As the world prepares to enter into the new year, people all across the globe are taking time to reflect on the last 12 months and making plans for the future. This time of self-reflection can quickly bring on a variety of new feelings and the desire to make big changes in the upcoming year. However, there is also a great deal of pressure for adults to set new goals and reach higher personal standards in the new year as well.
Additionally, many people chose to focus their New Year’s resolutions around changing their diet and overall body shape. While this may not seem like a big deal for some, for adults who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, this goal-setting can affect their recovery. Whether this brings up past anorexia nervosa symptoms or simply makes them feel uneasy, there is a way to avoid these negative goals and chose positive New Year’s resolutions instead.
Is New Year’s Goal Setting Risky for Adults in Eating Disorder Recovery?
In theory, setting a resolution for the new year seems like an effective way to bring about positive change and help an individual to reach certain goals. But oftentimes, resolutions fall by the wayside quickly due to a lack of action steps. For someone who has recently completed an anorexia treatment program, resolutions may interfere with current recovery goals or reinforce negative behaviors that they have worked hard to overcome. It is also common for the failure of a resolution to set off a chain of negative events, which could include backsliding into disordered eating habits, negative body image, depression, anxiety, and more.
Relapse is common in eating disorder recovery. And while it’s not something to feel shameful about, individuals need to do what they can to avoid situations that may bring up past feelings or situations that they previously experienced before entering an eating disorder treatment program. Setting goals that may be too difficult to achieve when an individual is fresh out of treatment or entirely unrealistic goals are both easy ways to put additional pressure on the recovery process. However, goal setting is often recommended by eating disorder counselors and other related health professionals. So, if an individual can instead focus on more positive and achievable goals, they can still participate with family and friends in setting New Years’ resolutions.
The Dangers of Fad Dieting in the New Year
Although they can be appealing to many Americans by promising the “ideal” body with just a few weeks of changing their regular eating habits, fad diets can be very dangerous—especially for anyone who has previously experienced eating disorder behaviors. While it can be difficult to turn on the television, open up a magazine or even drive to work without seeing an advertisement for some type of new fad diet, most medical professionals recommend against any type of food plan that cuts out entire food groups or promotes some type of “magic” meal plan.
Research shows that fad dieting can result in a wide variety of health issues, including:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Nausea and headaches
- Low vitamin and mineral intake
- An increased risk of disordered eating behaviors
For many people, a special diet can be prescribed or recommended by a health professional. This is quite common for those who have entered an anorexia treatment program or individuals with other medical concerns. In this type of situation, individuals need to follow their doctor’s instructions.
Common Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms
It can be difficult to know when a resolution or personal goal begins to interfere with eating disorder recovery, especially for family and friends who are working at being part of a positive support system for those who have completed treatment. Luckily through education and observation, some of the most common anorexia nervosa symptoms can be easily identified. If family or friends notice any of the following symptoms, it’s important to speak with their loved one and their doctors as necessary:
- A preoccupation with body weight, food, counting calories, dieting, and fat content
- Refusal to eat certain foods or putting heavy restrictions on whole food categories (like sugar or carbohydrates)
- Maintaining an excessive or rigid exercise routine despite illness, injury, fatigue or inclement weather
- Experiencing an intense fear of changing body shape or the thought of gaining “too much” weight—even when considered to be medically underweight for one’s age and height
- Muscle weakness and fatigue
- Difficulties concentrating and sleep problems
- Withdrawing from social events and activities that include meals or sharing food
- Frequent mood swings, depression, anxiety, and negative body image
- Menstrual irregularities in women—including irregular periods or only experiencing a period when using hormonal contraceptives
Because the body is often deprived of essential nutrients when an individual is focused on fad dieting, it’s common to experience a variety of long-term health consequences as well. Anorexia nervosa in men and women can result in electrolyte imbalances, heart failure, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, low sex drive, malnutrition, and much more.
7 Positive New Year’s Resolutions for Eating Disorder Recovery
There are many resolutions an individual can make that don’t fall into the diet or physique altering categories. And for those who have recently completed eating disorder treatment, making positive resolutions can be quite helpful for creating new habits that contribute to long-term recovery. If making New Year’s resolutions is important to someone, there’s no reason why they have to miss out on the challenge. As long as the resolutions are manageable and reasonable, a good resolution can be the inspiration needed to make lifestyle changes for the better.
