Staying Grounded in Recovery During the New Year
The new year brings new beginnings. With those new beginnings comes talk about everyone’s resolutions for the coming year. When you suffer from an eating disorder, this can be an especially difficult time. Resolutions focused on “eating healthier” or “working out more” can quickly spiral into eating disorder behaviors for any individual recovering from an eating disorder.
It’s common to overhear people promise themselves that this year they’ll lose weight. The local gym is advertising first-month-free memberships for those who are looking to exercise more. Meal delivery services are advertising their low-cal, vegan or gluten free options for those looking to cut certain foods out of their diets. The new year is one of the times diet culture is at its peak.
When faced with such pervasive messaging, how can you stay steadfast in your recovery?
Skip the Resolutions
While it’s popular to have a resolution in mind going into the new year, they aren’t necessary. Anti-resolutions or a lack of new year’s resolution are almost equally as popular as having one. New year’s resolutions are great in theory, but lasting change is something that takes more thought than a week or two before the new year. Lasting change is something you work on throughout the year, ebbing and flowing with the rhythm and circumstances of life. Feeling obligated or pressured to change an aspect of your life is counterproductive. If you’ve recently left a medical stabilization unit or a residential treatment facility, trying to make a sweeping change so soon can add unneeded stress when you’ve already done so much. Being gentle with yourself can be more productive than having a resolution.
Set Realistic Goals Instead
New year’s resolutions aren’t bad, but a pivotal part of eating disorder recovery is mindfulness around the expectations you set for yourself. Resolutions tend to be quantifiable goals and perfectionist in nature, with hard deadlines and concrete milestones. This can be to the detriment of those recovering from an eating disorder. Instead of falling into this trap, set yourself up for success by giving yourself realistic goals:
- Meet with your therapist more regularly
- Join an eating disorder support group or be a more active participant if you’re already in one
- Practice self-care
- Learn a new skill or hobby
- Save more money
Unlike a typical new year’s resolution, these examples aren’t black and white. If you categorize your goals by a specific amount or duration of time, it’s more likely to make you feel disappointed or stressed if you don’t reach it, regardless of how close you get to achieving your goal. Resolutions also don’t consider the reality of day-to-day living and the many times sticking to your resolution just isn’t possible.
By giving yourself a little leeway with your resolution, you are more likely to be successful and feel empowered. The goal of a new year’s resolution is to improve your life and wellbeing, and that can’t happen if you hold yourself to an unsustainable or unrealistic standard.
Keep Yourself Grounded
The first few weeks of the new year is the time where people are most likely to boast about their new diet or share their latest workout routine. It might be best to take a step back from social media for a couple of weeks to avoid topics that may be triggering for you. You can also choose to follow more recovery-focused and eating disorder support content creators or pages to help you stay grounded in your recovery.
If you have a particular hobby you enjoy this is also a great time of the year to reignite your interest or do it more often – this could be journaling, meditation, gardening, knitting or anything else that brings you joy. You can combat triggering messaging by engaging in things that calm the mind and keep you busy.
If things get particularly rough, remember that you can always lean on your support system or reach out for help when you need it. This is also a great time to become more active in support groups. Surrounding yourself with people who have similar lived experiences to your own is invaluable, as they can offer support and advice from a place of deep understanding.
Don’t Be Afraid to Re-enter Treatment
Eating disorder recovery can be challenging. There will be setbacks – days where you take one step forward and two steps back. This can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that there is no single path to recovery and no benefit to comparing your journey to others. Recovery is rarely linear, and sometimes that means it’s necessary to re-enter treatment, especially if you require medical stabilization. If you are suffering from severe medical complications of your eating disorder, it’s important to seek care as early as possible.
Recognize How Far You’ve Come
As the new year approaches, reflect on the past year. You’ve made incredible strides – maybe this was the year you started seeing a therapist, entered residential treatment, reached a recovery milestone or otherwise started to take an active role in your own recovery. That deserves recognition. When you are recovering from an eating disorder, it can be easy to think about the moments you’ve failed, but there is no better time of the year to look back at the successes you’ve had this year and look forward to the strides you’ll make new year.