A new year brings a clean slate, a chance to forget about the struggles of the past year and make fresh choices for the future. It is common for people to make New Year’s resolutions, goals set to create positive change. In our society, New Year’s resolutions often focus on weight loss and exercise. Go to any gym in January and you will have difficulty accessing equipment because of the crowds. All this focus on appearance and diet can be triggering for people in recovery from an eating disorder. While weight loss goals may have been a focus in the past, in recovery it is no longer a viable option. How can we make healthy, recovery-focused New Year’s resolutions in a culture of excessive dieting and exercise?
Meet Yourself Where You Are
A new year is a great time to take an inventory of where we are and the things we want to change. It is important in this inventory to realize that where we are right now is exactly where we need to be. There is no need to come down on ourselves for falling short of goals or encountering setbacks. Take this opportunity to practice self-compassion and have patience with yourself. In this compassionate space you will be able to see the areas that need more attention and set goals for realistic progress.
One Day at a Time
According to an article on Eating Disorder Hope (2013), among the top 2013 New Year’s resolutions were “becoming more physically fit” and “losing weight.” For anyone with an eating disorder, these resolutions are dangerous. Engaging in behaviors that trigger the eating disorder voice can lead to a relapse. For anyone, these generalized resolutions sound great at the time but quickly feel overwhelming because there is no instruction manual attached to teach us HOW to get there.
The great thing about resolutions is that we are in charge of creating the instruction manual! Recovery is an active process and we place the guideposts with the help of a treatment team. If you are in recovery, your New Year’s resolution might be to practice self-care. You can work with your treatment team to set smaller goals to achieve this. Perhaps this will mean engaging in one self-care activity, however small, per day. Over time these positive actions add up to larger gains in the form of increased mood and self-compassion. Recovery is truly a daily endeavor and if we focus on the moment and use our skills, progress will be made.
This New Year, resolve to put your recovery first. Although you may feel uncomfortable and triggered by the appearance-focused resolutions around you, be firm in your conviction to be well. The choices you make about your recovery will influence the direction your journey takes. Remember that even the smallest positive steps will eventually bear fruit in the form of lasting health and happiness.
Wishing you a New Year full of discovery, joy, and wellness!
Eating Disorder Hope (2013). A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping. www.eatingdisorderhope.com