1. Listen to Your Body
While this may sound like a simple task, it’s much easier said than done! Mindfulness can be a very helpful new skill that works to reduce stress and anxiety, promote better sleep, and boost the immune system. Meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can all be helpful in becoming more mindful and make for a great New Year’s resolution.
2. Time-Out for Self-Care
In the modern world, everyone seems to be busy all of the time. Whether adults are raising a family and juggling work, going back to school, starting a new business, or simply trying to plan for their future—it can be extremely difficult for “me time.” But as adults begin listening to their bodies, it is much easier to take better care of oneself. Life won’t necessarily become less busy but for most, finding some time for self-care is possible. This can be something as simple as enjoying a night in watching Netflix or something more elaborate like booking in a day at the spa.
3. Try Something New
Learning a new skill can be invaluable in life. Whether someone has always wanted to take up woodworking or loves the idea of joining a book club, trying something new each month in the new year is a great way to stay active and continue on the road to becoming more mindful. Look for activities that inspire, cultivate creativity, and promise to open up a world of new possibilities.
4. Gratitude Practices
Studies show that people who are more grateful than their peers can feel more positive emotions, better able to handle adversity, enjoy improved mental and physical health, experience fewer aches and pains, and have a reduced risk of a heart attack. Individuals can make gratitude lists each day, keep a gratitude journal, or start volunteering to experience the many benefits of being grateful.
5. Take a Break from Social Media
While there are pros and cons to social media use, it can be beneficial to take some time away from Facebook, Instagram, and other popular apps in the new year. Spending too much time on a smartphone has been linked to poor eyesight, frequent headaches, depression, and anxiety in people of all ages. So, why not take a break for a few weeks or months or unfollow any accounts that bring negative thoughts and feelings? There’s no need to alert others of a social media break either. All anyone has to do is delete the applications from their phone or deactivate their accounts, and they can log back in if and when they feel like it.
6. Celebrate Your Body with Movement
The human body is an amazing feat of engineering and capable of so many incredible acts. For those who have completed eating disorder recovery, it can be incredibly helpful to celebrate ones’ body and all that it is capable of through positive movement. With a resolution that focuses on dance, yoga, Zumba, tai chi, boxing, or another enjoyable movement practice, individuals can practice gratitude for their bodies in a fun and interactive way.
7. Continue Working with Your Team
A new year marks a time of change for everyone and this change can be just what is needed to keep those in recovery headed in the right direction. However, too much change at once can make it difficult to stay on track with ones’ recovery goals. That’s why setting a resolution to continue working with one’s eating disorder recovery team can be so helpful. Individuals can set goals to keep up continuous communication with their recovery team, attend all of their appointments, and work on building a positive social support system at home as well.
Anorexia Treatment Programs at Oliver-Pyatt Centers
At Oliver-Pyatt Centers, we help guide adults through the recovery process with compassion. Our knowledgeable and experienced staff have the skills necessary to provide the highest quality of medical and psychiatric care outside of a hospital setting. Our eating disorder recovery programs are grounded in mindfulness practices and the belief that everyone can enjoy a mindful relationship with their body and the food they eat.
Our goal is to help each one of our clients find the tools they need to become free from negative habits and develop positive behaviors surrounding food, nutrition, and movement. Unlike many other traditional eating disorder recovery programs, treatment at Oliver-Pyatt Centers is highly customized, taking into account each individual’s needs, diagnosis, challenges, and gifts that are unique to their specific life journey. We offer both medical and psychiatric management, in a comfortable, safe and home-like setting.
Contact Oliver-Pyatt Centers Today
As we enter into a new year, it’s easy to get off track with one’s personal and recovery goals. For those who have recently completed an anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa treatment program, this can be an especially difficult time. However, with a bit of careful planning and a strong support system in place, it is possible to set positive New Year’s resolutions that will carry adults into a new season of change feeling better than ever. Interested in learning more about the adult eating disorder recovery programs available at Oliver-Pyatt Centers? Call one of our friendly admissions specialists at 1.866.202.8260 or contact us online today for more information.