New Year… of Health and Happiness!

With the New Year quickly approaching, more promotions of “self-improvement” through dieting and weight loss are going to be popping up. Losing weight has been the most common New Year’s resolution for many, many years. Yet, why do people keep returning to the same New Year’s resolution if it hasn’t been successful and hasn’t increased happiness and satisfaction in life? This is how the diet industry thrives. It isn’t successful at anything except continuing to make people feel bad about themselves, while providing hope that if they try a little harder next time it’ll work. If New Year’s resolutions are often about “out with the old and in with the new,” then let’s try out with the old resolutions and in with the new intentions.

Let’s look at why weight loss goals are so popular, which may actually help uncover meaningful intentions for the New Year. There may be 3 things happening:

  1. There is a desire to improve health and the assumption is the weight loss is the trick.
  2. There is a desire to feel worthy and good enough and worth feels dependent on size/weight.
  3. There is a desire to be happy, which may be connected to a belief in the thinness myth – that losing weight will bring happiness (amongst other things). Please note, this is a myth because all thin people aren’t happy and the thinner someone gets doesn’t mean they get happier or more satisfied with their body.

I want to point out that all 3 of these desires are important and really great intentions to have. And none of them have to be connected to weight loss. Let’s look at these individually as meaningful intentions or goals for the New Year. We can take out the emphasis of weight and focus on the actual desire.

  1. Improving health – that’s a wonderful goal! Rather than having weight be the marker of health, let’s find something else. What do you want to do to improve health? Do you want to get more active? Then set some specific goals for movement without weight expectations. Do you want to manage stress more effectively? Create a plan for self-care and stress management or get started in therapy. Often weight goals are unsuccessful because they are unrealistic, unsustainable, or do not address specific changes that are meaningful. These 3 pieces are key in setting lasting and effective goals.
  2. Increasing Self-Worth – another incredibly meaningful intention! Worth does not need to be connected to weight, so self-worth is not going to improve with weight loss. Even if someone does lose weight, they still tend to find things “wrong” with themselves because they haven’t addressed underlying issues of self-judgment and worthlessness. How do you see worth in others? What would it be like to start seeing your worth rather than always seeing things you need to change/improve. A daily practice of self-compassion will actually be a lot more effective than weight loss for addressing self-worth.
  3. Accumulating feelings of happiness – again, this is such a wonderful desire! Take some time to reflect on whether or not trying to lose weight has brought happiness. Does it bring frustration, shame, guilt, obsession, and worry instead of actual happiness? If so, what does bring happiness? How can you create more of that in your life?

Hopefully this has helped you see what is actually underneath the surface of why weight loss is a popular goal for the New Year. It’s actually about something much more meaningful. Focusing on weight only increases shame, judgment, exhaustion, and discontent. Let’s find effective and judgment-free ways to connect with health, worth, and happiness. 2024 does not need to be about a “new you,” it can be about coming home to you, just like one of my favorite quote suggests.