It’s a new year. A fresh start. A chance to reinvent ourselves. As the clock ticked from 11:59 to 12:00, the entire world reset itself, and all of 2020 was flung back into the vicious black hole from whence it came. Orrr not. In reality, the clock ticked from one year to the next, we yelled “Happy New Year!” to our vacant homes, then woke up to nothing different except an inexplicable craving for change.
The most common of these changes: lose weight.
Maybe it’s the extravagant holiday dinners and the surplus of sweets that makes us suddenly aware of our eating habits, but for weeks, I’ve been hearing variations of, “I better enjoy this now; I start my diet in the new year.” There’s so much guilt and shame associated with enjoying food, it’s like we feel the need to justify every second serving of dinner or bite of shortbread. And yes, we do tend to overindulge during the holiday season — I don’t normally have a pantry full of delicious baked goods — but why can’t we acknowledge it as an exception to our normal routine? What if we saw our holiday eating as special circumstances instead of a failure in self-control? Eating “poorly” at the end of the year doesn’t negate any of the healthy choices we made during the rest of the year.
Instead, we place so much importance on the arbitrary deadline of a new year, and since we’re not “finishing strong,” we jump off the other end. We binge on all the goodies, eating more than we probably would have any other time of year because we’re going to “start the new year right” by eating healthy. This all or nothing attitude turns food into a villain, with every calorie seen as a point against us. Cravings become like a Sith Lord trying to lure us over to the dark side while Obi-Wan is gesturing wildly at an elliptical. This is not a healthy relationship to have with food.
Food is not the enemy. I will say it again, food is not the enemy. It is the fuel our bodies need to function; it gives us energy and makes it possible for us to live. And it can be fucking delicious. Yes, some food is empty calories, but that chocolate cake offers something else: a moment of joy. Of course, everything in moderation, but life is too short not to have a slice of cake every now and then. And don’t waste time feeling guilty about it afterwards. I’m not saying we should eat junk food for every meal, but having a piece of dessert or a bag of chips does not mean we failed.
I don’t do new years resolutions; I haven’t for years. I had a salad for lunch today, not because I’m worried about my waistline, but because my body feels lousy from the heavy food I’ve eaten the last few weeks. If you’re a real stickler for new year’s resolutions, instead of creating unrealistic goals and placing huge expectations on yourself, try looking back on the whole year, and not just the month before. Instead of situating food as a wiley temptress, reassess your normal eating habits and try to find a balance between “healthy” food and those you consider treats.