Years ago when I sought formal treatment for my eating disorder for the second time, I connected with some very amazing friends. As the new year approached, we spent hours talking about resolutions and how in the new year,
Everything is going to be different.
With that statement came hope, excitement, and determination. We went through challenges, ups and downs, and our friendships strengthened, morphed, and expanded.
But, as another year passed, we also found ourselves again on the eve of a new year, promising to make things different.
And so, a pattern was born.
The perfect year?
We would start off the year with goals, hopes, and intentions. Then at the first slip, step backwards, or emotional crisis, we felt we had blown it.
So much for the new year with everything so different. This of course opened us up to self criticism, blame, and the question: “Is it even possible to change?”
There we were, in the pursuit to improve ourselves by fighting eating disorders and changing our lives for the better. And yet, when I look back on it now, over ten years later, the pattern looks familiar. VERY familiar. All too familiar indeed.
You see, our goal setting for a new year with everything different was not unlike starting off the new year with a new diet plan. Our recovery was seen as either being on the “right path” or the “wrong path”. We believed if we worked hard and tried as much as we could, we would succeed.
Our definition of “success” included elusive achievements that would magically make our lives wonderful all the time.
We replaced our goal of weight loss with the goal of “being recovered” and the pressure was just as high.
How I found “true” recovery
Over 12 years have passed and I have now entered what I consider “true” recovery from my eating disorder. After a third round of intensive treatment and hours of listening to amazing podcasts my mind and my heart have been opened.
I now know how to eat intuitively and about the concept of health at every size. I’m aware of the social injustices in this world towards people with different body shapes and sizes and the patriarchal society that has evolved.
Most of all though, I have learned about diet culture.
And not only what it is and how it contributes to eating disorders, but also how it steals joy from so many men and women.
The great paradox
And now I find myself at the beginning of another new year. And I realize perhaps the answer is not in setting new goals to make everything different. Because the thing is, it’s really a paradox.
Everything is always changing, so of course this year will be different.
A new kind of new year
There will never be another year that’s exactly the same as the last. But what if instead of focusing on all of the improvements we need to make to ourselves and our lives, instead we focused on what we have RIGHT NOW and acknowledge that it’s just fine. What if we simply accepted it?
How about accepting that we are okay right now as we are? Perfectly imperfect.
What if instead of vowing to make everything different – we instead vowed to show compassion to ourselves and to others right now in this very moment.
Why don’t we trust that all will be okay? Then we can allow our lives to unfold as we seek the lessons it has to give us.
I do realize it is easy for me to write this, as I sit in my comfortable home, nourished with food, surrounded by my loving husband and healthy children.
If someone told me ten years ago (and probably more than one therapist DID) that the key to my happiness was to accept where I was – I would have immediately discounted them. Did they not understand how awful I felt, how badly I was hurting and how stuck I felt? I
t took me years of struggle, fighting, and hitting rock bottoms before I realized I DID have a choice. And I continue to have a choice every single day. The choice is to open myself up to the truth that I am ok just as I am.
I am NOT my disorder.
Or my depression, anxiety, or mistakes. No, I am me and I am okay just as I am because I AM.
And because of this one core truth I realize that this year I don’t want every single thing to be different.