With the beginning of each New Year comes a flurry of new years resolutions. It seems like a good a time as any to think about change and transitioning from one year to the next, and with the New Year there may be extra significance, buoyancy and hope than at other times of the year.
For many, making a New years resolution is a tradition and very symbolic. For others it marks a line in the sand where they may wish to embark upon something new, different and even challenging.
The resolution that is most commonly and publicly declared is that of weight loss. In itself this may be a reasonable resolution to have because perhaps you have become pre diabetic or there are other health conditions where a bit of weight loss might make you feel more comfortable.
This is the time where gym memberships sky rocket and diets are commenced.
This is the time where the enthusiasm and excitement is at its peak about new intentions.
Resolutions for weight loss are usually anchored in behavioural change ie a new exercise regime, smaller portions of food, cutting out sugar, eating more or less of a particular type of food. While these may bring about good health benefits they may or may not result in weight loss.
One area that gets less attention is looking at the “Whys” of your resolution. Looking deeply at what your reasons for wanting to make change may reveal aspects of your self that you were not aware of. There is a lot written about smart goals and setting smart goals certainly has huge benefits. SMART being, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
However, exploring your why digs down into who you are, who you are in a social context, in a romantic context, in a work context in a private intra personal context. Exploring your “why” examines your values, your culture your making meaning of life.
Exploring your motivations for making such changes is a good starting point. Are they for intrinsic reasons or extrinsic reasons? For example did you decide to lose weight because someone told you to ie mother? Significant other? Or your doctor? Or did you decide because you feel like its something that you really feel will make you feel better? What is your motivation? Is it short term or long term? If it is to fit into a dress for a wedding in six months time you may not have really explored what happens after that said wedding. Then, as a result you may reach your goal through methods that actually are not sustainable in the long term and you revert back to old behaviors as soon as the wedding is over and consequently you often regain all the weight you lost, and more.
When we look at who you are, perhaps you have been raised in a family and culture where cooking and eating are a really big part of your social fabric. You bond over sharing recipes and feasting together. To give up these pleasures and deeply meaningful parts of your life may not gel with a particular “weight loss” regime.
Maybe you have a relationship where going out and eating is a really special activity that you share with your friends. Perhaps on closer exploration you discover that a restrictive diet may be too much of a loss in your life. Maybe you have an eating disorder and embarking on a weight loss regime will actually be quite dangerous for you. Maybe food is the one thing you have used for self-soothing in times of stress or boredom. If this coping mechanism is removed abruptly without exploring other ways of self-soothing then you may find yourself abandoning weight loss efforts pretty quickly, or turn to other unhealthy coping mechanisms to replace eating.
There are many illnesses and conditions that make weight loss extra difficult and if this is the case support and compassion can make quite a difference. rather than putting too much pressure on change that may not be appropriate for your condition. We also know that biologically our bodies fight against weight loss (just look at what happens to contestants that enter shows like the biggest loser). Most regained the weight they lost partly because the body struggles to stay at the new weight but also, once off the show they no longer had access to personal trainers, personal chefs and had to return to their real lives where they had jobs, families and other things to focus on other than just their weight. None of these real life scenarios seemed to be factored in.
Weight loss in itself is a nebulous concept if it is not explored in the broader context of your world, your physical world, your genetics, your age, your culture, your social life, your health, your dietary preferences it is more likely to fail. And one thing we do know is that restriction and deprivation usually backfire eventually, so why not incorporate ways of living that fit with who you are in your unique world while still helping us realise your goals?
It is really important to not blame yourself if you feel you have failed at your resolutions. Perhaps your resolution failed you because making it didn’t involve understanding the deeper aspects of long-term sustainable behavior change, and with weight loss this is definitely the case.
If you would like to explore a different approach to weight management you can book in to make an appointment to explore your values and you’re “why” and how this can be integrated into more meaningful change.
Ginette Lenham is a counsellor, psychologist and health coach with a focus on grief, trauma, relationship and family conflicts, body image issues, depression, self esteem, anxiety and other existential life concerns. She works out of the Kings Cross clinic in addition to teaching weight management classes at the Sydney University Centre for Continuing Education. To get in contact with Ginette, call the Kings Cross clinic on 8354 1534.
Ginette Lenham 2019 ©