Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
Nikki Rollo, PhD, LMFT
So, here we are… it’s the middle of January and there is a good chance that whatever resolutions you have made have already proved a struggle. Perhaps you feel totally caught in the web of “New Year New You” that seems to be floating around all over social media and you aren’t sure how to get out of feeling like a failure.
See most of the time we make these resolutions that are all or nothing. We make resolutions that require us to be a totally different person- a “new you”.
Hmmm, what does that even mean?!
It sure seems like these kinds of resolutions ask us to negate the value of who we already are in service of becoming someone totally different- an unattainable ideal of some sort.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, black and white thinking and all or nothing extremes may be all too familiar to you- and may even be a comfortable place to be mentally and emotionally. An important part of recovery however, is learning to be okay with the gray, the in-betweens, the both-ands of life.
Even if you are actively working on this, there is something about the start of the new year with the focus on resolutions that can sweep us up into the web of extremes.
Diet and consumer culture so expertly lure us into these seemingly innocuous ideas such as eating “clean”, buying only organic, working out more (for health of course!), and denying ourselves certain pleasures of life that may be just “too sweet” for our own good.
Shame and guilt-inducing resolutions have been repackaged as “good for our health” or as “character building challenges”.
We can get caught in this powerful web of diet industry generated ideas and resolutions that ultimately rob us of a deeper connection to our passions, purpose, values, and deepest desires of the heart. These ideas that seem innocent, harmless, or even good for us, in the extreme version (think “new you”), actually bring us deeper into the web of de-valuing instead of celebrating who we are and building up our character.
Now, don’t get me wrong- sometimes we need to make changes in our lives in order to truly heal from something or celebrate and be the best version of ourselves… and what I am suggesting here is that you use all of your energies and intentions to go after just that- the best version of who you are and were meant to be, rather than scrapping it to chase after some unrealistic and unattainable ideal that keeps you disconnected from a sense of deeper meaning and purpose.
Here are a few practical journaling prompts and some action steps for using the rest of January to untangle yourself from the web of unrealistic extreme resolutions and set you on a path of connection, joy, purpose, and meaning in 2018.
Pull out your journal and take some time to reflect and write some of your responses to the following prompts. (I also suggest bringing this to your next therapy session to process and share what you have learned from writing):
- Stop and Challenge: What goals did you set for yourself for this year that have you feeling entangled in a web of perfectionism or extremes? How has the diet culture lured you into resolutions that appear healthy but may be the same old messages repackaged or rebranded? Write a response back to those extremes that provides a different perspective, one that takes into account the matters of the heart and soul.
- Build on Successes: Instead of the approach of completely starting over each year, what are you proud of or happy about from the last year and the year before? How can you build on that success in the new year? What would be the next step in doing something to take action on that success? Make a commitment to do one small thing in the next week that builds on your success and share that with someone else for accountability.
- Find Value in Your Story: What has your life brought to you (joys, heartbreaks, mental health issues, healing etc…)? What have you learned from it? In what ways has it pushed you forward or held you back? Is there something in your story that others may benefit from knowing? Could you inspire someone by owning your story just a little more this year? Think about one person you might want to share a piece of your story with and contact them in the next week for a cup of tea, a shared meal, a walk out in nature, or a phone call.
- Cultivate Enjoyment and Meaning: What brings you joy? What helps you feel a sense of purpose or meaning? What matters to you in life? What do you like? Think about intentions or “resolutions” that are in service of bringing more of this into your life. Write down a few things that you would like to incorporate into your life that are not about being better or different, but instead about bringing more joy and a deeper sense of purpose for 2018.