The promise of a new year often gets you thinking about a “new (and implicitly improved) you”. Between the heightened noise of the diet industry and the reminder that you didn't achieve last year’s goal (it was the same one, wasn’t it?), you are conditioned to believe that it’s your willpower that is lacking. This will be the year. I WILL lose 15 pounds. I will get OFF SUGAR. I will BE STRONG.
When you stop and think about it, it’s a rather bizarre phenomenon. Every year at the same time – after a month of indulgences which you inevitably feel guilty about – you pick something about yourself to improve upon. Don’t get me wrong; self-examination is an incredibly important practice and something we should do all year long, but let’s break this down for a minute:
The definition of resolution is the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.
I’m going to write that again. Firmness of purpose. The words are critical here. They imply that if you want something enough you can make it happen, and if you fail it’s because you lack resolve. It becomes a judgment on your character. But if you are someone that has struggled with your weight or body image for years on end, you know in your heart that its not your resolve that’s lacking. Your desire to lose weight is very real and very strong. But you still don’t lose weight. You only deepen the hate you feel for yourself and your body.
The idea that willpower is the key to losing weight is the equivalent of believing that people with depression can just “snap out of it”. With any type of illness, you experiment with different treatments until you, hopefully, find something that works. You don’t expect that if you’re "tough enough" on yourself, you get healthy faster. If someone suggested that you just work harder to beat that flu virus, you would dismiss them as insane. No, you allow your body time to rest and repair. It’s no different with dieting or losing weight. It is equally unrealistic to believe that hating your body enough will give you the strength to change it.
My point is not that losing weight is impossible, nor that wanting to begin a new year with new goals is a waste of time. I merely want to demonstrate that how you approach it does matter. For starters, what if you ditch the notion of a resolution (and it’s implication that desire equals success) and shift, instead, to the idea of opportunity. What opportunity does the new year present you with that you most want to take advantage of? What opportunity do you want to make more space for in your life this coming year?
Rather than looking to change something about yourself that you don’t like, what if you appreciate yourself exactly as you are today so that you may start the new year with the increased capacity for self-care? If you focus more on creating space for the positive in your life and the things that make you feel good, you are much more likely to reap positive rewards, whatever they may be. If you practice self-love, you are much more apt to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Since this might be a radically new approach for some of you, I thought I would offer you 5 examples to get you inspired!
5 NEW YEARS OPPORTUNITIES FOR 2016:
- Make eye contact - maybe for you this means putting down the phone and actually smiling at the cute guy in the coffee shop you see every day. A little eye contact goes a long way!
- Eat MORE veggies - instead of focusing on the “bad” foods you want to cut from your diet, instead work on adding veggies at every meal. Don’t skip the pasta, just add a side salad. This way you are upping your nutrition and getting full from great stuff without depriving yourself of anything in the process.
- Enjoy your food - ditch the guilt. No matter what you are eating, practice committing to tasting and enjoying it. You might find that certain foods you think you love don't actually taste that good (or vice versa).
- Take time for self care every day - this does not mean you need to make it to the spa once a week. Choose something realistic; find one thing each day to compliment yourself on, for example.
- Be vulnerable - share your victories and your hardships with someone who cares about you. You are not a burden. Your loved ones WANT to be there for you. Let them in, for the good and the bad.
Here is to you recognizing how perfect you already are.