to heal, and any goals you set should serve that healing and your recovery. Maybe you’ll keep all your scheduled appointments with your treatment team in 2020, or try several new fear foods, or find a new after-meal activity. It’s your year—pursue what’s healthy for you.
The Emily Program is here to support you this resolution season. If you are worried that you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please complete our online quiz and give us a call at 1-888-364-5977.