Why a New Year Doesn't Have to Mean a New You

Seven years ago I rang in 2011 in treatment at the Carolina House. The staff did the best they could to make the evening festive, but there was no disguising the feelings that accompanied spending New Year’s Eve in treatment.

I felt there was nothing to celebrate about 2010. The only thing I was happy about was seeing 2010. That year I believed, just like I had every year before, that 2011 would be better simply because it was a new year. Because the calendar year turned over, so too would my life.

My life’s happiness always relied on a “when this happens” scenario.

I would be happy when I…

Left college and got a new job.
Moved in with my boyfriend.
Moved to Baton Rouge.
Got married.
Took a new job
And of course, I would ultimately be happen when I lost weight.

Each new year seemed to signify a fresh start and a chance to find that elusive happy place I was constantly searching for. “This year will be the year! The year I get it together.” Needless to say, every year’s resolution entailed weight loss and diet strategies guaranteed to make me happy.

So there I was in 2010, feeling like a loser who had failed at life. My hands held knitting needles instead of a champagne glass. (Learning to knit is like a rite of passage in treatment.) Instead of partying with friends, someone was supervising my trips to the bathroom. Rather than kissing my husband at midnight, I was going to sleep alone in a twin bed.

I went to sleep long before the stroke of midnight that year. All I knew is that I never wanted to see 2010 again. 2011 had to be better. And it was, but not because ball dropped and the clock struck midnight. My life did not improve because the calendar rolled over to 2011. My life improved because I made the conscious effort to improve it (and me) every single day.

This time of year the airwaves are filled with messages of resolutions guaranteed to make our lives better, our bodies slimmer and our wallets fatter. What if we resolved to stop resolving?

Instead, what if we embraced the thought that happiness lies within us and we don’t have to wait for the clock to strike midnight to find it. Our chance at a better life, at recovery and anything else starts now – not one day, not next Monday and certainly not a year from now. It starts now.

And rather focusing on what we need to become, try focusing on the extraordinary person you already are and other invaluable things in your life. Look at all of the amazing things you do (and juggle) in a day — the family, career, school, etc.

Remember most of the bodies you see in the media aren’t really bodies at all. And even if you obtained that photoshopped body, would it really make you happy?

That “beach body” doesn’t change who you are. It does not change the family and friends around you. It does not change their love for you. Your outside appearance has little (read: nothing) to do with your worth. Real happiness starts within. I realize that sounds like an inspirational poster with a kitten, but you know it is true.

Take it from someone who almost lost her life trying to find that perfect body in an effort to find happiness — it is not there. I cultivated my own happiness and it started from beneath rock bottom. I finally stopped resolving to find happiness in my body and created my own joy.

It started on that New Year’s Eve seven years ago. Unbeknownst to me, my mind was shifting. I was becoming healthier and beginning to understand that a new year did not mean a new me. I was going to have to decide to do the work to uncover the me that was there all along. And I did. And she was, and is, pretty amazing. She also has some killer dance moves.

Flash forward seven years and a lot of tears later, I no longer look to January 1st as some monumental day to mark a new me. It does not set the stage for the upcoming year. I probably will not even remember this New Year’s Eve in 20 years.

At the end of each year, I find myself reflecting back on that New Year’s Eve in treatment. Had it not been for that night, for hitting rock bottom, my knitting needles and the recovery work that followed, I would still be banking that 2018 will be different simply because it is a new year.

2017 is over and 2010 is long gone, but neither will ever be forgotten. 2018 is a new year and today is a new day. I don’t know what today, tomorrow or this year will bring. The one thing I know for sure is that tomorrow will not be better because I am two sizes smaller — I am no different today than I was yesterday.

I am not counting on 2018 to be the best year ever. I am counting on today to be the best day yet.

Cheers to today.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Getty image via ArthurHidden

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