Updated on 12/6/2022

As the end of the year approaches, many of us are making New Year’s resolutions. But how effective are these resolutions, actually? Can they be more harmful than helpful? Popular resolutions are related to eating disorder mindsets of dieting, eating differently, exercising and losing weight. Such resolutions may have serious repercussions for those who struggle with disordered eating or an eating disorder.

Three Negative Sides of New Year’s Resolutions

1. The timeline does not match an individual’s readiness.

Starting a resolution on January 1st does not necessarily match with an individual’s readiness to make life adjustments. We are all moving at our own pace, and may need more time before certain changes in our lives can be practically made. 

2. New Year’s resolutions often set up a perfectionistic mindset.

Perfectionism is tightly intertwined with eating disorders and anxiety. A perfectionistic mindset sets up black and white thinking such as: I either keep my resolution or I don’t; I succeed or I fail. This doesn’t help our overall mental wellness and health, and instead creates anxiety and furthers distress in our lives. 

3. Resolutions come from a place of not feeling good enough.

No matter how well-intended a New Year’s resolution is, it often comes from a place of lack, or feeling like we are not enough. Phrasing the resolution in terms of the desired end result is likely to end in a poor outcome and negative feelings. 

Navigating New Year’s Resolutions in Eating Disorder Recovery

Remember, you do not have to make a New Year’s resolution. A goal is not any less valid because it does not start at the beginning of the year. As an alternative to making a resolution, one option is to adopt a word for the upcoming year. This word should be one that reflects values and helps guide decision-making. For example, words like self-compassion or nourish support eating disorder recovery and can be applied across a wide variety of experiences.

Setting resolutions can also give a sense of purpose and community with others. If this annual tradition is too important to you to give up altogether, then be assured that New Year’s resolutions and eating disorder recovery can coexist. The key is to thoughtfully construct your resolution to support recovery. Keep the spirit of self-compassion, healing and self-care in mind.

The holiday season and the resolution mindset that follows it can be challenging for those with an eating disorder. If you or someone you love is needs support Center for Discovery is here to help. Contact us today.

About the Author

Barbara Spanjers, MS MFT is a therapist and wellness coach who helps people feel more attuned with food and their body. Learn more.


Norcross, J.C., Mrykalo, M.S., & Blagys, M.D. (2002). Auld lang syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 397-405. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jclp.1151

Woolley, K. & Fishbach, A. (2017). Immediate rewards predict adherence to long-term goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(2), 151-162. doi: 10.1177/0146167216676480

More on Center for Discovery