It’s no secret that the holiday season can be stressful. On top of all the adrenaline that follows Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hanukah and/or Kwanzaa is the hope-filled, high-pressure time leading up to and following the New Year. For those of us who take part in the reflection, resolve, evolve, disappoint cycle that is January, it can be pretty difficult to rise above some of the self-deprecating thoughts that saturate our psyche when we inevitably don’t live up to our lofty new year expectations.

Being in the eating disorder field, I have a hard time existing in a world where attempts at self-betterment are so heavily focused on external appearance. Diet-focused messaging like “Lose 10 pounds in the new year,” and “check out this new work-out for killer abs” quite literally flood my social media feeds and monopolize way too many of my conversations with friends and relatives.

Instead of complaining to my colleagues about it, this year I thought I would do something to combat these harmful narratives. As a flexible promise to myself, I look forward to putting my words into practice. Instead of looking to amend areas of my life that feel “less-than” my hope is to find opportunities that will complement and enrich all of the things in my life that I already have to be grateful for. I have taken the top three most popular “New Year’s Resolutions” and provided helpful cognitive shifts that can help us to elevate ourselves out of the negative and into the positive for 2019.

  1. “Go to the gym more” –> “Understand my motivations for physical movement”

There have been so many studies proving the mental and physical health benefits of exercise.  While going to the gym more may be a helpful and attainable goal for many, others may benefit from better understanding their motivations for movement. Are your gym goals centered around losing weight? Because you think you “should” or because you feel guilty if you don’t? If so, you might try reassessing your movement habits and shifting them to feel more authentic and positive. So often we associate exercise with weight-loss and mundane workouts that we hate at the gym. The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement recommends a regular practice of “joyful movement.” This could include walks with your pups, hiking, gardening, playing tag with your neighbor, roller skating or yoga. Joyful movement is never punishment for food consumed, rather an extension of body appreciation and celebration. SO. This year, let’s try to practice moving our bodies joyfully in ways that lift us instead of draining us.

  1. “Eat healthier” –>“Practice an All-Foods Fit Mentality”

With our world being where it is, we are inundated with mixed messages about our health on a daily basis. In fact, we have become so obsessed with achieving optimal “health” and “eating clean” that we are starting to literally make ourselves sick. “Orthorexia” or the extreme desire to eat only pure, whole foods is a newer disordered eating pattern that we are seeing in program. Individuals living with Orthorexia typically begin their altered eating pattern with the desire to improve their quality of life; we then see it have the opposite of the intended effect causing severe physical and mental health complications. SO. Instead of focusing on ambiguous and lofty eating pattern goals, maybe this year we can focus on balance. Cutting out entire food groups or “fun foods” will actually make us crave these foods more. Practicing an “all-foods fit” eating plan, incorporating appropriate amounts of each of the food groups AND making room for fun foods can help minimize rigid rules and expectations and increase positive experiences with food.

  1. “Lose weight” –> “Appreciate my body for what it does for me vs what it looks like”

In the 5 minutes you stood in front of the mirror to critique a body part or lament over the couple of pounds you may have gained from enjoying your holidays, your heart has beat approximately 400 times, pumped 7.5 GALLONS of blood, created 120 million blood cells that help carry oxygen to different parts of your body, cleaned about 1.2 liters of blood – removing waste – and has pumped 11mL of oxygen into your lungs. All of these unbelievable things and all we often focus on is our body’s gravitational pull to the earth. SO. This year, I’m going to try (and I encourage you to do the same) to prioritize the things my body does for me every minute over how it looks. My body allows me to show love, chase my nutty puppy around, smell the pine and firewood smells of the season and practice soul-restoring yoga. All of these things bring me immense joy and I am going to allow myself to bask in that.

If you are in need of some extra support this resolution season, we are here for you.

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Natalie Cohen is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Walden Behavioral Care. In this role, she is responsible for managing internal and external communications, content creation and social media. She has been a part of the Walden family for nearly 6 years and enjoys being able to advocate for patients and families who are looking for specialized eating disorder support. When she’s not busy pitching media or writing blogs, Natalie enjoys practicing yoga, cuddling with her Pomeranian, Bella and exploring new restaurants in Boston.