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Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Aiding Your Eating Disorder Recovery?

Recovering from an eating disorder isn’t particularly easy at any time of the year, but I always find it especially difficult around the New Year. For starters, you’ve just gotten through the holidays, which are extremely stressful in and of themselves, even if you don’t have an eating disorder.

And then come New Year’s resolutions. If your eating disorder is anything like mine, it rejoices at the idea of flying under the radar and hitching a ride on everyone else’s “Get fit in 2013!” wagon.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, it is no surprise that “get in shape” or “lose weight” rank in the top five. Our society is increasingly obsessed with appearance and the illusion of perfection. It is entirely too easy to get sucked into the television commercials for the latest diet craze or cheapest gym membership.

Maybe, in the first three days of 2013, you’ve already run across friends who are trying to lose those “last 20 pounds” or who are joining the gym down the road. Maybe you would like to do the same. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you if the choice to do so is right for you.

Your recovery, like mine, is individual. One thing about our recoveries is similar, though – regardless of our eating disorder diagnosis: by choosing to recover, we’ve already made our resolution.

Choosing Recovery from Your Eating Disorder Was Your Resolution

When you resolve to do something, you choose to do it. You make a decision and make a commitment to yourself.

Sound familiar?

I’ve never heard of anybody “accidentally” recovering from an eating disorder. You choose recovery – you resolve to do it. I resolved to recover. Hopefully you have, too.

Because I have already made that resolution, any other resolution I make has to reaffirm that. Each of my potential new year’s resolutions has to support the decision that I have already made to recover.

  • I resolved to run another half marathon. I have a history of compulsively exercising and restricting my intake to starvation levels. I still struggle at times to maintain my weight when the most strenuous exercise I get is yoga or running after the kids I babysit. Running a half marathon this year does not, in any way, benefit or reaffirm my recovery. It had to go.
  • I resolved to quit smoking. This resolution does reaffirm my recovery. I started smoking when I was in treatment and then, only for two reasons: to avoid feeling hungry and to deal with my anxiety around weight gain. So by choosing to quit smoking, I am allowing myself to get back in touch with my hunger and fullness cues, as well as finding healthier ways to deal with my anxiety. These are great things for my recovery.
  • I resolved to spend more time in prayer and reading the Bible. My spiritual life plays a huge role in my recovery. In spending time with God each day, I am building my self-esteem by truly listening when He says I am worthy. This resolution reaffirms my recovery because I am better able to make recovery-minded choices when I believe myself to be worthy of them.

Examine Your Resolutions

It’s an easy time of the year to get tripped up. You can easily make a new year’s resolution that sounds good on the surface, but isn’t going to help you in the long run.

Is resolving to eat XXXX calories a day helping you reach or maintain a healthy weight? Or keeping you obsessed with counting calories?

Is resolving to run a 5k making you feel strong? Or is it a convenient excuse for you to run and burn more calories?

Is resolving to lose X pounds motivating you to health? Or keeping you fixated on an impossible ideal?

I encourage you to take time today and look at the resolutions you’ve made for 2013. Are they reaffirming your choice to recover from your eating disorder?

Or might they be reaffirming your eating disorder itself?

This entry was posted in Eating Disorders, Holidays, Recovery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Aiding Your Eating Disorder Recovery?

  1. Jills says:

    I’m so glad you got this gig so that you’re kind of forced to write regularly. You have such words of wisdom. I’m still trying to form my thoughts on New Years Resolutions this year.

  2. Holly W says:

    What a great article – I’m so glad my mom shared it with me. It’s true that although goals for a healthy life are great, for us recovered and struggling eating disordered people, they can by detrimental to our recovery. We have to be 100% honest with ourselves about WHY we are making certain resolutions and make sure there aren’t any “hidden” reasons behind them.

  3. Jill, when you do come up with resolutions, I’d love to hear them! You’re incredibly wise yourself, so I know you’ll craft some great ones. :)

  4. Holly, thanks so much for commenting! I’m glad you found the article useful and what you say is exactly true — if we’re in recovery from an eating disorder, we need to be very aware of any “hidden” agendas in our goals. Eating disorders can be very sneaky!

  5. Jade says:

    I love the part about “illusion of perfection.” It reminds me of Kung Fu Panda (the first one) and the illusion of control. I also love the idea of resolutions being affirming. That makes them less intimidating.

  6. Jade, I agree that once you consider resolutions being affirming of things you already believe in or are already working on, they become far less intimidating! I love that when I’m tempted to break a resolution (even three days in, ha!), I’m able to remind myself that they directly correlate to things I believe in strongly. It makes it a lot easier to stay on track and giving up the illusion of perfection allows you to give yourself some grace in the journey.

  7. Missy says:

    So true Jess, brilliant article and so helpful. Love the questions at the end….wow you really know how sneakster sneak the ED can be.

    Cunning, Powerful and Baffling…
    but not stronger than us when we resolve.

  8. Missy – our eating disorders can definitely be sneaky. Truly questioning myself and deciding whether it’s really ME talking and not my ED has been one of the most valuable things to my recovery.

  9. klb says:

    Wise words, wise words. No resolutions for me. Goals, yes. And they pass your litmus test for aiding recovery. Whew! :)

  10. I like the idea of “goals” vs. “resolutions.” I believe that goals provide a little more flexibility and grace. For example, I’m really working toward a goal of stopping smoking. I’ve cut down tremendously and plan to quit in the near future (I’m so close), but thinking of it as a “goal” allows me to see the progress I’m making, not just think of it as a failure each time I have half a cigarette.

    Glad your goals are such that they’ll aid recovery!

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