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New Year's resolutions: why you should probably abandon them


It's the time of year when we all start making big promises to ourselves to change our health habits for good.

But for people with eating disorders, these types of self-inflicted rules can be a slippery slope.

Bill Gordon, Chair of the Advisory Committee for Collective Concerns in Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says that even well-intentioned resolutions may backfire, and here's why:

Diets Don't Work

At the start of a new year, the issue shouldn't be going on a diet, Gordon says, but re-evaluating your diet.

"So the question becomes: Does your diet serve your needs? If it does not then changes must occur," Gordon wrote in an article on Psychology Today.

Instead of gearing yourself up for major change, prepare for small, incremental shifts toward what you want for yourself.

Denial Leads to Sabotage

Gordon says that denying yourself things you want (like food) eventually lead to misery. With denial usually comes punishment, especially if you indulge. The key, he says, is learning to identify what your desires truly are and why you're denying them – as they usually have nothing to do with food.

"You have to be able to distinguish between 'I want to eat a half a gallon of ice cream at midnight' and 'I am lonely and want to know what love is,'" he said.

It's Not What You Eat but How

New Year's resolutions tend to focus on eliminating certain behaviors or things. Yet the true problem for many people with eating disorders isn't what they eat but their relationship to the food. So simply vowing to cut calories this year or giving up sugar doesn't fix the underlying issue. Instead, Gordon recommends picking one thing you want to work on and focusing on small steps to achieve this goal.

"I suggest starting with something easily doable like eating three meals a day, with nothing in between," he said. "These three meals can consist of anything you want, just as long as the meals have a definitive beginning and end. This may seem like an implausible strategy for immediately removing excess weight quickly, but it is not for removing it permanently."

Self-Acceptance Is Key

Finally, the key to making lasting changes in your health this year, Gordon says, lies in cultivating a strong attitude of self-acceptance and ease.

"I need my life to be easier, not harder – how about you?" he wrote. "I need a kinder, gentler, more salubrious world – how about you? Every day, I need to love and accept myself just as I am – how about you?"

Source: Psychology Today