Ok, so it’s the first day of February and if you’re anything like me, your New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten. You’re face down in a large bar of chocolate and throwing back the wine like there’s no tomorrow. Except I’m not face down in chocolate, whilst guzzling back the vino. Don’t get me wrong, years gone by I would have been but this year is a little different for me. I’m aware that this is probably making you think ‘smug cow’, but bear with me, I’m here to help!
Why do we find it so hard to keep them?
According to YouGov 21% of us intended to make New Year’s Resolutions when polled in December. And in 2017 only 10% of people polled reported to have kept all their resolutions. So at least a fifth of the UK are setting them and a small proportion manage to keep them, but why? It’s a drastic process to try quit sugar, give up booze, diet, exercise 4 times a week and try out Veganuary etc, etc. In short we try to change everything at once. This shock to our bodies and social lives is pretty hard to bear. Not being able to go out with friends due to one or all of your resolutions, makes us fed up.
I should do that, shouldn’t I?
I don’t know about you, but when I think I should do something it’s the last thing I actually want to do. Even if I normally love salad or yoga, the should take’s all the joy out of it and I want to rebel. When making our resolutions we tell ourselves we should get fitter, we should eat healthier and we should… This should-ing actually makes us resent the resolution and it then becomes the enemy. We live in an instant society. We can get anything we want, whenever we want, meaning making slow progress is frustrating. I sometimes do a new exercise and expect to be instantly transformed, annoyingly this isn’t the case and I think about giving up. It’s human nature, effort = results. We all know, with exercise you have to continually put in the effort over a period of time. But in our instant society that is hard to remember. So we don’t get the instant results we expect. We can’t socialise as we want for fear of eating or drinking the wrong thing. And we feel like we are being told to do something, that brings out the inner rebellious child in us. No wonder we give the New Year’s resolutions the heave-ho, and chalk it up to another year that we can’t keep them.
So why is it different for me in 2018?
It started early last year with a few books and ramped up with #selfcareseptember. I bloody well fell in love, with myself. No I’m not up myself, arrogant or think that I am special. I just realised that living the rest of my life at war with myself was pretty stupid and the reason for most of my problems. Constantly putting myself down, berating an outfit choice or fat shaming myself for eating some cake was the actual reason I was struggling with my weight. I was in this perpetual cycle of diet, lose weight, feel good for like a week then put it back on, only with a bit extra to boot. I was constantly unhappy, unable to enjoy any foods, a salad made me feel good so I’d reward myself with a portion of chips. This would make me feel bad so I would punish myself with, yes you guessed it, more food. To say my relationship with food was unhealthy would be an understatement. Now I was a food teacher, so actually understood the basic principles of how to lead a healthy lifestyle but could I do it? No. The reason… No I wasn’t lazy, as most people would think, I worked pretty hard and planned my meals out like a boss. And there it is, the need to plan out my meals, to carefully control every element of my intake. To restrict the good fats or home-made juices as they were ‘bad’ and to eat fat-free products and drink diet coke to sustain the hunger pangs. Don’t worry about the hidden sugar in fat-free products or vice versa in sugar-free. Don’t worry about the ingredients you find hard to pronounce, you will lose weight and that my dear, is all that matters. Nope!
Happiness eluded me as I couldn’t get out of my own head. Forever comparing myself to others, thinking about if I ate something, how bad that would make me and then doing it anyway, which inevitably lead to self loathing. And on the cycle went. I was so consumed with my lack of self-worth and the constant binge, starve cycle that social occasions made me more uncomfortable than anything else and life just passed me by. This would start every January the 1st. I’d need to lose weight for a wedding, a trip, a party, an event and by March I had given in and gained weight, not lost it. Then I’d refocus and summer would be my aim and maybe I’d manage it that time but sure enough it would creep back on eventually. The diet industry. Or more truthfully, society’s reliance on the diet industry is to blame. We judge people on how they look, not how they feel. We might not want to admit this but the term fat shamming doesn’t exist by coincidence. We gather together for social occasions and comment on how much weight someone has lost, or how great x looks because she has lost weight, or how fabulous this new diet is that someone is trying. This very notion makes even the confident reflect on themselves and the insecure go in to a pit of despair. I understand this is a problem within society, but we need to stop it. People might want to lose weight, be losing weight, or in your opinion need to lose weight but valuing a person on this fact is not ok, not even a stranger in the street. The industry profits on unhappiness and it wouldn’t be a $66 billion dollar industry if it truly worked – would it?
If not the diet industry – what?
I worked hard to understand my past, worked on the way I spoke to myself and formed a new relationship with food, which revolves around mindful eating. No longer do I get on the sad step of the weighing scales or force my body into clothes that don’t fit or are unflattering. This isn’t to say I over indulge and have ballooned in size, on the contrary. I no longer eat past full, choose food that is nutritious and yummy and can feel if I am bigger or smaller in size. No more emotional eating for me either (this was a huge problem for me), I allow myself anything I want and this in turn, takes away the desire for the perceived naughty things. I’m not saying I’m perfect, far from it, I slip, I’m human and after years of abusing my body it’s going to take more than 4 months to put it right, but it’s a start.
New Year’s resolutions and the alternative
So this year I am setting intentions of the person I want to be and the life I want to lead. None of them are weight or food related just the things I’d like to achieve by December 2018. Career aspirations, lifestyle goals and future aspirations. Done in the form of what I want to be, do, have. I have complied 3 lists of intentions for the year. Something to work towards, no quick fixes of short-term goals. From this I will choose things to focus on each month. I will revisit my list and adjust it if needed, not fearful that changing it means I’ve failed. It just means a change in my thinking, it could be progress or just a realisation that it wasn’t right for me. To you it may sound like a resolution but in a different form. I don’t see it this way, I see it as the structure behind my 2018 plan. The things I want to achieve detailed, so I can continually reflect on them. Why not have a go at setting some intentions, so you can have the best year yet. I didn’t set mine until halfway through the first week of January and have already used them a few times to help me refocus. No I haven’t achieved any yet as they are big goals that need work or ways I want to feel, which is always fluid. So, New Year, new me – no thanks!
What I have learnt
- That relaxing around food stops you being obsessed with it
- That taking time for yourself is very important
- That we need to not focus on weight and looks, both our own and of others. My favourite saying at the moment ‘You do you’
- Setting resolutions will likely lead you to feel like you are a failure
- Intentions on how you want to be, what you want to do and what you want to have, help to structure a plan for the future
- You can set intentions at any time of the year and you can change them if they aren’t right!
- The Goddess Revolution: Make Peace with Food, Love Your Body and Reclaim Your Life – This book started it all for me – Amazing!
- Body Positive Power: How to stop dieting, make peace with your body and live BoPo! Really good at helping you to understand about the diet industry and health at every size.
- Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body Stories of real people and how yoga helped them – loved this!
- Now Is Your Chance: A 30-Day Guide to Living Your Happiest Life Using Positive Psychology on my reading list, its my next book!