Why the New Year Doesn’t Have to Mean ‘New Me’ (or a New Diet)

Since 2009, the year I discovered social media, I have seen an influx of “new year, new me” posts takeover my newsfeed each January 1st.

While the phrase “new year, new me” may seem lighthearted and empowering, it can put unnecessary pressure on ourselves.

In 2012, when I was 16 years old, I rung in the New Year by making rules for myself to lose weight and get “healthier.” I created these rules, fueled by my eating disorder, to restrict food and exercise every day, under the guise of a “New Year’s resolution.” My goal was to lose weight quickly, because I thought I was too fat. My other goal was to document my weight loss at the end of the month and pair the progress photo with the infamous words, “New year, new me.”

At the end of the first week into the New Year, I started to fall off the bandwagon, understandably. I began craving foods I was restricting myself of, and I began feeling exhausted — mentally and physically.

By the end of January, I had completely broken the rigid rules I had set for myself. I lost some weight the first two weeks, but immediately gained it back when I gave into urges to binge — because I had deprived myself of foods I deemed “bad.” I was not only unhappy with where I ended up, but also with what I had done. I felt guilty, like a failure and I was as unhappy as ever.

My experience may sound like an outlier, but it is much more common than you think.

Researchers at UCLA confirmed, “People on diets typically lose five to 10 percent of their starting weight in the first six months… However, at least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher.” 

So before implementing rules that are promised to warrant quick results, we must educate ourselves. Dieting with the intention to see quick results will typically end the same — it will either work and then you will gain the weight back, or it will work and you will gain the weight back, plus more.

Putting our bodies into starvation mode in an attempt to “lose weight” or “get healthy” will never be the answer. Dieting for quick results will never be the answer. And, likely the most noteworthy of all, dieting when you are unhappy with yourself, though it may seem like a good motivation, will never be the answer.

Centering our happiness, worth and beauty around how much weight we lose will never end well. I don’t believe we have to be happy in every aspect in our lives before going on a weight-loss journey, but I do believe we must be content in our lives, and realize our worth and beauty are constant — no matter our size.

I don’t mind if you proclaim on January 1st, “new year, new me,” but I suggest you consider the weight these words have. We don’t have to give all of our power to a phrase that may invite more stress. Protect your peace and know that reinvention, like quick weight loss, isn’t always necessary.

Even if you’ve made mistakes this year, even if you wanted to do better, even if you think something is wrong with you, you do not need to punish yourself for your shortcomings or mistakes. And you are certainly not obligated to try to change everything you are.

You already are worthy, lovable and good. Improving upon and bettering ourselves is always a beautiful thing, but please know there can be a balance to it.

I have gained weight this year due to emotionally over-eating. I’m not going to punish myself though.

I’m going to continue trying to be better — but not the best, as that is too much pressure.

As I am in recovery from my eating disorder and have to lose weight right now medically, I have been exercising and eating in moderation. I hope to continue doing both as we enter the New Year and ideally, will improve my health and overall well-being for years to come.

As I lose weight slowly and healthily, you won’t ever see me posting, “new year, new me,” at the start of the New Year.

Losing weight, cutting our hair or changing anything about ourselves physically, no matter how dramatic the change is, doesn’t mean we have to abandon our past selves. I have grown a lot this year mentally and emotionally. Sometimes I only value my physical changes, like a hair cut, a new makeup look or a new outfit, as people put so much weight on the changes they can physically see.

I see now that despite the weight I have gained this year and did not need to gain, I have bettered myself in great ways emotionally and mentally. I have not only survived stressful situations that have presented themselves this year, but I have also pushed through them and thrived despite the heartbreak, grief and stress.

I would like to challenge you to try to see how you have improved this year — beyond the surface, as I do the same.

I challenge you to better yourself in the New Year and beyond. Make changes that benefit you short-term and long-term. Improve upon your physical health if necessary, but also value your mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

Change can be beautiful and inspiring, but don’t sell yourself short. Don’t think you were unworthy or ugly before the change.

After all, we are worth more than what we see. And the phrase, “new year, new me,” does not have to dictate the speed of our progress; life is more complex than those four words.

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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Lead photo via filipefrazao

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