New Chapter

A young woman charts her recovery from eating disorders.

New Year’s Resolutions? Not this Time.

Make resolutions based on need, not because it’s New Year’s.

I don't think I'm making resolutions for 2010. Now, I might decide at the very last minute that there is something - anything - that I must work on for 2010. Presently, though, I think I'm going to let it be.

I've had a myriad of resolutions in my preteen and teen years. You should have seen the lists! Each year I'd plot a couple dozen goals. They'd be things like lose # of pounds, exercise # of minutes each day, or eat no more than # of calories a day. And since the weight-related mandates weren't enough, I'd add things like go to bed by this time, pray for # minutes each day, brush my teeth this long, or be nice to that person. It was a dizzying flurry of rules; any flaw that I thought I had was worth correction for the new year. Not surprisingly, give me less than a week and I'd already be breaking some, if not all, of them.

My new year's resolutions had evolved by my late teens and 20's. Now I was more interested in establishing and following resolutions that emphasized both inner and outer health, and working on a few broad concepts instead of many micromanaged items. I limited my number of resolutions and tried to focus on "do's" rather of "don'ts". They were things such as limit sugar intake, exercise # of times each week, write every day, or go to # of meetings a week. Even though they were less restrictive than my previous resolutions, I still found them stifling and quickly abandoned them.

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Looking back, I believe the reason I've always rebelled against New Year's resolutions is because I wasn't totally dedicated to them. They always felt somewhat compulsory. I had good intentions when I created them, but good intentions didn't equal commitment. I can't recall ever having a resolution that I established at the beginning of the year that was crucial enough for me to follow it for a whole year. Yet, I'd find myself creating the same resolutions again and again.

This isn't to say that I haven't developed and stuck with resolutions, but those were ones based on need rather than time. For instance, when my eating disorder reappeared its head one spring, it wasn't an option for me to say, "Well, when the new year arrives, I'll work on this." It was something I had to deal with right then.

Let's say someone has a heart attack and the person's doctor says, "If you don't change your diet, you will die within two years." That would probably motivate the person more than if they decided to start a diet in the new year to fit into snug jeans.There are parallels between that and my experience. The resolutions I've stuck with were ones I developed because of necessity rather than a new week, new year, anniversary, or another birthday.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from developing New Year's resolutions. Some people find that making and following resolutions works really well for them. However, if you've found that you make resolutions each year only to stop following them shortly thereafter, you might want to consider developing resolutions when the need, rather than when the time, arises.

Adia Colar is a publicist for New Harbinger Publications and a freelance writer.

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