First of all, the obvious,
Christmas, this year, has been both great and challenging for me. It was great because my parents were here. It was challenging because my parents were here. Visitors, for any period of time, disturb your routines and, in this process of recovery in which I find myself, routine has become very important. So, after three weeks of fighting the changes of routines and trying to make the best of it, the New Year is here and I am tempted, like everybody else, to make some resolutions.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot though, especially after the peak of visits to the blog I had a couple of days ago. I am not sure why, but I had more visitors in one hour than I’ve had in a whole month. The one article that seemed to be attracting more attention was one of my first ones, about BMI and Eating disorders. Although the increase of visitors was baffling (and great!), after some thought, it was not so inexplicable.
The number one New Year’s Resolution, it will come to no surprise, is losing weight (New Years Resolutions Statistics). It’s followed by getting organised, saving money, living life at the fullest and, funnily, at number 5, being fitter and healthier. It is a strange separation of concepts. Logically, people who want to lose weight intend to be healthier, but yet it is meaningful that there is a separate heading for fitness and health and it only barely makes it to the Top 5.
So why do people want to lose weight, if not to be healthier? Or really, why do they want to save or live life at the fullest? The truth is that New Year Resolutions are made to set ourselves new goals which we believe, if achieved, will make us happier. And here comes the question: will being thinner make you happier?
The answer is: maybe yes, but probably not. One thing I’ve learnt in my life of being at every stage from ‘ideal weight’ to now (very far removed from ‘ideal’) is that I wasn’t any happier when I was thinner. The thing is, it’s difficult to realise. When you are overweight (or you think you are) it becomes easy to think that your weight is the problem. Your weight is the reason you are sad or bored or annoyed and you have low self-esteem, right? Or is it just what you blame because it seems easier than digging deeper and finding out what is really causing it? I’ve found that there is much more to self-esteem than my weight and my shape and, to be honest, that realisation made me immediately feel better about myself.
Now, as I’ve talked about in the past, attaching our self-esteem and self-worth to our weight, shape and ability to control our eating is one of the triggering factors of yo-yo dieting and eating disorders, so we need to be able to anchor our concept of self to something else, something more important. This is were self-evaluation will help.
And how to do this, you ask. Well, I suppose there are a lot of methods out there, more or less complicated, but I shall give you a simple one, similar to what I did during therapy.
- What do you want from life? That’s the question, isn’t it? What’s important to you? What are your dreams and goals? Make a list of these. It may include losing weight, and that’s ok, but it must include other things. Mine includes weight, but also family, writing, making my mum’s shop work, my studies, reading, cooking, etc.
- Think about your list. Which do you think would make you happier? Would losing weight make you happier than learning pottery, like you’ve always dreamed of, or would going to that trip to Japan make you happier?
- Number your list. 1 for the one that would make you happier and whatever other numbers until you get to the end of your list. For me, writing has come to the top, together with my studies and family.
- Now take some time, a few days maybe, and think about these goals, this items on your list. Imagine you’ve already achieved them. How do you feel? It could be a good idea to write these feelings down. You might discover these goals were really that important or you might want to reconsider your list. Amend as necessary but, above all, keep in mind any good and lifting feelings this daydreaming might have brought on.
- Make a plan! Consider those feelings and how much you’d like to have them for real. If you do, make a list of the things you need to do to achieve them.
Once, in a restaurant, my husband and I overheard a man behind us (quite drunk too) talking to his companion.
‘I’m gonna give you the secret to getting anything you want in life. Anything!’
My husband and I kept very quiet, thinking we were going to hear some magical secret to happiness.
‘First,’ he said, ‘find out what you want. Then, figure out how to get it and make a plan. Then follow the plan. You’ll get whatever you want like this.’
Now, my husband and I laughed at it because it was a bit silly when the guy had built it up as if he was going to give him the name of some miraculous pill, but the truth is, he was right. Happiness is not some intangible, fairy like creature, it’s something we can all achieve, the problem is we kind of expect it to just ‘happen’. We need to come to terms with two things, really:
- We need to make our own happiness, it’s not going to fall in our unsuspecting arms as we sit watching MasterChef.
- Happiness requires some work. Like making anything, really. It takes effort and consistency and, well, a plan.
So you’ve identified what you want and you have a plan. All that’s left is to follow it. Now, it’s very likely that losing weight made it to your list, but you might have realised now that, after all, it’s not the most important thing in your life. If you’ve decided that you’d rather spend more time following your dreams than dieting for the upteenth time, well, welcome to the club! You’ll also find that, once you are focused on your dreams, you spend way less time thinking about food and that, if you have BED like me, is already a major success.
Remember, New Year’s Resolutions are and should be about YOUR happiness. Take some time to reflect on what that means and how to achieve it and you’ll find you’re already that much happier for giving yourself that chance!
You can find more articles by Caroline Corpas-Neale in The Writing Cat.