Lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, eat healthier … these are the usual resolution suspects on January 1. While those can be fine and appropriate goals, depending on your current lifestyle, some of them can also be harmful.
“Resolutions about fitting into your skinny jeans set you up for failure because you’re telling yourself that there is only one way to look,” says Dani Tsukerman, founder of Very Personal Training. This all-or-nothing thinking can drive you to obsession, or make you feel like there’s no point and give up because nobody could achieve those goals.
A better idea: Make some realistic, specific goals about your approach to body image.
“The point of resolutions is to take stock of what’s working, what’s not, and what you want to be different this year,” explains body image coach Jessi Kneeland. “Negative body image is one of things that is definitely not working for most women and that they wish was different. Instead of falling prey to the idea that in order to improve your body image, you have to improve your body, why not go directly to the source — how you feel about your body?”
These resolutions will help you work toward feeling better about yourself and focusing less on a “perfect” body. Remember: “A resolution is only the beginning. It’s more like a mini-goal to help you get started on a lifelong path of being kind to yourself and not judging yourself,” Tsukerman says.
1. CLEANSE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FEEDS
Juice cleanses don’t work. But removing “toxic” people from your social media does. “Unfollow as many people as you can,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness. “This way if someone shows up in your feed, it’s because they’re one of your people. They lift you up, inspire you and are relatable. They are contributing to your better life.”
2. EAT FOODS YOU LOVE
If you are a cheeseburger person, embrace it in moderation. “Own it, and rather than labeling it as a flaw, focus on the way those foods bring you pleasure,” Scritchfield says. Maybe you love cheeseburgers from a particular diner where you frequently vacation, so when you’re there, have them and enjoy. When you do this, you’ll get more pleasure from your favorite foods when you choose to have them and be less likely to binge. It’s not all kale all the time.
3. DO THINGS THAT BRING YOU JOY
While it’s good to care about being healthy, oftentimes the message comes across as, “You need to work on yourself.” That makes it a chore and can cause you to squeeze out time for hobbies, a social life and other fun. “Reframe what a good life looks like. Take your health seriously, but don’t devote all your free time to it,” Scritchfield says. She suggests thinking of three things you’d love to do just for fun. Then get them on your calendar, on the regular!
4. EMBRACE THE FACT THAT YOU ARE HUMAN
Change doesn’t happen quickly and none of us are perfect. Since beating yourself up gets you nowhere, be patient and kind with yourself. “Real change comes slowly after being consistent with trying and failing and trying and failing,” Tsukerman says. “Embrace the failure by telling yourself it’s OK and it’s great, because it’s how you learn and you get stronger for the next time.”
5. STOP JUDGING OTHERS
“When you judge someone else, you’re reflecting your own values, beliefs and baggage on them,” Kneeland says. “Learn to notice your judgmental thoughts — even the ones that seem really ‘true’ — bring them back to your inner self and challenge them.” What messages have you internalized to make you judge people this way? This practice will help you let go of these kinds of thoughts, creating an internal world that’s less negative and judgmental about others and yourself, Kneeland explains.
6. DO SOMETHING THAT SCARES YOU
Facing something uncomfortable? Bring it. That’s how you grow — and empower yourself, because if you do this one thing, you can certainly conquer other fears. “Change is all about mental strength and being able to push yourself past your comfort zone,” Tsukerman says. And even if these fears aren’t about body image, they’ll help because it’s certainly scary and challenging to face down your insecurities.
READ MORE > THE BEST NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS TO BURN FAT
7. RELEASE YOUR BELLY
Some of us are so programmed to suck in our stomachs 24/7, we don’t know how to let it go. But sucking in makes your breath shallow, leading to unnecessary tension and anxiety. Anytime you notice yourself sucking it in, practice letting go and taking some big, deep breaths that expand your belly. If thoughts bubble up, challenge them. “If you feel like people will judge you, ask why it matters to you if people think your belly isn’t flat. What beliefs do you have that make a flat belly a requirement for people’s respect or love or acceptance?” Kneeland says. “Continue releasing your belly more often and in more public places, and eventually you’ll notice that you feel more free, whole and loving toward your body and yourself.”
8. ADMIRE YOURSELF IN A MIRROR
Speaking of things that scare you … The trick is to admire yourself from the perspective of someone (real, imagined or a composite of people) who adores you and thinks you are the most amazing human on earth. “Examine your body and face through their eyes,” Kneeland says. Look at yourself and say in your head what they might say. “Pull out all the stops,” Kneeland says. “Have them love your rolls and your cellulite and your imperfections. This person doesn’t love you in spite of those things, but rather those things are all instrumental in what they most love and admire about you.” Do this often enough (try it once a week) and you’ll find your own voice starts to change.