How to Stick to New Year's Resolutions If You're Chronically Ill

January is finally upon us. After six weeks of festivities – meals out, visitors, socializing – it’s back to normality. And almost immediately, the expectation for New Year’s resolutions is looming overhead. Colleagues joining Weight Watchers for the fifth year in a row. Friends inviting you to challenges on Fitbit. Overhearing people chatting about how they must go to the gym, get a personal trainer, or stop eating so much chocolate. For anyone it can get a bit much. But, when you have a chronic illness (especially one that is largely invisible), it can be difficult to have to explain that, actually, weight loss isn’t your number one priority.

This time last year, I started doing Pilates. It wasn’t a conscious effort to join in with the “new year, new me!” tribe, but simply the right time for me to attempt regular exercise. I’d been on medication for six months, and finally past the worst of the side effects. And after a year of Pilates, I can honestly say that my body has changed for the better. No one diet, exercise or regime will cure fibromyalgia, but some things can make life a bit easier, make the symptoms a little easier to manage.

I also started tracking my food and working out with a personal trainer last year, neither of which lasted very long. I have obsessive compulsive disorder, and struggled with an eating disorder as a teenager, so counting calories is a dangerous road for me to go down. And I had a gym session while in a flare, and put myself back six weeks. Living with fibromyalgia can be a game of compromises – if I do this, I can’t do that. And, when you push yourself too hard, you can really feel it.

So what resolutions can we make that won’t put too much pressure on us? Personally, I don’t have wide resolutions, but small, achievable goals that I adjust throughout the year. When it comes to my health, I’m back on track, focusing on fitness and getting to Pilates once or twice a week. I’m going to start going for a long walk on weekends again. I’m preparing more food, making sure I have healthy balanced lunches to take to work. And I’m tracking my daily steps, aiming to do a little bit more when I can.

The thing is, fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses can be up and down. Some weeks you’re smashing it, hitting every goal and then some. Other weeks, you’re in pain, tired, and barely able to do the most basic of things, like have a shower or go to work. My resolutions have to be adjustable, otherwise I’d constantly feel disappointed. If I’m having a good week, I’ll try to do more. If I’m not, I’ll rest. We have to listen to our bodies and only do what we can do. I personally believe that health should be everyone’s priority, but having body confidence can be difficult, especially for women, in a world that likes to bring us down. It can be difficult to remain body positive and confident in yourself, but when you have a chronic illness, our priority has to be our health.

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