New Years Resolutions diet culture: What to do when you struggle with Disordered Eating

Beat the new years resolution diet culture with Eatology

As 2022 draws to an end, we brace ourselves for the tidal wave of New Year’s resolution diets for 2023. This period is traditionally seen as a time for reflection on the past and consideration of desired changes for the future.

Whilst I actually enjoy this process of reflecting on the highs and lows of the previous year and getting motivated by goal setting for a new year, for people that struggle with disordered eating, setting a new years resolution diet can cause more harm than benefit.

The temptation to set weight-loss resolutions at this time is understandable. Most of us have spent the last few days (or weeks) eating and drinking in a way that is not our norm and with it, late nights, less quality sleep and a complete loss of routine.  

It’s possible that this may be making you feel bloated, lethargic and low on energy. A new year’s resolution diet or weight loss plan seems like just the ticket to dissolve these feelings.

We know, however, that for the vast majority of people, any resolutions that were set on 1st January have been abandoned within a month. This may leave us feeling a sense of failure.

So what’s the alternative to a new years resolution diet?  

Well first of all, I think it’s imperative to simply normalise these feelings which many people have at this time and reassure you that they will pass. Very soon, you will be back to work, resuming your usual routine and eating in a more familiar way. These feelings of discomfort are temporary and will pass. Try not to get caught up in the negative chatter about your body. Instead, put this period of time into perspective. It’s okay that you have enjoyed delicious food and that you have been less active. The festive season only occurs once a year.

Here are a few things that you can do if you struggle with disordered eating and are finding this time difficult:

  • Wear comfortable fitting clothing during this time as tight fitting clothing will only heighten body dissatisfaction thoughts and feelings
  • Distance yourself from triggering situations. I know this can be tricky as it may seem like the whole world is about to embark on a new yeards resolution diet. However, if you can’t remove yourself from a conversation, quickly change the topic of discussion
  • Audit your social media and unfollow any accounts promoting fad diets, promoting weight loss, or just generally making you feel rubbish!
  • Remove yourself from any email accounts that are likely to be heavily pushing the ‘New Year, New You’ agenda
  • Practice body neutrality. Avoid body checking behaviours such as grabbing and pulling on your skin folds or obsessively jumping on the scales. Disengage from negative body talk and practice gratitude for the things your body enables you to do

Having said all this, I don’t think that we have to dismiss all notions of setting goals or contemplating change for the new year. Instead, it’s the way we approach it that needs to change.

I suggest that we give New Year’s resolutions a bit of a rebrand and instead call them ‘intentions’. Setting ‘resolutions’ suggests that we are resolving to change something inherently wrong about ourselves and that if we don’t get it right, then we have failed.

Setting ‘intentions’ doesn’t feel quite as black and white and allows for the flaws of humanness. When we set an intention for ourselves we are stating our desire for change and are taking steps towards it, whilst recognising that progress is not linear.

If you are recovering from an eating disorder, the language used around your intentions matters too. For example, “I will stop having binge eating episodes” might be a set-up for disappointment, as lapses are common in recovery. An intention of “I want to improve my relationship with food and my body” is more encouraging.

If you are considering setting New Year’s ‘intentions’, here are a few supportive suggestions:

  • Start therapy with a specialist practitioner 
  • Seek out recovery support groups
  • Daily journaling practice
  • Social media audit and cleanse
  • Create a daily self-care routine
  • Practice boundary setting with triggering individuals
  • Say ‘Yes’ to new experiences
  • Challenge food fears – introduce new foods 

I hope you find this helpful. Book a discovery call if you want to heal your relationship with food and know that you need support.

If you’d like more personalised support through your recovery, my diary will be open again in January 2023. To find out more about my 1:1 food Freedom therapy, visit my website.

More here: PODCAST: New Year’s Resolutions: What NOT to do, BLOG: Coping at Christmas when you have Binge Eating Disorder

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