Diet culture thrives around the New Year holiday. In our society, the new year is a time for self-reflection, and often that leads people to decide to get “healthier.” The problem is that the diet industry has co-opted “health” and “wellness,” causing many people to believe the misconception that thin equals healthy. As a result, the well-intentioned goal of “healthier living” can become solely weight-loss-focused.
In a culture obsessed with weight and food, it is no surprise that resolutions surrounding diet, weight loss, and exercise are so rampant. Our culture is fixated on thinness, and specifically, thinness as something that everyone should strive for in order to be attractive, popular, successful, and healthy. In this article, we will cover the trouble with diet, weight loss, and exercise resolutions, including their impact on those experiencing, recovering from, or at risk of developing an eating disorder.
Despite the fact that 95% of diets fail, diet and weight loss have grown to be an over $70 billion industry. Over time, it has become more commonly known that diets don’t work, and the diet industry has been finding ways to disguise diets as a way to improve your “health” and “wellness.” The line between dieting and improving your physical wellbeing has become increasingly blurry as a result.
While taking on a new exercise routine or adding more vegetables into your diet, for example, are not inherently bad, many seek to do so for the sole purpose of weight loss. Taking on new “healthy” habits with the goal of weight loss feeds into the misconception that weight is the sole proxy for health. In our diet-obsessed culture, it can be hard to remember that health encompasses so much more than a number on a scale. Improving your health and wellness also includes attending to your mental health, which can include things like starting a gratitude journal, attending therapy, or making time to relax.
Apart from the fact that diets don’t work, resolutions about weight and dieting are problematic for those at risk of developing an eating disorder, as well as those in recovery. Dieting is completely normalized by diet culture, but it is a form of disordered eating that can turn into an eating disorder in individuals with a genetic predisposition to it.
If you do not suffer from an eating disorder and are thinking about starting a new diet or exercise program this January, think before you talk about it. You never know who might be suffering from disordered eating, body image issues, or an eating disorder. Negative body talk can have a massive impact on those around you, even more than you may think. If you are contemplating discussing your weight-loss-related resolutions with those around you, we encourage you to give it a second thought.
Many individuals make fitness the main focus of their New Year’s resolutions. These individuals often go from zero to 60 with how often they exercise, as well as the intensity of their regimen. This can pose a significant health risk. It is not uncommon for the number of exercise-related injuries to go up every January as a result of New Year’s exercise resolutions. These injuries can be not only serious but also lead to hefty medical bills and wasted gym membership fees.
Not only could jumping into an intense workout regimen in the new year potentially cause injuries and waste money, but it could also lead to “obsessive exercise,” a common symptom of eating disorders. Over-exercising can lead to health complications including dehydration, overuse injuries such as stress fractures, osteoporosis, and bradycardia, and low heart rate. Common signs that you or a loved one is over-exercising include exercising even when injured or sick, avoiding social situations to exercise, or experiencing extreme stress when a workout is missed.
Exercise may not be appropriate for everyone in eating disorder recovery. It is essential to consult with your professional support team who can help you make the decision with your recovery in mind.
Some people do want to use this time for self-reflection, so instead of accepting societal pressures around weight and buying into the toxic “thin ideal”—the idea that you must be thin to be successful, desirable, and happy—try reflecting on other areas of your life instead. Some examples of other areas to give thought to are:
We have the power to change the conversations we’re having with ourselves and each other in the new year. When you find yourself slipping into the mindset of weight loss as a universal “good,” remind yourself that thin does not equal healthy. When you want to set a resolution involving exercise for the end goal of weight loss, remember that moving your body should bring you joy, not stress or injury. If you find yourself wanting to make a New Year’s resolution surrounding weight loss, remember that there are so many other aspects of your life to reflect on that are much more important and interesting. If you prefer not to set any resolutions at all, that’s also a perfectly acceptable option. It is okay to accept yourself as you are and not subscribe to the “new year, new you” philosophy.
The Emily Program would like to wish you a happy and healthy holiday! If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to us at 1-888-364-5977 or fill out our online form.
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