At the start of the New Year, our minds are often geared toward what we need to do differently or better in the coming twelve months. Recognizing our shortcomings and identifying aspects of our lives that need improvement can be a challenging exercise for all of us, particularly if those perceived inadequacies are related to our weight, shape, size or appearance.
Last year, I outlined several considerations for making body-, eating- and confidence-friendly New Year’s resolutions. This year, I want to stress a single underlying tenet that I strongly encourage to anyone making self-improvement goals for the coming year: Be kind to yourself.
It sounds simple, but it can be very difficult to show ourselves kindness and compassion, especially when larger popular culture constantly tells us that we are not thin enough, not muscular enough, or not beautiful enough. We internalize these pervasive cultural sentiments and often set goals for ourselves that are unhealthy. Sometimes, our goals are unrealistic or even impossible for us to attain. When we fail to achieve our resolutions, it perpetuates the cycle of inadequacy and can leave us feeling ashamed and depressed. So this January, I implore you to show yourself the kindness you deserve and make realistic New Year’s resolutions that favor balance, moderation, health and relationships above weight loss, measurements or calories consumed.
Individuals struggling with—or in recovery from—an eating disorder often have a difficult time showing themselves kindness. Sometimes the development of healthy, realistic New Year’s resolutions can be very challenging. Often times, goals for the New Year often reflect the need for excellence related to food, eating, exercise or recovery skills in some cases. As a result, treatment professionals encourage individuals touched by eating disorders to avoid New Year’s resolutions that revolve around body, weight, shape, food and eating. Instead, it can be beneficial to emphasize self-care and recovery-focus in goals for the coming year. To this end, I would encourage consideration of the following resolutions for 2015:
- Practice acceptance—things happen in our lives that we cannot control and that make us feel pain, sadness or worry. You don’t have to do anything to “get rid of” these uncomfortable feelings.
- Identify one core value (something that is important to you)—each day, ask yourself: “Are my thoughts and actions moving me toward or away from this value?”
- Connect meaningfully with another person at least once each day—call a friend, email a member of your support group or visit with your outpatient treatment team.
- Celebrate who you are, not what you are—we are not defined by a number on the scale or our clothing size.
- Ask for help—we all need help from time to time, and letting others help us is not a sign of weakness. Support from loved ones, friends, colleagues and treatment professionals can alleviate some of the anxiety we feel when faced with tasks and decisions both big and small.
- Get involved—connect with a supportive network of individuals championing for eating disorder awareness and recovery. Support groups, awareness activities and educational opportunities abound, so commit to participating. Your insights and experiences are valuable, and they could help save a life.