New Year’s resolutions become quite a hot topic in the last stretch 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.
Let's not forget that our society has been known to exploit insecurities. Think about all of the commercials and ads that pop up throughout the year. There are many ads about gym memberships, weight loss pills, “quick fix” and “miracle working” solutions that are pushed on us and we're believed to think that we need to buy these things in order to be successful in reaching our appearance-altering goals. If these constant ads tell us anything about our society, it's that we live in a culture that capitalizes on this type of New Year’s resolution. The U.S. diet industry happens to make more than $70 billion per year from adults that wish to lose weight. These ads can have a drastic, negative effect on men and women struggling with their own body image. 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 feel happy with the "inside."
Thinking about my work with individuals struggling with eating disorders, this can be a triggering message for many. Changing outward appearances to achieve any sense of satisfaction or acceptance is a truly toxic message to give to those who already feel unhappy living 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 body image distress and increase the likelihood of engaging in eating disorder behaviors and other maladaptive habits for individuals in recovery.
So let me give it to you straight:
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 perspective 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 It is okay to challenge these outdated resolutions for the purpose of maintaining recovery.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 2023.