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January 3, 2024

A Non-Diet Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the start of a fresh new year, which, for many, signals the kick-off of “resolutions season.” There is nothing fundamentally wrong with using the turn of the calendar as an opportunity for self-reflection and goal-setting. However, if your intentions for 2024 hinge on diet and weight loss, they’re likely to do more harm than good. 

Despite the aggressive push of January weight loss and fitness ads, your body is not a “project” to be fixed, and your health is about so much more than a number on the scale or an arbitrary appearance goal. Diet culture resolutions are incredibly problematic, especially for those struggling with, recovering from, or susceptible to developing an eating disorder. Dieting is a key risk factor for eating disorders and interferes with the process of developing a healthy relationship with food. What’s more, when striving for an unattainable state (weight loss diets are designed to fail), feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy aren’t far behind.

If you want to adopt a New Year’s resolution, we encourage you to examine your motivations and set your goal with your recovery in mind. Spend some time identifying what’s truly important to you (e.g., learning a new skill, growing your self-confidence, practicing gratitude, making more time for rest, etc.), and disassociate any potential resolutions from weight loss or body size. Use the examples in this blog to inspire your own resolution-setting. Note that some of these suggestions may not be appropriate for everyone; please work with your recovery team or modify the examples to suit your unique recovery needs.

1. Better Identify Your Feelings

The human experience comes with a wide, complex array of emotions. Recovery calls for “making friends” with your emotions, learning to feel the full range, and, in turn, identifying how to best tolerate and manage them. Developing healthy coping mechanisms will help you grow your acceptance of challenging or uncomfortable feelings rather than fight, numb, or ignore them. As you build emotional awareness, practice self-compassion, recognizing that all feelings are valid.

2. Get Into a Regular Sleeping Pattern

When we sleep, our bodies repair, recharge, and relax. Making a conscious effort to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day can help restore the energy your body needs to heal and stay committed to the process of recovery.

If you struggle with sleep, try incorporating a relaxing activity beforehand. Aim to reduce your nighttime screen use, which can negatively affect your sleep quality. Reading a book, writing in a journal, or doing yoga are all accessible, calming tasks that can help facilitate a good night’s rest.

3. Write in a Journal

Journaling is a simple yet powerful tool for self-reflection, emotional processing, and mindfulness. You can use a journal to reflect on your day, take stock of any recovery wins and challenges, and unpack your thoughts and feelings. Don’t limit your journaling to just happy or sad feelings; welcome all emotions. Alternatively, writing a gratitude list may help to shift your perspective away from the self-criticism that accompanies eating disorders.

Below are a few journal prompts to help you get started:

  • What challenges did you overcome in 2023?
  • If you could name one song that captured the feeling of your year, what would it be and why?
  • What values, passions, hobbies, or relationships do you want to carry with you into 2024?
  • What is one risk you took in 2023 that pushed you out of your comfort zone?
  • What is no longer serving you? How can you opt out of it this year?
  • What is one goodbye you said this year (to a person, pet, habit, place, etc.)? Is there anything from that person/pet/thing you want to take with you into the next year?
  • In what moments did you feel the most empowered and authentically “you” in 2023? How can you recreate these moments in 2024?
  • What are your recovery hopes and goals for 2024?

4. Donate Old Clothes

Are you holding onto clothes that no longer fit? If yes, consider the reasons why. Donating clothes is a difficult resolution that may not be for everyone, especially for those early in their recovery. An eating disorder may urge you to keep your ill-fitting clothes, pushing back against natural changes in your body size and potentially stalling your recovery. While getting rid of clothes that no longer fit can be challenging, it can create space for new styles that make you feel more comfortable and confident.

Letting go of clothes that no longer fit can be a supported process. You don’t have to donate all the clothes in one go. Start with something that may be easier, working your way up to more emotionally charged clothing items only as you are ready. Take your time with this daunting task, asking for help from your team and a support person. Your recovery allies may be able to help determine what should stay and what can be donated more easily, as well as help process any feelings that arise. If getting rid of your clothes altogether is too difficult right now, perhaps they could hold on to them for you until you’re ready.

5. Carve Out Time for Yourself

We often need to take more time for ourselves and identify what it is we need. Going for a walk, reading a book, watching a favorite movie or television show, pursuing a hobby, doing some gentle stretching, or taking a bubble bath can be relaxing ways to incorporate some “me” time. Regular, uninterrupted downtime helps our brains to unplug, unwind, and recharge our batteries, putting us in better positions to get to know ourselves and appreciate who we are.

Self-care may be something already on your daily schedule, but other people may need to carve out specific time for it. If the latter describes you, making a conscious effort to schedule time alone or for self-care can help you commit to being present with yourself. Allow your brain and body to rest in the calmness of something you like to do.

6. Start a New Hobby

Finding a new passion can be fun and may fill the time previously spent engaging in disordered thoughts and behaviors. Check with your local recreational center to see what classes are offered. Research tutorials on YouTube that can help you kickstart a new hobby. Find a friend to join you in classes or with at-home DIY projects. Some fun hobbies include:

  • Gardening
  • Playing board games/role-playing games
  • Joining a book club
  • Drawing or painting
  • Origami
  • Photography
  • Woodworking
  • Miniature figure building/painting
  • Learning an instrument
  • Sewing
  • Knitting/cross-stitching
  • Reading
  • Volunteering

Remember that you don’t have to be perfect in these new hobbies. The goal is simply to have fun. Try a few options to see what sticks and feels good for you.

7. Reduce Your Time on Social Media

It’s no secret that social media can impact our health. Scrolling mindlessly for hours can contribute to boredom and a lack of motivation, which may trigger eating disorder behaviors. Social media can also exacerbate body comparison and body image issues. Taking a break might feel intimidating, but it can also open space for activities that align with your interests and goals.

If reducing your overall time on social media isn’t feasible right now, try unfollowing accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Instead, fill your feed with accounts that inspire, encourage, and support you in your recovery journey.

Wherever you are in your recovery journey, we wish you courage, peace, and continued healing. Here’s to an enriching and empowering 2024!

The new year is a fraught time for many in eating disorder recovery. If you could use support tuning out the diet and fitness noise and committing to your healing, Veritas Collaborative is here to help. Give us a call at 1-855-305-6481 or complete our online Get Help form.