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New Year's Resolutions: The Fad Diet Encapsulated

Right before the end of 2023, and probably at the beginning of this year, you probably thought about your own New Year’s resolutions or were bombarded with content about them. I either saw resolution videos or heard people around me say, “This year I will try to…” change something they consider undesirable in their lives. But with these lists of ways to better ourselves, have we stopped and thought about why we treat the beginning of the calendar year as a fresh start?

When I think about New Year’s resolutions, I think of failure. Although pessimistic, I feel that the content around me has seldom presented New Year’s resolutions as successes. Rather, they are things people want to change about themselves but then forget about within weeks or months - failures. But are they even failures? How come we give so much weight and clout to New Year’s resolutions and less to other self-betterment goals set throughout the rest of the year? What makes something at the start of the year so important? Take Dry January, in which one does not consume alcohol during this first month. If you want to do that, that’s great. But even if you start the year fresh, sober, and rejuvenated, how can one sober month bring lasting change if you go back to drinking the same amount when it’s over? 

Why does something done in January carry more weight than the same act done later in the year? At the end of the day, it is just a month. The first month of the calendar year, yes, but why does that matter? There are other calendars we can follow, and since most New Year’s resolutions are personal, we can choose to follow the other calendars in our personal lives. This sounds far-fetched, I know, but there is just something about the stress society imposes on everyone - making us feel like we have to improve ourselves as the new year begins. In contrast, we can just “let ourselves go” when December comes around; might as well have fun when it’s the end of the year, right? The holidays also perpetuate this behaviour, lending justification to things like spending money, whether it’s for others or ourselves. But again, why specifically now? For what reason is the calendar year so crucial to our behaviour and goals? I’ll stop with the questions here, for the sake of you readers, but I hope to have portrayed my confuzzlement sufficiently.

Before I finish, I’d like to give an homage to the wellness industry, whose main goal is supposedly to help individuals be the best versions of themselves. In my opinion, it is an industry, like any other, that appeals to people’s weaknesses and insecurities to sell their products. January is a very crucial time for the wellness industry. Gym memberships are on discount because “you should start the year by being more active!” while numerous diets or ‘lifestyles’ are presented to “get your life back on track” because clearly, your life wasn’t on track up until now. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve had the ’75 Hard Challenge,’ AKA the 75-day deprivation-and-intense-gym-schedule program, recommended to me in the past month, I could pay my tuition fee. Every January we have to work on ourselves again, refocus, and regroup, even though we might have been fine before. Is it really the beginning of the year without someone telling you, “Maybe this year you should work on this”? Well, maybe this year I’ll work on being content with my life.

So, what’s the way forward? (Excuse the question after promising to pause the questions) I have (very proudly) titled New Year’s resolutions as a ‘fad diet’ since a fad diet has always been viewed as a very restrictive and unsustainable way of eating, thus leading to imminent failure. Similarly, resolutions and many other time-bound constructs are too constraining and unsustainable, ultimately resulting in defeat. If you like them, continue doing your thing, but I see them as a toxic social construct that doesn’t actually contribute anything to our lives. In my humble opinion, reassessment should happen throughout the year, alongside setting goals and attempting to reach them. These shouldn’t be bound by weeks, months, or years. If we truly want to improve ourselves or a portion of our lives, we should actively and continuously work on that, while also enjoying ourselves. This may be a tough ask, but perhaps this can be a long-, loooong-, term goal we can work on without time boundaries. 

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