Talking about New Year’s resolutions becomes quite a hot topic in the last few weeks of the year. After reflecting on the highs and lows of the past 365 days, it’s common to feel motivated by the blank slate of a new year. Making lifestyle alterations is a popular resolution theme which often includes losing weight, eating healthier, working on a “summer body,” starting a new diet, and exercising more. Resolutions focused on dieting and physical appearance have continued to trend over the years while also leading to many negative implications in the process.
For example, our society has been known to exploit insecurities. Think about all of the commercials and ads that pop up between November and February. There are many ads about gym memberships, weight loss pills, “quick fix” and “miracle working” solutions that suggest that we need to buy this in order to be successful in reaching our appearance-altering goals. This is what I mean when I say that we live in a culture that capitalizes on this type of New Year’s resolution. These ads can have a drastic, negative effect on men and women struggling with their own body image distress. Society has normalized diet culture and unattainable perfection to the point that people often fall for the myth that changing the outside is the best way to finally be happy with the inside. Thinking about my work with individuals struggling with eating disorders, this can be seen as one of the most triggering messages. Changing outward appearances to achieve any sense of satisfaction and self-acceptance is a truly toxic message to give to those who already feel unhappy in their own bodies. You may think that making physical changes will lead to self-love and self-acceptance but that is not always the case. Setting this type of resolution can intensify negative self-image and increase the likelihood of engaging in eating disorder behaviors and other maladaptive habits for individuals in recovery.
So here’s the ultimate truth of the matter:
You are not obligated to change anything about yourself after December 31st.
Read that again. Instead of making a new year resolution about changing our looks, what if we shifted our perspectives to practice accepting our bodies as they are, regardless of how difficult or easy it is to live there? It is okay to challenge these outdated resolutions for the purpose of maintaining recovery. Align your resolutions not with what society tells you but what your goals for recovery tell you. It’s time to re-work the “new year, new me” concept so consider making pro-recovery the theme of this New Year’s resolution as you ring in 2021.