A new year brings with it hope, motivation and resolutions to make significant changes in our lives. If you’re like many overeaters, the resolutions at the top of your list every year include cleaning up your diet, exercising more regularly and taking off the weight you gained during the holidays, and then some.
If you’re tired of staring at the same resolutions year in, year out, it’s time to address the deeper issues that derail your progress and keep you from taking the best care of yourself. When you’re making your list of resolutions this year, ask yourself how it is that you get off track. For example:
Do you disconnect from yourself when you experience unpleasant emotions such as anxiety, sadness, loneliness and depression and eat to soothe and comfort yourself?
Do you focus on everyone else’s emotions and needs to the exclusion of your own and then “use” food to fill back up?
Is there not enough fun and joy in your life? Has food become your main source of pleasure?
Do your thoughts tend to be negative, critical, judgmental and at times hopeless? It’s easy to turn to food when our inner world is not a very nourishing place.
Do you carve out time on a regular basis to rest, rejuvinate and quiet your mind? If not, you may be using food to “come down” from the busyness.
Are your boundaries with others flexible, yet firm, providing both the space and emotional intimacy you desire? Loose boundaries can lead to merger with the feelings and needs of others and rigid boundaries can lead to isolation and a disconnect from others. When we feel too merged or too disconnected there is a high probability we’ll use food, once again, for soothing, comfort and pleasure.
And how is it you stop exercising once you’ve started back. Do you get bored and need more variety in your exercise routine? Do you let everything else take priority over exercising? How can you be on the lookout for these tendencies?
This year make specific resolutions that address the deeper issues that derail your progress. For example, my client Janet hopes that this new year she will do better with her eating and exercise. She knows what a healthy eating plan looks like and how much exercise her body needs. But when work and family stress start to build up, her healthy goals go right out the window. This year, rather than the usual “eat less and exercise more” resolutions, Janet’s list includes:
- “Check in” with myself when I want to overeat or make unhealthy comfort food selections and find out what I’m feeling and truly longing for;
- Work on staying present to my emotions, even if they are really unpleasant, and not turn to food for soothing, numbing or distraction, and
- Continue to work on accessing my Inner Nurturer voice to calm and soothe myself and help address my true needs.
Janet decided to make three flash cards to carry with her, for each goal listed above, to help remind her of her resolutions.
In addition to losing weight and getting more exercise, Sandra, another client, hopes to get out and make some new friends in the new year. Divorced and lonely, Sandra’s closest friends no longer live nearby. Sandra tends to do okay with her resolutions until she hits setbacks. Then, her black and white, perfectionistic thinking does her in. This year her resolutions include:
- Catch and replace my negative, pessimistic , hopeless thoughts before I spiral down from them–I’ll use some positive affirmations I’ve learned that have worked well in the past;
- Remind myself that it’s okay if my progress is slow and imperfect– “good enough” is what I’ll strive for,even though this is challenging for me and
- When I push out to make new friends, praise myself for my efforts even if they don’t bear fruit right away.
Sandra decided to monitor her progress by maintaining a Resolutions Journal. She intends to make daily entries regarding her progress towards her goals.
Take a look at your list of resolutions this year and ask yourself what specific behavioral changes you’ll need to make to stay on track. Then set your intention to work on those changes. Remember to take baby steps and be gentle with yourself. After all, it’s progress, not perfection that we’re after.
I wish you a very healthy, happy and prosperous New Year and New You.
Posted by Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, MFT. If you have a question or topic you would like to see addressed in this blog, go to http: //www.overeatingrecovery.com.