Monday, December 23, 2013

New Year, New You?

New Year, New You?

It’s that time of year again, when people start making New Years resolutions.  Lots of people intend to make changes next year:  they're going to try to lose weight, go to the gym more often, eat healthier – stop bingeing, stop being bulimic, stop smoking.

Does this sound familiar?   Do you end up starting off strong and disciplined, but somewhere along the line your resolve fizzles and you're back to where you started?

Stop Trying So Hard.  Resolutions are often phrased in terms of “trying” to make changes.  I’m going to try to lose weight.  I’m going to try be healthier.  Keep in mind there is no trying; there is either doing or not doing.  If you’re trying (and failing) at your attempts to change, there is a reason.  Perhaps you’re afraid, not of failure, but of success.  Fear of success usually involves anxieties about expectations, impulsivity, or objectification.

Expectations: You may think that by changing your body, you’ll change your life. But, what if it doesn’t?  What if everything in your life stays exactly the same?  Maybe that’s too much to risk.

Impulsivity:  Maybe you’re afraid you’ll act in an impulsive manner if you are happy with yourself – leave your husband, cheat on your wife, take risks at work, that kind of thing.  If so, dealing with the wish to do those things – and most importantly, why - is a crucial step towards change. 

Objectification: What are your associations to intimacy?  What do you fear will happen if you’re perceived as more attractive to others?

A Different Kind of Resolution:  New Years Resolutions are often only about behavior.   But, what if they were about changing your relationship to yourself, instead of changing your behavior? 

Would you be kinder to yourself, listen to your needs and wants, and be curious (not critical!),

It’s Not About Willpower.  If you don’t address the underlying reasons for why you’re bingeing, restricting or purging, it is difficult to stop.   You must identify and process the underlying emotions and conflicts that are leading to the disordered eating, instead of addressing the behavior itself.

Focusing on food, weight and body image issues takes you away from what you’re feeling and thinking and serves to distract, numb or express what’s going on inside.

What emotions are you protecting yourself from feeling?  Anger? Sadness?  Fear?  Anxiety?

What are your conflicts?  In what areas of your life are you torn?  Job?  Family?  Relationships?

Disordered eating is a way of coping with painful and upsetting emotions and situations.  When you identify those underlying conflicts and find new ways to respond to yourself, you are much more likely to make peace with food for good.

2 comments: said...

This is a wonderful assessment of an alternative/healthier approach to the traditional New Year's resolution. As a woman fighting the grip of ED, I was unsettled about approaching a new year; I had great expectations of myself and my recovery. What if I "failed," what if I fell back into the restrict/binge/purge cycle... what if, what if, what if?... So, instead of the negative self talk that has failed me in the past, I stopped and assessed what was driving this response and realized it was all based in fear. Taking it one step further, I broke down where the fear was originating. All of this is easier said than done, but for those still battling the resolutions they have set- I encourage you to take the time and make the effort to face what it is that is stopping you. Address your underlying emotions, the source that drives them and find the strength within to self analyze or seek professional therapy to help sharpen your tools. Dr. Nina, thank you for bringing awareness to this --

Dr. Nina said...

Thank you so much for commenting. It sounds as if you're working really hard to identify why you think, feel and act in certain ways, instead of focusing on the behavior itself. Best of luck to you!!