New Year’s Resolutions. Did you make any? I sort of did. But they are not
Herculean-sized goals like paying off every student loan dollar I borrowed for college, meditating every morning, starting CrossFit, or eliminating sugar from my diet. I have an ongoing mental checklist that I add to sometimes when there are lifestyle tweaks I want to make, but I am careful to not overwhelm myself and live by the expectation that each change will be successful and celebrated in victory simply because a new year has come. New years don’t change us. The number glaring back on the calendar is really nothing more than that—a number—a marker and measurement of time. What matters more is our motive behind making these changes and who exactly it is we are making the change for. And tempering those truths with realistic expectations rather than a fantastical illusion of what could or should be despite what is practical and within our capability.
I did not always think or live this way. Like so many others, the first of January was traditionally the day I started a new diet.
I remember many New Year’s Eve celebrations from years past in which a part of the party was stuffing my face with as many Kit Kat bars and Cool Ranch Doritos and cupcakes as I possibly could. It was a “last supper,” sort of occasion in which I gave myself permission to gorge on as many finger-licking good and fat-laden foods as I wanted. No shame. No judgment. No remorse about the empty Ritz Bitz bag crumpled up like old homework in the kitchen trash can. No feelings of guilt. Because the next day would be the day it all changed. At the start of a new year, where I assumed a change in the date on the calendar would pump me up with some superpower I lacked in the previous twelve months and set the sails of my ship on course to looking like Mila Kunis right in time for bikini season.
If you are starting a new diet with the goal of losing “x” amount of pounds or fitting into your favorite cocktail dress that you haven’t worn in four years, I admire you. I commend you. I know what it is like. I have been in your shoes and played the same tapes in my head. I have crucified myself internally for being “fat,” and shamed myself into restrictive diets more times than I can recall.
Here’s the thing though, I spent half of my young adult life depriving myself and obsessing over calories and carbs and the cookies I had just consumed too many of or wouldn’t let myself have at all. I over-ate and beat myself up over it. I fell victim to the “all or nothing” thinking that told me I may as well eat the entire pint of Rocky Road and bag of corn chips since I had already eaten two servings too many because I could start fresh tomorrow. Or on the first of January. I could begin a new diet and as a punishment for my gluttonous sins, put up pictures of the girls from SHAPE and Fitness magazine on my fridge and bathroom mirror as reminders of what I should look like. It became a pendulum that I dangled from, swinging me back and forth from one extreme to another and enslaving me to the false promise of perfection by way of self-loathing, shaming, and depriving.
I wish I could back in time, give that girl a hug, and rip down the pictures of the bikini models from her bathroom mirror and tell her she is beautiful.
I spent too many years believing that at the beginning of each, I would change my life and drop down to a size four. But I never successfully lost weight because of a New Years resolution to do so.
I eventually did shed my extra baggage. It just didn’t happen in January. And it took a lot of time and hard work.
If you are starting a diet, please don’t stake your self-worth in the scale or the pooch that hangs over your pants or the cellulite on your thighs or the double cheeseburger you ate last night. And do not expect a New Year’s resolution to be the thing that whips you into shape. It won’t.
I began my journey to losing ninety pounds on a boring day in June. You can change your life and get healthy whenever you want — it only depends on these two things:
How badly you want it, and loving yourself unconditionally at whatever weight you are right now.
We need to stop seeing food and scales and portion sizes as ways of punishing ourselves into shape.
Stop hating your body. It’s not the enemy. It is not what needs changing in order for you to be happy and whole and at peace with yourself. It is the messages that we feed our minds that need fixing—the labor of self-love. And the day that we are able to do this well and put in the work it requires, will be the first day of a truly new beginning that will extend beyond the calendar year and stick with us through thick and thin.