New Year’s Resolutions: Helping or Hindering Recovery?

Following the holiday season, there comes the time of year where people tend to reflect on all the experiences and milestones that they have accomplished and begin to assess what they can change.  January 1st becomes the marked date where resolutions are made in hopes to change a habit, better yourself or make new commitments to name a few.  Many see it as an opportunity to leave certain habits or negative vibes behind and start fresh with a new year. Some may even say “new year, new me”1. This particular time of year can be very exciting but also very triggering for individuals living with disordered eating. There are societal pressures encouraging many people to become the best version of themselves1. What we hear less of is that this can backfire and cause people to make unrealistic goals or create negative mindsets. By being kind to yourself, we can choose to either make helpful, healing resolutions or opt out of resolutions altogether! Either way, we can reach our goals while embracing self-love and self-acceptance.

We have noticed that the majority of people who make new year’s resolutions strive for perfection. They make too many goals with the hopes to change old habits or make major life changes all at once1. This can be quite overwhelming! To no surprise, the University of Scranton noted that only 8% of people successfully translate their resolutions into their lifestyle while 92% fail to continue2. Why is this? When we make too many goals at once, it can be hard to keep track and sustain each goal; creating a negative attitude towards the rest. Guilt and shame suddenly overwhelm our thoughts and our abilities to succeed. Just like eating disorder recovery, making a change in life requires steps and should be regarded as a journey3.

Whether the goal is to set boundaries, practice more self-compassion, budget your money, or incorporate a new self-care activity, there is sure to be some regression and progression. SMART goals may be a helpful tool in helping you to sustain a change or successfully incorporate new year’s resolution into our lifestyles. SMART goals represents the need for goals to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based4. It is very easy to get caught up in the pressure in making resolutions and dismissing reality. By making your resolutions a journey, you maybegin to understand the process. It it may even mean that you take a few steps back before you can take a few steps forward.

Especially around this time of year, there is a great emphasis and focus on the word “health”. A lot of resolutions stem from a negative mindset of wanting to make changes to our weight, eating patterns and body shape1. This can be triggering to many individuals, especially those who are on their journey to recovery. It is important to consider your audience when discussing anything around food and exercise to ensure you are not risking harm to your peers. We all need to be gentle with ourselves, but especially as we are in the process of healing and can be easily influenced by the negative body ideals, social media blasts and diet culture surrounding us.

It is important to be conscious of helpful versus hindering resolutions. Individuals who are in recovery from an eating disorder can be susceptible to the diet culture language and can easily fall into disordered thoughts, behaviours and patterns if they are not mindful. Over-exercising and food rules (just to name a few) can hinder recovery and cause regression. Try to be gentle with yourself, acknowledge how far you have come and embrace your accomplishments. Remain aware of your triggers and strive for a mindset that is free from restriction, rules and perfection. By shifting focus from a new resolution to the journey of recovery, it may be easier to focus on nourishing your body and make yourself a priority each and every day.

If you are someone who finds goal-setting or new year resolutions helpful and healthful, here are some ideas:

Begin everyday with positive affirmations.

Look in the mirror and remind yourself how strong, courageous and beautiful you are.  By doing this, you will begin each day with a positive mindset and know that you can overcome any challenges that you may be faced with.

Focus on your well-being.

Do something each day that you love.  Take this time for yourself to reflect and relax.  This can be as simple as reading a book, journaling, disconnecting from social media, taking a bath or baking something delicious.

Make yourself a priority.

Take charge and do what’s best for you and do not be afraid to remove yourself from a situation that may hinder your recovery.  Practise intuitive eating and self-love.

Spend time with your loved ones. 

Spend more time with family members, call a friend or plan a social gathering.  Embracing your support system will benefit your well-being and enhance your confidence.



References

  1. Bradley, G. (2018). New Year’s Resolutions That Will Actually Make You Feel Good. In National Eating disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/7-new-years-resolutions-will-actually-make-you-feel-good
  2. New Years Resolution Statistics. (2018). Statistics Brain Research Institute. Retrieved from https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
  3. Are New Year’s Resolutions helpful in Eating Disorder Recovery?. (2016). In Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/resolutions-eating-disorder-recovery
  4. Effective goal setting: applying SMART goals. (2010). In Healthcare Registration. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/apps/doc/A234795397/AONE?u=lond95336&sid=AONE&xid=95cc921e

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