Non Diet New Year’s Resolution List – How to Write One

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2021 is finally upon us, and with the promise of a new year, comes the opportunity to set our New Year’s Resolutions! Have you ever had a list of New Year’s Resolutions that did NOT somehow involve diet or weight loss goals? Seriously, think about it.  If you have, then you are definitely in the minority. Insider Online Magazine cited in 2019 that the great majority of New Year’s Resolutions were some combination of eat less, weigh less, workout more. And this means that our 70 billion dollar diet industry will soon start pumping out the diets (at least for the first two weeks) to “help” people attempt to achieve these goals. See, where we are going with the Non Diet New Year’s Resolution List?

We here at Wellness Lately feel it our social responsibility to once again remind you that diets unfortunately do not work.  Not only do they not work long term, but it’s going on the diets themselves that is the strongest predictor of weight gain for individuals (O’Hara L & Taylor J 2018. What’s Wrong with the War On Obesity? SAGE Open April-June 2018 1-28)

So instead of putting weight loss at the top of your list this year and falling into the dangerous and depleting dieting trap, why not try something new? How about a Non Diet & Intuitive Eating New Year’s Resolution List? 

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Personally this is MY first year writing a non diet New Year’s resolution list. Sitting in that realization, creates a combination of goosebumps, and regretful lament.  It’s alarming to me, the time, energy and YEARS….YEARS, I spent trying to simply be “smaller.” Thinking that my efforts were best focused on fixing myself creates that regretful lament. HOW many things, and WHAT other valuable pursuits and important issues failed to get my time and attention because of this need to be “thin.”  

Sometimes I feel myself start to sink into this thought, looking back and thinking of the time I wasted on something so meaningless. I’m grateful for the life I’ve led so far, and amidst this preoccupation with weight loss I’ve still managed to realize success professionally and personally, but much like finally cleaning those foggy glasses you’ve meant to clean for so long, stepping out of that blurred vision for the first time, I look back now through that clear-polished lens and think….what else could I have done?  How much further could I have gone? 

And then my internal protector, gently takes my chin in its hand and turns my head forward, whispering, “what can you do now?” 

More goosebumps… 

There is an opportunity cost to weight obsession. The repeated efforts toward something that has never worked, is the definition of insanity. New Year’s Resolutions are traditionally forgotten within the first two weeks, so much like dieting, writing them in the same way year after year only to forget them is a practice we want to understand and amend.  This post will focus on how to write a Non Diet New Year’s Resolution that comes from a place of self love. A list that focuses on additions to our lives, not fixes because we are faulty. With the help of my team and the community of women we work with, we will explore some important things to consider as you set goals, and give examples of goals that could leave you feeling positively inspired instead of anxiously overwhelmed. Let’s get into it. 

Non Diet New Year’s Resolution List a Few Things to Keep in Mind

Set Goals Based From a Place of How you Want to feel: 

Traditionally New Year’s Resolutions focus predominantly on all the external things you need to fix about yourself, which can feel very self deprecating. Oftentimes these external changes miss the boat on the feeling we are ultimately trying to achieve. Let’s take weight loss for example. As we have with many of our clients, if we start to drill down into WHY we want to lose weight, we realize the desired outcome is usually a deep emotional yearning for something, and isn’t external at all. 

In her book The Religion of Thinness  Michelle Lelwica speaks of the omnipresent belief that thinness equals happiness, a myth that our culture reinforces at every corner. Yet, how many of us have lost the weight only to realize, ugh, still not happy.  In our work as cultural critics of this message, we must challenge these ideas. And as we set goals, we must dig deep to determine how we want to feel and address that, instead of continuously seeking  external ‘fixes’ to achieve a goal. 

Happiness could mean peace, or a feeling of belonging to ourselves. Happiness could mean personal connection, happiness could mean strength, sleep, experience.  Personally, my turbulent relationship with diets, on and off highly restrictive cleanses, and binge eating in between was far from the happiness that the “myth of thinness” tirelessly advertised.  I had never been thinner, yet happiness was not in my reach. Even within the struggle, I knew how very temporary my physical state was. I white knuckled the weight loss by pouring all of myself into the obsession around planning food, scheduling exercise, and avoiding foods and situations that would threaten my goals. 

Through my recovery I’ve determined that for me, happiness actually means peace, and the feeling of trust in myself which I’ve found through Intuitive Eating. Happiness no longer equates to thinness or maintaining a specific body size. In fact, it never truly did.

