If you set a New Year’s resolution this year there’s a high chance you may have given up already. Stats show that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February, with 12th January apparently being the day when most people quit, so if you have walked away from your big 1st Jan promise, you’re definitely not alone.
Traditionally, I’ve always hated NY resolutions. Even when I bought into them, I hated them. I’d sign up for Dry January through gritted teeth, splash out on a gym membership with resignation and make a month’s worth of “healthy eating” meal plans while simultaneously rolling my eyes. A week in I’d be bored and miserable, switching from feeling like a failure one minute to a rebel the next.
But this isn’t another post about why NY resolutions are a load of rubbish. Despite having experienced them and hated them, despite stats showing most of them fail, despite not actually making any NY resolutions for the past three years… I’m still a believer that some NY resolutions ARE positive and CAN be achievable.
Here’s the thing, I’ve read so many articles, Twitter rants, Instagram debates and Facebook threads in the past week that seem to put people into two camps. There’s the FOR camp and the AGAINST camp. Both camps are very angry, passionately defending their right to either do or not do an NY resolution while justifying their choice in the most persuasive terms.
In a month when the world has gone mad over a vegan sausage roll it’s perhaps unsurprising that people feel so edgy about their right to do or not do NY resolutions… but I can’t help feel like everyone’s kind of missing the point.
It seems to me, those arguing against NY resolutions are doing so from a place of self-love. They don’t want to buy into diet culture (ding ding, I’m ALL for that – see my post on that very subject from last year). They don’t want to set themselves up for failure by making unrealistic changes to their lifestyle overnight. They actually quite like the person they already are and they don’t want to throw that person away like a bit of old Christmas wrapping paper just because 1st Jan has rolled around. I get it.
But the ones who are in the pro NY resolutions camp seem to be coming from a place of self-love also. They want to make changes to their lifestyle because they think those changes will make them happier. They want to get excited about learning new things in the year ahead and see 1st Jan as a lovely clean slate from which to start. They see themselves as a constantly evolving person and want to grow their potential and self worth in the year ahead. I get that too.
Maybe it’s the Libran in me wailing “Why can’t we all just get along”, but it seems to me that you can both love yourself, be happy with who you are AND want to use January as a month to kick-start a change, new growth, maybe take on some goals.
For me, there seem to be two types of NY resolution: the ones coming from a positive place and the ones coming from a negative place. Positive resolutions focus on self-care, kindness and growth. Maybe it’s going to bed earlier, doing a bit of yoga a couple of times a week, learning a new skill. But then there are the other ones, the ones that may look like self-care but are actually diets and toxic beauty ideals dressed up as “healthy living”.
It’s not always easy to distinguish between the two, particularly since diets have got so good at rebranding themselves as “wellness” courses, cleverly disguising losing weight to reach an unobtainable and unrealistic beauty ideal as “being kind to yourself”. Sneaky.
I’m not going to turn this whole post into an anti-diets rant – there are plenty of places to read up on why diets are not the one, if you’re interested. But I do think it’s important to briefly touch on WHY a January diet is such a potentially toxic place to make an NY resolution from. The problem with diets is that THEY DO NOT WORK. Diets have been shown* to be one of the main triggers for disordered eating and eating disorders, can lead to complex control issues around food, can lead to mental health problems and depression – and, ultimately, are unsustainable.
Diets have been proven to lead to weight cycling – where people put on weight and lose it over and over again – which ultimately leads to the majority of dieters ending up larger than they were before. Of course this is what the companies want though, because if you put the weight on you’ll have to go back and buy the product again.
That’s not my biggest issue with the whole diet culture thing though. My main beef with it all is that it perpetuates the idea that all we have to offer is our body, that our appearance is the most important thing about us, that if we are a certain shape we will be happy, that people who are that shape are more worthy than anyone else – and that, ultimately, no one is ever 100% “enough” as they are, regardless of their shape (if you’re thin you need to be toned, if you’re curvy you need to be thin etc etc etc). While we’re obsessing over this stuff we’re taking our energy from all the other things we could be doing – like binge watching You on Netflix and perfecting how to make the best cup of Earl Grey tea. (Laura Thomas already has written beautifully on the whole January diet culture issue in this article for Refinery29.)
However, diet rant aside, that’s NOT to say that wanting to change your relationship with food, exercise more and move your body for joy are all bad things. Far from it.
Study after study after study has shown that exercise can make you feel happier and lead to feeling more connected with your body – WHATEVER the shape your body may be. So resolving to do some exercise in 2019 doesn’t have to mean you’re going to become obsessed with over exercising or that you automatically want to reach some unobtainable body shape.
And in just the same way, if you feel you don’t have a great relationship with food, it can only be a positive thing to want to change that. There are some amazing resources and information around about intuitive eating at the moment, which is a revolutionary way to look at food and eating – and very much NOT in the diet camp.
As for me, the only NY resolution camp I’m willing to join is the FUN one. I’ve gone all woo woo this year and manifested some intentions for 2019. On my list are “parachute jump” and “be outside lots”, along with some big dreaming work goals for the year. I want to immerse myself with inspiring creative projects and definitely read more books this year. Yoga is up there on my list because it soothes my mind, along with trying to run a bit more often because I love it.
Oh, and I also want to try that vegan sausage roll. I’m dreaming big for 2019.
Happy new year!
*Project Eat is a good place to start when looking into the academic research around dieting.