It’s no secret that the holiday season can be stressful, especially for those in eating disorder recovery. 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. If you’re anything like me, you likely take part in the reflection, resolve, evolve, disappoint cycle that is January. It can be pretty difficult to rise above the self-deprecating thoughts that weigh heavily on our minds when we inevitably don’t live up to our lofty new year expectations.

Being in the eating disorder recovery field, I have a hard time existing in a world where attempts at self-betterment are so heavily focused on external appearance. Around this time, I am inundated with diet-focused messaging in advertisements and in my social media feeds. As if that wasn’t enough, talk about body shape and size have again started to monopolize way too many of my conversations with friends and family members.

So, instead of complaining to my colleagues about it this year, I’ve decided to 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.

Below, I have taken the top three most popular “New Year’s Resolutions” and provided helpful cognitive shifts. I am hopeful that these shifts will be helpful in elevating ourselves out of the negative and into the positive for 2020.

“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 drain us.

“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 literally making ourselves sick. “Orthorexia” or the extreme desire to eat only pure, whole foods is a newer disordered eating pattern wherein individuals typically begin altering their eating pattern with the desire to improve quality of life. What we then see in individuals who develop Orthorexia is actually quite the opposite and with severe physical and mental health complications often resulting.

For 2020, instead of focusing on lofty and ambiguous eating goals, let’s try to focus on balance. Cutting out entire food groups like “fun foods” will actually make us crave these foods more. Adhering to an “all-foods fit” philosophy is a great way to remedy the restrict binge cycle. By incorporating appropriate amounts of each of the food groups AND making room for foods that we crave, we can help minimize rigid rules and increase positive experiences with food.

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

This morning, I spent some time in the mirror critiquing the way my body looked.  What I didn’t know, is that in the 5 minutes it took to tear myself down, my heart continued beating approximately 400 times and pumped 7.5 GALLONS of blood. During this same time, my body also created 120 million blood cells that helped carry oxygen to different parts of my body. It also cleaned about 1.2 liters of blood – to remove waste – and pumped 11mL of oxygen into my lungs. All of these unbelievable things happened while I lamented over my body’s gravitational pull to the earth.

This got me thinking a bit about my priorities. I’ve gotten into this negative habit – and I think a lot of people can relate – of focusing on what my body looks like over what it does for me. My body allows me to show love, chase my puppy around, smell the pine and firewood smells of the season and practice soul-restoring yoga. These activities elevate my spirit and remind me that I am so much more than a physical body.

That is why this year, I am giving myself permission to focus on all of the ways my body enables me to experience joy; will you join me? 

Like this content? Check out more tips that you can try to help cope this holiday season:

  1. Diagnosis of Eating Disorders Spikes Around Holiday Season, Experts Say
  2. Eating Disorders & the Holidays: 5 Tips to Support Your Loved One
  3. Recovery Tips for the Holidays
  4. Try These 6 Helpful Tips for Navigating the Holidays with an Eating Disorder

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Natalie Cohen (She, Her, Hers) is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Walden Behavioral Care. In this role, she is responsible for managing internal and external communications, content creation, public releations and social media. She has been a part of the Walden family for nearly 7 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.