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It is so important we avoid externally measured goals like weight loss. Too often in our diet-obsessed culture, weight loss is marketed as the magic pill or life fix for anything that is troubling you. Daily, we meet with women who are suffering from painful disordered eating habits, some of whose physicians or therapists promote weight loss as the go-to prescription for anyone that appears outside culturally acceptable norms. How many times have you personally adopted health-promoting routines like joyful movement or eating more fruits and vegetables, just to get frustrated and throw in the towel because the scale reflects no change? The notion that dieting can solve most health challenges for the majority of people and putting the focus on weight is not only isn’t actually helpful, but also puts many people at risk. Lindo Bacon thoroughly lays out this concept in the book, Health at Every Size.  

This year, as you sit down to write your Non Diet New Year’s Resolution, we’d nudge you to dig deeper than focusing on an external goal. When we set goals instead based on the internal feeling we desire, we don’t start off the year feeling behind the eight ball and flawed as humans. Take it from one of our wonderful clients, Mehak:

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Consider The Intention Behind Your Goals: 

Another one of our clients was recently thinking about exercise goals. She comes from a place where exercise was always tied very closely to weight loss efforts, but in her work relearning Intuitive Eating, she has been redefining exercise based on how it makes her feel and separating it from her prior efforts to lose weight.

While exploring this goal recently,  Dana Barron, one of our coaches, prompted her to get clear on her intention behind the goal. Dana asked, “If the intention is to feel good physically, what would it be like to focus on intuitive movement alongside intuitive eating? Perhaps setting the goal to move in a way that feels good each day? Or to set time that’s yours each day to take care of your physical health? We just don’t want to get tripped up by either external measures of success or or rigid, black or white, success/failure thinking.”  

Many of us are very accustomed to setting “SMART GOALS” from our backgrounds in business or previous careers. Google defines SMART goals as specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based. In her Podcast, “The Beyond The Food Show,” Clinical Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Expert Stephanie Dodier says, “Smart goals are to goal setting, what dieting is to diet culture.” Hyper specific goals around exercise can take you outside of your innate cues to determine what your body needs on any given day. If on day 4, for example, you wake up with a pounding migraine because your teething baby kept you up all night, you might either push yourself out of bed to workout anyway, even though your body is telling you that you need sleep, or you have already failed at your goal in the first week.  Instead, as Dana describes, if you set an intention to “have a time of day that is yours to take care of your physical health,” you might instead check in with your body and ask, what would feel good for me right now? Walk or rest?

NO NEED FOR A LONG LIST – PICK THREE WORDS

When getting ready to think about her goals for the next year, Dr. Mariana Harris, a therapist at UNC’s Eating Disorder Clinic, uses Brené Brown’s framework for cultivating meaningful work. “I might pick three words that would embody how I would like to live my life this year and filter everything through those three words to signify my values.” Dr. Harris explains that unlike the pass or fail you can feel from traditional SMART goals, instead this approach focuses on progressively moving forward in line with your values. 

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GET READY TO WRITE YOUR NON DIET NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 

Get yourself to a quiet place, with your favorite cozy blanket and hot beverage. Take out that trusty journal and start to brain dump how you want to FEEL in 2021. Starting from this place of the INTERNAL feeling we want to realize, we can then back out of thinking that we need to change our body in order to achieve that feeling. We are coming from a place of love and abundance and taking care of ourselves, like our client making the realization that exercise is not a tool for weight loss, it actually makes her feel good, sleep better, and gives her energy.    

When I think about my own list or words, I want to feel connected to my whole self, so I am going to schedule in some fun every few weeks. Getting together with women, even just on zoom to laugh, reflect on our life experience and reminisce, gives me perspective on my whole self. I’m reminded I can be funny, and wild, and introspective and smart. Moments away from my family allow me to breathe, remember who I am outside of a caretaker, chief snack maker, and designated hug giver. Dana wants to feel clear brain space, so she is going to be carving out time to rest her brain and do nothing. Bridget has been feeling overwhelmed and scattered this year.  Her words are focus and simplicity. She plans to schedule monthly check-ins with herself to ensure she doesn’t feel overextended, and is prioritizing doing a few things very well. 

If this is your first year writing a NON DIET New Year’s Resolution, let us celebrate the space we have created by ditching the diet mentality, to add to our lives in ways that make us feel whole. Let’s get excited: WHAT CAN WE DO?!!!!  Setting your intentions is a practice of staying close to yourself, listening to your intuition for the next right step. 

And if you are not in a place where you feel free of your struggle with food and your body, I invite you to schedule a call with one of our coaches.  Every time I speak with a new woman about the details of her disordered eating, I am right back there. Instantly bonded in the shared experience, I can feel her pain. I want to fight for her to find the bravery to say yes to change. I want to gently take her chin in my hand and turn her head forward and whisper, “what could you do, how do you really want to feel?”  Say yes and walk forward with me. And cheers to 2021!

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