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Why You Don’t Need to Plan on Jumping into a Wellness Routine in the New Year (And What to do Instead)

December 26, 2023

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Now that we’re post-Christmas, we’re going to be getting that onslaught of messaging about how “naughty” we were with food during the holidays and how we need to have some type of health and wellness routine in the New Year to make up for it and to become the “best version of ourselves.” 

The New Year’s rhetoric really preys on our natural desire for self-improvement and to better ourselves and our lives. And there’s nothing wrong with those desires, but the problem is that it sets us up to do all sorts of things that ultimately aren’t helpful, and that’s the beef that I have with New Year’s Resolutions that are health and wellness focused – especially because they usually become about losing weight.

The Most Common New Year’s Resolutions

According to a Forbes Health poll, the top New Year’s resolutions were: improve mental health, lose weight, improve diet, and improve fitness. 

Interestingly, their poll also showed that the older we get the less likely we are to set a New Year’s resolution. My hunch would be that we gain that wisdom that it’s a racket and we learn that New Year’s resolutions don’t work so we steer away from them as we age.

The statistics I read suggest that only about 9% of people are able to keep their New Year’s resolution. (And I’m willing to bet that the true number is much lower, especially if we narrowed it down to only the categories of health and wellness resolutions, because we know that the statistics on the effectiveness and sustainability of dieting are abysmal.) You also have to ask yourself who is the type of person who is going to respond to these polls. My hunch is that someone who is really proud of their ability to keep their resolution is going to be more likely to share that info than someone who feels ashamed of their resolution fizzling within the first few weeks of January. Also, let’s keep it in perspective that it’s really subjective whether or not you kept a resolution to “eat healthier” or “get more fit.” 

A Different Way to Approach the New Year

Let’s talk about a different way to set goals and intentions for the New Year, ones that actually support your health and wellbeing. Then I’m going to share some alternate ideas to the traditional health and wellness routines that will help prevent you from getting sucked into diet and wellness culture in the New Year.

Let me first start off by saying that for many of us, choosing NOT to make New Year’s resolutions or goals is the best thing for our health and wellbeing. 

Our bodies don’t know the difference between December 31 and January 1, or any other day of the year. There is no need or requirement to do things differently in the New Year or to compensate for how you ate during the holidays. That’s the quintessential diet mentality when we are thinking this way. 

And it’s the perfect set up for the diet and wellness industry to make a LOT of money off us in January, right? They’ve primed us to feel guilty about the holidays and to then buy into the hype in the New Year. We turn our bodies into a project in the New Year. 

But what if your body wasn’t a project? What if it wasn’t a problem to be solved?

If you want to set some goals or intentions, I would encourage you to do it in a more strategic and sustainable way than picking a New Year’s resolution. I would encourage you to use the SMART goals framework. You’ve probably heard this before. It’s an acronym for setting goals that stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. 

Saying that you’re going to “eat healthier” or “improve health” isn’t specific, measurable or time-based. 

And before you dive into setting SMART goals, I want you to step back and ask yourself what’s the purpose of the goals you’re wanting to set. WHY are they important to you? And is it really going to support your overall wellbeing?

When I set goals for a year, I have a process that I used to do, which includes looking at several different realms of my life, and setting meaningful goals in each realm so that I don’t get fixated on one thing and neglect the others. I teach this in a previous podcast episode from December 2022 called Setting Non-Diet New Year’s Resolutions. In the episode I walk you through my goal setting process and the different realms that I look at.

This year I’m not planning on setting goals like that. I just don’t have the bandwidth for it, and that doesn’t speak to me this year. So I’m giving myself permission to let it go.

Fun Alternatives to Setting New Year’s Goals and Resolutions

Some people like to pick a word for their year. That word might be something they are embracing, or something they want to strive for, or something they want to embody.

Maybe you want to lean into healing your relationship with food this upcoming year. I would actually argue that this is a much more meaningful goal than healthy eating, and that ironically, people who are full-fledged intuitive eaters are shown to have more balanced nutrition than people who are dieting (including that healthy eating mindset).

Having a peaceful relationship with food will allow you to enjoy it AND to tend to your health and wellbeing with gentle nutrition. Plus it will give you the space to also explore other ways to take care of your health outside of food because you won’t be obsessing about food 24/7. Instead of going to your kid’s birthday party and silently debating whether you’re going to allow yourself to have 1 piece of pizza or 2, you’ll be able to listen to your body and enjoy the moment. You’ll be able to go to the doctor, rather than avoiding it due to your fear of getting on the scale and seeing your weight. You’ll have the confidence to talk to your doctor about how you don’t want to discuss weight but rather you want to talk about other things you can do for your health.

You see, healing your relationship with food will extend to so many other areas of your life, and it will allow you to take better care of your body, mind and spirit all around. 

I actually have the perfect way for you to do that this year. In January I’m doing a 5-week group called Intuitive Eating Exploration. You’ll get to explore these principles in your everyday life under my wing, and in a space where we can talk about it, troubleshoot, and make adjustments and get clarity so that you are implementing the intuitive eating framework in the way that will be as effective as possible. 

I designed this to be a perfect alternative to diet-y New Year’s resolutions, and I haven’t run this program in a year. I did it last January and it was a huge hit. In fact, I’ve had a few people specifically ask me if I was doing it again because they loved it and want to do it again in the New Year. 

Once you understand what the 10 principles of intuitive eating are and how they fit together, you’ll see how it will allow you to find peace with food so you’re not thinking about what you’re going to let yourself eat at a party 2 weeks from now or how you’re going to make up for the cookies you ate when you were baking with your kids. You’ll also see how this leads you to taking care of your health in ways that are more effective and long-lasting. Click here for details and to join.

That’s a wrap for today. I hope that this episode inspired you to think about New Year’s resolutions differently and that you have some ideas for how you’re going to approach the New Year without getting sucked into diet and wellness culture in unhelpful ways. If you have any questions just shoot me an email or a DM on Instagram

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