I am one of those people who always makes New Year’s resolutions. I’ve done Whole 30 a couple times and several 30 day fitness challenges. Yoga, squats, push-ups.. I’m a type-A perfectionist, so I set goals and I complete them, even if that means staying up way too late to get in my daily yoga. Of course there are benefits to eating healthy and working out, resetting yourself after holiday indulgences, and following through on goals. But, what I didn’t realize for over 40 years was that New Year’s resolutions are pretty toxic.
New Year’s resolutions are self-hate masquerading as positive goals. I’m not saying eating healthy, exercising, and saving money aren’t worthwhile goals. They are! But, these resolutions are a constant, sneaky barrage of insults. You’re fat, ugly, lazy. At least they are for me. What I’ve learned from many great minds is that change motivated by negativity won’t last. Sure, I’ve crushed many a New Year’s resolution through grit and determination. I can force myself to stick to any diet, workout, or budget…for a while. But, it doesn’t last. Real change only come from love and acceptance.
When you tell yourself you can’t eat sugar because you are fat and need to lose weight, you are acting from a place of fear and hate. You can white-knuckle it through avoiding sugar for a while, but you will eventually eat sugar again, and probably a lot of it. I’ve spent a lot of my life on the all or nothing train. I’m either eating no sugar, or all the sugar. Going to the gym three times a week no matter what, or not going at all. And, if I mess up, even once, I’m off the train. I failed.
When I first learned I might have MS, I looked for anything I could do to mitigate my symptoms and progression. I made a lot of changes to my diet and lifestyle. I still indulge in sugar and don’t exercise as much as I should. I’m not perfect. But, I also will never just give up. I want to have a long, healthy life, to work, to play with my son. I am choosing to take care of my body. Avoiding sugar and alcohol from a place a love and kindness feels so different than avoiding it as a form of shame and punishment. It is easier. Gentle. Compassionate.
When children learn to walk, they fall. They fail. Over and over. But, we don’t yell at them. We don’t give up. We encourage them. We zealously celebrate and cheer every wobbly step.
I recently listened to Mel Robbins on the Unf*ck Your Brain podcast. She was talking about her new book, “The High 5 Habit.” Basically, you look yourself in the mirror every morning after you brush your teeth, and give yourself a high 5. The positive associations our brains have with giving a high 5 can rewire those programmed negative messages we give ourselves every morning. If you want to know more about the science, check out the podcast, her Instagram, or grab her book (which I have not read…yet). It may seem cheesy, but I’ve been doing this most days. Occasionally I forget, ’cause life. I’ve noticed that my brain looks for a reason to justify the high five and finds some reason to praise myself. It’s small, but instead of the list of things I need to do or noticing a blemish, I start my day off with a compliment and a smile.
So, this year, I’m not making the same New Year’s resolutions. I am not going to list my flaws and commit to short-term, rigid “fixes.” No diets. No work out routines. Not even committing to a daily high 5. I will try to do it, because it makes me feel good. I will continue to try to eat healthy, do intermittent fasting, mediate, rest, and work on exercising more because it is good for my body and I feel better. But, if I miss a day, or several, that’s okay too. I’m working on being kinder to myself. Loving myself. No goals or formulas. No timetable. No checklist. Just a constant work in progress, with lots of mistakes along the way.