Setting Intentions for the New Year, December 28th, 2016

I have to admit, I’ve grown rather resentful of New Year’s resolutions over the past years. Thinking this morning, I’m not too sure why that is. Maybe it’s because I’ve focused on the bad things that can come from them because I’ve seen them pan out negatively in my own life. I’ve seen them disappoint and cause me misery and self-loathing as I fail to live up to my grandeur (and unrealistic) expectations yet again. But as I’ve changed and grown stronger in my nutritional beliefs and as my relationship with food has healed, I realize I am wrongly judging these popular, self-declared dedications to change.  While I think they truly can cause dread, disappointment and grief, I also believe there is a flip side that can bring motivation, empowerment and allow us to travel one step closer to our wellness goals. So I got to thinking- what do I like about New Year’s Resolutions and what about them rubs me the wrong way?

I believe that our entire lives – holidays or not, should be structured around wellness and a positive, balanced outlook on food. There is no set time that someone should feel obligated to throw dietary precaution out the window and no set time that they should set up intense dietary restrictions. This is my opinion. I feel like these kind of ideas have been fostered by the billion dollar diet industry that thrives on binge dieters and binge eaters- both of which I was a part of for many years.  This kind of lifestyle and mindset leads to up and down, highs and lows. It leads to a life that obsesses over one extreme or the other, instead of seeking to find balance in every day. A balanced lifestyle is so much more freeing and liberating. It doesn’t have times of guilt and shame and it doesn’t have times of cravings and deprivation. It is… BALANCED. You don’t have to make a decision at the beginning of the year to withstand from all joys in life when it comes to food. I feel like so often in New Years Resolutions, people make extreme food rules and unrealistic expectations that ultimately set them up for failure. And then the process starts all over again. This is the kind of New Year’s Resolution I hate because this is what I did for many years. It breaks my heart to see people wanting so hard to succeed, but going about their intentions all wrong- and actually missing the point all together! It is about the food, but it also is not about the food. WELLNESS. That is the thing we should be thriving after. Not a number on a scale.  Proper nourishment is one of the pillars of wellness. Our resolution should be to eat MORE of the right foods, not eat less of food in general. Our goal should be to FEEL well and to be happy in our own skin. Not to loose that extra 20 pounds. Our goal should be to feel strong and empowered. Being skinny won’t make you happy. Promise. If you are unhappy in your own skin, reaching your “goal weight” will not change that. It will never be enough. Loosing the weight is the easy part, people! If your mind is right and your relationship with food and yourself is mended, the weight will fall into place naturally. While I respect lofty New Year’s goals, everyone needs to be realistic and reasonable when it comes to setting intentions so that they set themselves up for SUCCESS. I am now of the mindset that New Year’s Resolutions can be a great time to re-orient, re-motivate, and self evaluate. They are a great time to set new intentions to strengthen and grow and to discover more about ourselves. I love new beginnings, and the New Year is the biggest new beginning there is. It is a time to start fresh and new. You can be or do anything you want in this year. This includes pursuing wellness in whichever ways you see fit.

As an aside, I would also like to say - people often think strictly of diet and exercise when it comes to the New Year’s Resolutions. However, I challenge you to think otherwise. Two years ago it was my resolution to produce less waste. It has also been a resolution of mine to source the majority of my foods locally and to make more time for my friends. Think outside the diet and exercise box and challenge yourself in other ways. Volunteer more, pick up an old hobby, pick up a new hobby, use a reusable mug whenever you get coffee, minimize your closet, recycle, read more, foster a dog, have a date night once a week with your significant other (or a self-care night if you are single!)… the list of possibilities are endless! Get creative with it!

To create a successful resolution, I believe in smart structuring and the right mindset.  For what it’s worth, here are a few tips I have to offer from my own personal experience.

