As 2018 comes to a close, I am bracing myself for the unavoidable onslaught of New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, many (if not most) of these resolutions will focus on trying to change one’s weight or shape and this can be triggering for the millions of individuals who have experienced or are experiencing an eating disorder. Beyond this, making resolutions to try to change your body simply reinforces the message that weight equals worth. So how can we navigate the messiness of appearance-based resolutions as we enter 2019?
1. Acknowledge the appearance ideal. The appearance ideal is the image that the media sells us about how we should look. This ideal tells us that if we look a certain way then we will be happier, healthier, and more successful. Every time we try to change our body to fit with these standards, we reinforce the appearance ideal and give the beauty industry more power. This year, I challenge you to ask yourself why you are making a weight or fitness-based resolution. I imagine that you will find that it is influenced, at least in part, by the appearance ideal and the belief that thinner or fitter equals better. I also challenge you to think about whether this is in line with your values and/or what you want to achieve in life. For example, I value being connected to others, so focusing my time and energy on losing weight or going to the gym, rather than spending time with my family, actually interferes with my ability to be the person I want to be. If an appearance-based resolution is interfering with your goals or values, maybe it is not the best resolution to make.
2. Make resolutions that align with your values. Core values are fundamental beliefs that lead us toward our goals. They reflect ways we want to act (e.g., generous), ways we want to be (e.g., authentic), and things we find important (e.g., connection). Everyday we are presented with choices that bring us closer to or farther away from our values, and New Year’s resolutions are no exception. I challenge you then to make a resolution that aligns with your values and brings you closer to the person you want to be. For example, if you (like me) value connection, a resolution might be to catch-up with a friend once every week. If you value courage, you might resolve to share a vulnerable experience with a friend or family member. These types of value-based resolutions will likely bring you genuine happiness and connection to your true self and others.
3. Take care of yourself. If you are triggered or upset by people talking about their weight- or appearance-based resolutions, give yourself permission to take a break. Take some space and try to find your center. Remind yourself of your values and ask yourself whether picking an appearance-based resolution is right for you. It is okay to walk away from conversations that are unhelpful, especially if they may compromise your well-being. Weight-based resolutions have been engrained in our society for years and it is unlikely that this will change overnight. Instead, you may have to make choices to protect yourself, like asking a family member to stop talking about their resolution to lose X pounds, sending them this blog, or walking away. Whatever you need, it is okay for you to distance yourself from harmful resolutions.
At the end of the day (or year), January 1st is just another day. When the clock strikes midnight you will still be the same person that you are today; changing your weight or shape will not alter who you are at your core. So why not come up with some resolutions that lead you to the person you want to be? Why not make resolutions with the aim of finding genuine happiness and contentment? Why not resolve to be more connected with your values on December 31st, 2019? What do you have to lose?