Say NO to NYE Resolutions That May Trigger Eating Disorders
The end of the year is approaching. Given the challenges that 2020 has imparted on virtually every American, young and old, it is likely safe to say that most are happy to see the year come to a close. While we await the arrival of 2021 and hopefully better times ahead, we often begin to think about the changes we plan to or want to make in our lives in the coming months. For many, New Year’s resolutions are at the forefront of our minds. It always seems there is a strong focus on resolutions centered on weight loss, dieting, exercise, choosing healthier habits, and significant lifestyle changes. While many of these can be beneficial when properly integrated into one’s day to day life, resolutions can also bring about pressure and stress to achieve or adhere to them. Resolutions can be especially triggering for those who struggle with an eating disorder or at risk for developing an eating disorder. Resolutions and the potential failure to keep them can also be triggering for those who have completed treatment at a treatment center like Meadowglade and are currently in recovery.
This year, instead of focusing on traditional New Year’s resolutions that generally focus on numbers (weight, calories, carbs, etc.) and appearance, consider the below resolution ideas that can improve your overall mental health while reducing the potential for relapse.
Count Gratitude Instead of Calories
Indeed, it is easier said than done but this year, consider resolutions that are not related to physical appearance. It is essential to remember that mental and spiritual health is equally as important to your overall health and well-being. Numerous studies have shown at least eighty percent of resolutions made at the New Year fail before February first, especially those related to diet and exercise. People in recovery from disordered eating often focus on the negative and lose their ability to see and fixate on all of the good things. Instead of counting daily calories this year, focus on writing down something (or several things) you are grateful for each day.
You can start your day with your gratitude list or take a moment before retiring for the evening to collect your thoughts. Although the holiday season and the upcoming new year may be a source of stress, there are likely many things you remain grateful for that provide a driving force being ongoing health and recovery. These things could be as simple as a supportive friend, the sunshine outside your window, or a new hobby that you discovered. Whatever your gratitude, a new year’s resolution to keep a gratitude journal is a healthy way to self-reflect on the elements in your life that continue to reinforce health and happiness.
Begin A New Self-Care Routine
Many who struggle with disordered eating or body image often have habits that involve the body or weight checking each day, urges to exercise, or other harmful practices that perpetuate recovery challenges. Instead of resolving to focus on the negative, choose to begin new rituals that focus on self-care and mental health while reducing your focus on how others perceive body image. For example, instead of checking social media or other gossip sights that inevitably invoke comparisons of yourself to others, choose to watch a funny video, or read a book. Instead of weight or calorie checking each day, look into yoga or meditation practices to help reduce stress and anxiety. Instead of logging your meals, use the time to journal about the positive experiences you had during the day. Although these rituals may seem silly in the short-term, choosing to focus your energy on positive self-care routines over those that may be triggering or lead to relapse will help ensure old and unhealthy rituals have less control over you in the new year.
Give Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes
The new year and associated New Year’s resolutions often put pressure on you to perform perfectly to ensure your resolution is kept. Many resolutions are comprised of demanding and sometimes nearly impossible standards to achieve. If we are unable to attain the standards we set for our resolutions, it often leads to feelings of inadequacy or shame, which can be triggering. In the end, recovery is not a perfectly linear path, and we, as humans, are far from perfect as well. Everyone makes mistakes or poor choices now and then but being imperfect does not mean you have relapsed or failed in your recovery journey. Instead of using your new year’s resolution to put pressure on yourself to achieve perfection, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and learn from them. It is important to note that accepting imperfection is not a reason to engage in adverse behaviors that could lead to relapse. Accepting imperfection is acknowledging that even though you may make mistakes in recovery, you will still continue to get better. It is the understanding that struggles and occasional missteps do not negate all of the progress made so far during treatment and recovery.
Out with The Old and In with The New
When you completed treatment for disordered eating, you began a journey towards a “new” life in recovery. The incoming new year is an excellent reason to continue your focus on new and healthy things. This year consider trying a new hobby. Perhaps you have always wanted to paint, make pottery or learn how to decorate cakes. The new year is a perfect time to toss aside the reasons you may have for procrastinating on something that could bring newfound enjoyment. Also, trying a new hobby will introduce you to a new circle of like-minded peers who share in something you are passionate about.
Meeting new friends who support you and your goals will also bring positivity into your day-to-day life. This may be something you need during the dark times that can arise during the holiday season. New peers and social circles are also helpful when you need someone to lean on or someone to share your struggles and concerns with. Unfortunately, part of recovery is often letting go of members of our social circles. For various reasons, these individuals are reminders of situations, events, or circumstances that led to disordered eating. Spending time with them may still be triggering for some time after treatment. Forming a new and supportive social circle can help reduce potential triggers and may even help you develop new and healthy coping strategies for the new year and beyond.
Don’t Be Ashamed to Ask for Help
Asking for help can be difficult, especially when you are in recovery and fear how relapse may impact ongoing healing. It is vital that you reach out and ask for help when you need it, especially if you feel triggered during the holiday season. Reach out to a friend, family member, or your therapist at Meadowglade before allowing stress and anxiety to take hold.
As New Year’s Eve and the beginning of a long-awaited new year approach, American’s (and the rest of the world) begin to reflect on the year that has just passed and what is to come. With this reflection typically comes the desire to change our current way of being or start or try something entirely new and different. It may be traveling to a new location, saving to buy a house, or trying to check desired items off our “bucket list.” However, sometimes working towards lofty (and difficult to attain) goals can be detrimental to eating disorder recovery-even when the goals or resolutions are not related to diet or body image.
Many new year’s resolutions are centered around improving body image, which can be triggering for someone in recovery. Many of these resolutions die within a few short weeks, creating a sense of failure because you did not meet specific standards related to your resolution. The unhealthy and unrealistic goals (fitting into that dress or those skinny jeans) often set as part of New Year’s resolutions can quickly derail recovery and trigger relapse. Resolutions are not bad; however, it is essential to be mindful of the expectations and goals you set as they will continue to play a significant role in your ongoing eating disorder recovery.
This year choose resolutions focused on self-care and healing. Avoid resolutions that address (directly or indirectly) weight, dieting, relapse, or unhealthy exercise. Avoid setting “goal weights” or clothing sizes to achieve in the New Year. These goals are often unrealistic, and the inability to achieve them will promote feelings of failure or guilt. This year choose resolutions that avoid specifics such as numbers, checklists, or quantities. Choose open-ended goals that are realistic for your eating disorder recovery. Flexible goals are healthy and, in many cases, significantly more attainable than goals that are “final” in their achievement.
If you are in recovery from disordered eating or considering seeking treatment, we at Meadowglade in Moorpark, California, are here to support you in healing. Our caring and compassionate staff provide comprehensive, evidence-based therapy in a luxury treatment setting. The holiday season and arrival of the near year can increase anxiety and stress levels for everyone. For someone in recovery from disordered eating, triggers are often more prominent and plentiful this time of year. Recovery from disordered eating is not instant. In fact, the process can take months or even years. Slips, steps backward, and relapse do happen for many. Continuing to work and move forward is the key to continued recovery and healing.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder trigger or have experienced a relapse during your recovery, do not wait to reach out for help. Recovery is one of the hardest things to achieve, but it is possible with treatment, support, and help from the staff at Meadowglade.