Why New Year should be a time to focus on your wellbeing and recovery, not unrealistic goals around your body
Molly, 16, is a mental health blogger who is passionate about sharing her own story to help others know they’re not alone. As someone who has experience of anorexia, Molly is keen to raise awareness of some of the stigmas around eating disorders.
In her own words, Molly shares her views around why New Year’s resolutions can be harmful to someone with an eating disorder and how we should see a new year as an opportunity to grow in helpful ways.
It’s no secret that one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight or start eating ‘healthier’.
However, for myself and others with similar experiences of negative body image, this idea of changing our bodies to meet someone else’s standard of beauty can be problematic, by reinforcing the idea that we’re not enough as we are - which is completely untrue!
My own eating disorder developed around New Year, and due to the normalisation of the idea of ‘bettering ourselves’ at the start of each year, I had mistaken disordered eating and restriction for simply trying to ‘improve myself’, which was far from accurate.
Eat for your body's needs
For those recovering from restrictive eating disorders, weight gain can often be a part of recovery. But despite this, at this time of year it can feel as though for those recovering, that they’ve done or are doing the wrong thing by gaining weight.
Calorie counting can form part of the ‘New Year’s diet resolutions’ that you also often see. From my own experiences with an eating disorder, I feared calorific foods as I felt that if I ate them I’d be ‘losing control’. If you’re struggling with this too, I want to tell you that you are worth so much more than a number on the back of a food item and that regardless of your weight, you need calories. They are units of energy and they allow us to live! A car can’t keep on the road without fuel, just like you can’t keep doing your daily activities effectively without adequate energy.
Calories don’t require compensation after you have them, and they’re certainly not something that should be kept to a minimum. It’s important to remember that calories don’t correlate to health, and often the most nutrient-dense foods may be the more calorific options. Therefore restricting calories is restricting your energy, and in order to be the best version of yourself, you need to be fuelled! So, whatever the New Year’s diets are telling you about reducing your calorie intake, remember that you need to eat for your body’s needs, and no diet or online calculator knows your body better than you.
New Year’s resolutions are often so focused on changing our external appearance, yet rarely focus on our internal feelings, moods, and thoughts.
Comparison was my worst enemy
New Year’s resolutions are often so focused on changing our external appearance, yet rarely focus on our internal feelings, moods, and thoughts. To counter this, it can be helpful to reflect and think about what you want to change on the inside. Do you want to contact a friend more often than you did last year? Do you want to really commit to recovering from your eating disorder, or other harmful coping mechanisms? How are you going to make this happen?
Personally, even prior to my eating disorder, I struggled with comparison, thinking I was behind or lacking, whether that was in academia, appearance or in many other aspects of my life, which would often leave me feeling disappointed with myself.
During recovery, comparison is your worst enemy, and it’s vital to know that you are on your own path and fighting your own battles, as are others. You are not ‘behind’ in anything, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed for doing things at your own pace, as this is your life, and your journey. Only you know the true obstacles you’ve overcome and are yet to overcome, and comparison can be unhelpful. You are beautiful, and external appearance doesn’t define your beauty.
Around this time of year we can often see people posting ‘my 2022 highlights’ with the photos and videos of their year and what they got up to. I have nothing against this, and I think it’s a wholesome trend. However, let us not forget that what we see on these ‘yearly highlights’ really are highlights. People put out the image they want to be seen on social media (which is absolutely fine), but we need to make sure we don’t compare ourselves, as the truth is that we have no clue what anyone else is going through. If your 2022 or even the start of 2023 has been a bit of a rollercoaster, don’t forget that your whole life is ahead of you and you’re not on your own.
There will always be something to be proud of, and you deserve to enjoy this year without feeling like you’ve got to recreate yourself.
Remember your body deserves kindness
My 2022 involved a lot of healing and was overall extremely positive, but I have had previous years that felt like a ‘waste’, where I didn’t think I had achieved much. However, even in those harder times, I kept taking step after step in the right direction, inevitably taking steps back every now and again. There will always be something to be proud of, and you deserve to enjoy this year without feeling like you’ve got to recreate yourself. You are unique, and one of a kind and deserve love and happiness. Indeed, one of the most beneficial things I did for my wellbeing and personal growth in the harder times, was to look for the positives every day and come up with affirmations to repeat. The best advice I received was to take ‘one day at a time’.
Trying to plan ahead for 365 days can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re facing mental health challenges and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of ‘New Year's resolutions’. Remember that your body deserves kindness and love no matter what time of year it is, and remember to simply focus on the present day, and keep going ‘just for today’ - you can focus on tomorrow when it arrives.
Start your day with positive energy by doing something like listening to upbeat music, a podcast you enjoy or anything that uplifts you. If you’re struggling with your mental health, never be ashamed to reach out, whether that’s to a family member, teacher, friend, professional, or mental health charity. Asking for help is a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. Your mental wellbeing comes before any school grades, appearance trends, or anything else.