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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - Eating Disorder Recovery and the New Year’s


It’s 2024! Whether 2024 has been happy or not, a new year has arrived. People are making lists of New Year’s Resolutions in hopes that this is the year for a slimmer body, a healthy diet, etc. More often than not, the holidays spur about a certain negative feeling around food, whether it be the all-or-nothing mindset, engulfing every holiday treat in sight, or the fear of gaining weight and restricting. For people who carry an eating disorder, celebrations like the New Year can be less happy and more frightening. In hopes of bringing light to this feeling, we will discuss the different emotions surrounding food during the New Year and how that affects individuals with an eating disorder.


Family Hurts the Most

“Diet talk” is common among holiday family gatherings. As Dr. Oliver-Pyatt puts it, negative talking such as “'Oh, I’m being so bad. I’m going to pay for this tomorrow. I’ll have to work it all off with extra time at the gym,' …or, 'I didn’t eat all day, so I could eat tonight' puts a “value judgment on food,” which triggers eating disorder thoughts and creates unrealistic expectations. Conversations between family members often have less of a filter, so hurtful comments can spew out. Unfortunately, these tiny words or phrases can become a trigger and create an eruption of negative thoughts and emotions. 


Unrealistic Resolutions

Additionally, studies have shown that most New Year’s resolutions often focus on weight loss and getting into shape. This can be triggering for those with eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with food and exercise. It is also a common pattern to find yourself giving up on the resolution or goal a couple of months after New Year’s. Resolutions without a proper game plan or realistic goal can create room for unexpected mishaps. For example, if “losing X amount of weight” is your New Year’s resolution, when the scale starts going up, it can feel like a failure of efforts, and your efforts are not reaping anything. But realistically, weight fluctuates day to day, and nothing moves in a linear path, always positive. When people don’t take into account the bad days, the mistakes, and the ups and downs, that resolution may do more harm than good.


This is also the same for eating disorder recovery goals. If a person recovering from binge eating has the resolution to “have no more bingeing episodes,” it disregards the fact that relapses are common during recovery and are part of the process of recovery. Even after recovery, people have bad days and fall into their bad habits occasionally. It is the acceptance and self-respect that one develops that signifies true recovery. When you have a grand goal, it is easy to get caught up in it and forget to be kind and forgiving to yourself. So, how can one use resolutions to their advantage to truly achieve their goals? How can one spend their New Year’s and holiday restfully and fearlessly?


The Four R’s

Fiona LaRosa-Waters, the Community Relations Specialist for Walden Behavioral Care, writes about her top four ways to go about New Year’s. 

  1. Reframe: Try looking at resolutions differently. Instead of making a new grand goal, look at what you have accomplished the past year, then see how you build upon those achievements and grow further.

  2. Reflect: Whether it’s in writing, talking to another person, or taking notes on your phone, what things are you grateful for right now?

  3. Rest: Self-care, in the form of resting, spending time with loved ones, or sleeping, can improve your mental well-being and set you up for success. 

  4. Read: Reading and taking time off of social media can help take time off of diet talk online and instead feed in positive words and thoughtful stories. 


We’re all in this together~

Moreover, there are several ways a family can help another member who has an eating disorder. The key takeaway is being compassionate and supportive, rather than making expectations that they feel obligated to follow.

  • Use wise words, nothing related to body, food, appearance, fitness, or eating rituals

  • Educate other family members and friends

  • Be a support system by listening to them and being there for them


Conclusion

The New Year’s isn’t always the greatest time for everyone. It can bring dread and anxiety for many, just thinking about the negative interactions and scenes with food. However, there are ways to change up the holidays and the beginning of the year with personal efforts and getting support from others. From rethinking what “New Year’s resolutions” are to changing up the language you use when talking to family, those small efforts accumulate to success and a better year than the last. While success never comes without unhappy moments and relapse, by facing the hard things, you are becoming stronger, whether the end results are what you expected. 


2024 has just begun. Turn your new resolutions into healthy milestones that build upon your strengths instead of working against them. 



Writer: Isara Moriya


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