1. Just like I said in my tips for navigating the holiday food scene, go into the New Year with the right mindset—the mindset of self-love. I hate resolutions that are founded on self-loathing- when people see resolutions as a chance to escape the bad feelings they have about themselves. If we go into the New Year thinking we need to change everything about ourselves because we suck, we are surely setting ourselves up for failure. Regardless of what we accomplished or didn’t accomplish in the previous year, regardless of how poorly you ate over the holidays, regardless of how many times you went to them gym, we all deserve grace and we all deserve self-love. Self-love is, in my opinion, the biggest key to wellness. Without this foundation, all of our efforts will be for absolutely nothing. We can search and search for self-acceptance but unfortunately, a new diet or workout routine or a skinnier or more “toned” you will not provide it. This is when the magic happens: when we embrace our whole selves- body and soul, exactly how they are. The greatest thing about our wellness journeys is that it never ends. Reaching a certain weight or fitness level or completing a “detox” is not the end. It is just like everything else is- a mere stepping-stone along this journey.

2. Everyone is so different in the way they meet their own expectations. How do you like to set your goals? Are you someone who thrives with set rules, or are you someone who does better with more fluid intentions? With the New Year, there is often a tendency to make diet and exercise black and white; however, many people do not thrive with this method.  Remember to give yourself grace. Remember the 80/20 rule. You don’t have to abstain from everything you love to pursue wellness and when you have the cookie, it doesn’t mean all your efforts have gone to waste. Before the New Years, do some seriously self-reflecting and decide what kind of goals you need to make to set yourself up for success. Setting specific expectations such as – abstaining from added sugar 5 days a week, can be beneficial for some people. But it can also drive some people mad (like myself). Are you the kind of person that needs to follow a specific meal plan for a month or make a dedication to go to the gym every other morning at exactly 7am? Will this cause you to thrive? Will this help your relationship with yourself and with food? Or will this kind of structure make you stressed out and set up you for failure? Perhaps you are the kind of person who needs to be more relaxed in their eating and workout habits. I’m not saying you set vague and unspecific goals, but you set goals that are fluid and grace-giving.                         

3. Set up realistic expectation. Regardless of what kind of goals you make…. Make them REALSITIC. A New Year’s Resolution doesn’t have to be this gigantic and drastic life change! On the contrary, it can be a small dedication to do one thing- such as limit sweets or walk your dog every day. Don’t make your resolutions so extreme that you are bound to fall off the wagon. Make sure you make your expectations achievable, and make sure you don’t throw in the towel if you don’t meet these every single day. Do you thrive on implementing little changes gradually? Or do you thrive in changing all of the things at once. I would argue that most people thrive on making little changes gradually and I believe this is the down fall of many New Year’s Resolutions. Don’t make you goals so lofty that they are unachievable. Be realistic with yourself. For example, if you make a resolution to loose 20# by February 1st, you are setting yourself up for failure. First of all, this is not possible if you going to be healthful about it and secondly you are measuring your success in weight. You are putting a lot of pressure on yourself and on the scale, which may or may not be reflective of the changes that are actually happening. In reality, the scale tells you very little about wellness and I discourage using it to make any sort of goals. Make small, little commitments. Achieve those, and then set new ones. These little successes will propel you forward. Celebrate the little things and they will add up to being huge successes before you know it.

What all this boils down to is—know yourself. Do not feel the societal pressures to start a certain kind of resolution or even to start a resolution at all!! It is always a good time to make positive changes if you are ready. You can start today, you can start January 1st, or you can start in middle of next year. The changes you make are suppose to make you feel happy and well. If they are not doing these things, you need to re-evaluate, my friends. Life is all about finding the joy; so don’t waste your time doing things that make you unhappy. We can all achieve our goals and enjoy life at its fullest at the same time. I myself, wasted too much of my time being unhappy because I was setting unrealistic expectation for myself and inevitability, failing. I didn’t know myself very well—don’t make the same mistake! Use 2017 as a journey of self-discovery and wellness will follow!