Primarily because, diets don't work. As one of my good friends likes to point out, if diets worked we wouldn't need to keep starting them. And we sure wouldn't need to create "diet challenges" or set diet "resolutions" to get us "back on track" or "make up for" the food we ate during the holidays.
At the dawn of 2019, "losing weight/getting in shape" was the second most common New Year's resolution, right behind saving money. Nearly 43% of survey respondents expressed a desire to lose weight, a resolution that consistently sits at the top of New Year's lists. According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals, while around 80 percent of resolutions fail. Aside from the fact that many people quit their resolutions, we consistently make (or re-make) the same ones. Year after year, losing weight and saving money top the list. Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Making the same resolutions year after year, and expecting a different outcome is similarly fucking insane.
The most obvious problem with New Years resolutions is that we wait until the new year to make them. If you really want to make a change, you can go ahead and do that anytime. We all like the allure of a new, clean slate, but that allure is short-lived and the motivation it promises is similarly brief. Starting a new diet will most likely lead to failure, simply because most diets fail. Further, many of us make New Year's resolutions in an attempt to be happier, mistakenly believing that happiness is as uncomplicated as shedding a few pounds. Losing weight might improve your life, but it won't trigger lasting happiness because weight is (and should be) variable. (Read an earlier blog post about why losing weight won't make you happy HERE.)
A commitment to be healthier is one thing. A commitment to a new diet to offset holiday meals, or to change the natural shape of your body, or to live up to some culturally unobtainable version of "beauty" is a losing game, and an unnecessary one. The beginning of January can be hectic enough as it is without the pressure to eat or look a certain way. And let's remember that the reason so many companies advertise fitness classes, diet plans, and diet supplements at the beginning of the year isn't because they're concerned with your health, they just want your money.
If you do genuinely want to be healthier, make that commitment to yourself anytime, or rather, all the time. Do things that make you feel healthy and happy and loved, whether that's taking a new workout class, planning a trip with your friends or partner, making time to pursue a hobby, or committing to your financial health. The most sustainable changes are relatively small, but doable. If you start saving $50.00 a week, you'll have $2,600 at the end of a year. And if you start making small dietary changes, like tuning into your body's hunger cues or making sure to eat more fruits and vegetables, you'll notice a difference over time as well. Change doesn't have to be huge or overwhelming, and it certainly doesn't have to start on January 1st.
I'm not going to give you any tips or tricks for how to reach your goals, or try to tell you which goals to set. There's enough of that floating around the internet, along with the inevitable, year-end onslaught of of diet propaganda. The reason so many of us make New Year's resolutions is because we feel guilt: guilt for the foods we have consumed, guilt that those around us are setting goals and we are not, guilt that we don't look or act or dress like we're supposed to look or act or dress. So instead of setting an unrealistic or half-hearted resolution, enter the New Year with these ideas in mind:
- Health is not a measure of anyone’s inherent worth. Sometimes, health is outside our control. Specialized diets, health tonics, and herbal tinctures often over-promise and under-deliver.
- Focus on adding positive things to your life, instead of on taking things away.
- Find and engage in exercise or movement you enjoy. Life is too short to spend hours each day doing something you hate.
-Instead of dieting, embrace intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is the only real path to food freedom, and is being embraced on an ever-widening scale. Read up on the 10 principles of intuitive eating HERE.
- Surround yourself with supportive, kind, and stable people. Shame and guilt flourish in isolation, and being around good people will make you feel good too.
-Take a social media break: ignore the "New Year, New You," frenzy that you'll inevitably face online by not being online. Spend the time you would have been online pursuing interests, relationships, and hobbies that enrich your life.
The New Year does not require a "new you" because you're already a fabulous, wonderfully flawed human. We all are, and we still will be after all the hype fades.