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Eating Disorder Recovery: Setting Positive Resolutions

As we prepare to enter into a new decade, many people are taking time to reflect on the last 12 months in an effort to set new goals for the future. Spending some time in self-reflection is an important part of being more mindful and can bring on a variety of new feelings for People in eating disorder recovery. It’s common to feel pressure to set goals surrounding body image and dieting, especially for those with a previous eating disorder diagnosis.  

While this may not seem like an issue for most people, for people in eating disorder treatment, negative New Years’ resolutions can affect the recovery process. Whether they have just recently entered an anorexia nervosa treatment program, or they have been thriving post-treatment, this type of goal setting should be approached cautiously and with the supervision of their recovery team.

How Can New Year’s Goal Setting Be Risky for People in Eating Disorder Recovery?

Typically, setting new goals for the new year can be an effective way to bring about positive change. But all anyone has to do is look back over past years to realize that many resolutions are quickly abandoned after a few weeks. This is because to create a new positive habit, people need a plan of action in place. For those who have recently completed an eating disorder treatment program, New Year’s resolutions can reinforce past negative behaviors and interfere with other recovery goals. For those who are already juggling school, work, and busy social lives, a failed resolution may also set off a chain of negative events. These often include feelings surrounding a negative body image, backsliding into disordered eating habits depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and more.

Relapse is a word that is often talked about in eating disorder recovery and nothing that people should feel shameful about. However, they must work to avoid situations that bring up past situations and feelings that are associated with life before entering treatment. For those who are recently out of recovery, making New Year’s resolutions or setting unrealistic goals can put unnecessary pressure on the recovery process. However, goal setting may be recommended as part of the recovery process. If they have been challenged by a team of health care professionals to set positive and achievable goals, it can be safe to participate with family and friends in setting New Years’ resolutions.

Negative Goal Setting: What are the Dangers of Dieting in the New Year?

It doesn’t matter if an individual is 15 or 50, fad diets can be very dangerous, especially for those who have previously experienced disordered eating and negative weight-loss behaviors. In our modern world, it can be difficult to turn on the television or open a new webpage without seeing an advertisement for some type of new fad diet. However, most medical professionals recommend against committing to a diet plan that asks individuals to cut out entire food groups or promotes a “magic” weight loss tool. 

Research shows that the yo-yo cycle of fad dieting can lead to a wide variety of health issues, including:

  • An increased risk of disordered eating behaviors
  • Low vitamin and mineral intake
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and headaches

Fad dieting should not be confused with a special diet that has been prescribed or recommended by a health professional. In fact, it is common for those who are participating in an eating disorder treatment program to follow a nutrition and diet plan that is designed to meet their specific health needs. If they have been prescribed a special diet and meal plan, they should discuss making any changes to their plan with their doctor.

Common Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms

As parents and friends try their best to support love in eating disorder recovery, it is difficult to know when a New Year’s resolution or personal goal setting may be cause for concern. Especially if family and friends have been asked to work as a positive support system outside of a treatment setting. Luckily, it isn’t too difficult to recognize some of the most common eating disorder symptoms. If family or friends notice any of the following symptoms during the holidays, it’s important to open up a dialogue with their child and eating disorder counselors as well:

  • A preoccupation with body weight, food, counting calories, dieting, and fat content
  • Maintaining an excessive or rigid exercise routine despite illness, injury, fatigue or inclement weather
  • Experiencing an intense fear of changing body shape or the thought of gaining “too much” weight – even when considered to be medically underweight for one’s age and height
  • Refusal to eat certain foods or putting heavy restrictions on whole food categories (like sugar or carbohydrates)
  • Withdrawing from social events and activities that include meals or sharing food
  • Difficulties concentrating and sleep problems
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Frequent trips to the restroom during mealtime, the smell of vomit, or scrapes and cuts on knuckles
  • Menstrual irregularities in women—including irregular periods, the loss of monthly periods, or only experiencing a period when using hormonal contraceptives
  • Frequent mood swings, depression, anxiety, and negative body image

While it is clear which symptoms may indicate an eating disorder, doctor s and research scientists have yet to determine an exact cause for the development of anorexia or bulimia nervosa. It is thought that a combination of different factors may contribute to eating disorder development. Some of these anorexia and bulimia causes may involve past trauma, environment, genetics, co-occurring disorders, and more.

7 Positive New Year’s Resolutions for Eating Disorder Recovery

Making positive resolutions can be helpful for People who want to create new habits that will contribute to their long-term recovery. If making New Year’s resolutions is important to them and their families, they don’t have to miss out on the challenge of setting positive goals. If the resolutions are manageable, they can provide the inspiration necessary to find new healthy coping skills.

1. Listen to Your Body

Truly listening to one’s body is often much easier said than done. However, mindfulness is a helpful skill that can work to promote better sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost the immune system. Yoga, meditation, slow breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can all help you become more mindful in the new year.

2. Focus on Self-Care

Whether they are juggling school, sports, social commitments, or simply trying to plan for their future—it can be hard to take time out of their busy lives to enjoy a bit of “me time.” But as they start practicing mindfulness, they will find that it’s easier to focus on self-care. A few hours of self-care can consist of something as simple as using a new facemask or going out to the movies with friends.

3. Try Something New

Learning a new skill can be invaluable as they look to the future. People should look for activities that inspire them, cultivate creativity, and promise to open a world of new possibilities. For example, taking up art classes or a writing course can be a great way to discover a new passion.

4. Gratitude Practices

Studies show that grateful people can feel more positive emotions, handle adversity, enjoy improved mental and physical health, and experience fewer aches and pains than less grateful people. To cultivate an attitude of gratitude they can keep a gratitude journal or start volunteering.

5. Take a Break from Social Media

Spending too much time on a smartphone has been linked to depression, anxiety, poor eyesight, and frequent headaches in people of all ages. Taking a break from social media can help them to feel more connected to the people in their lives and avoid negative self-talk. All they have to do is delete the applications from their phone or deactivate their accounts, and simply log back in if and when they feel like it. 

6. Celebrate Your Body

The human body is something that they should learn to be proud of, not something that causes them to feel embarrassed. For people who have completed eating disorder recovery, it can be incredibly helpful to celebrate their body through positive movement. With a resolution that focuses on positive physical activities like dance, yoga, tai chi, boxing—or another enjoyable movement practice, they can practice mindfulness and gratitude for their bodies in a fun and interactive way.

7. Work with a Support Team

The new year marks a time of change for everyone around the globe and may be just what they need to stay focused on long-term recovery. However, too much change or unreachable goals are bound to make it difficult for they to stay on track with their recovery goals. However, working on creating positive resolutions with their family and eating disorder recovery team can be super helpful. People should consider goals that are designed to help them keep up good communication with their recovery team, attend all of their appointments, and cultivating a positive social support system at home as well.

Adolescent Eating Disorder Treatment Programs at Monte Nido

At Monte Nido, we are proud to help guide people through the recovery process with compassion and empathy. Our knowledgeable and experienced staff have the skills necessary to provide the highest quality of medical and psychiatric care outside a hospital setting. And our specially designed eating disorder recovery programs are grounded in mindfulness, with the belief that everyone can enjoy a better relationship with their body and the food they eat.

Our goal is to help our clients find the tools they need to become free from negative habits and develop positive behaviors surrounding their bodies, food, and nutrition. Unlike many other traditional eating disorder recovery programs, treatment at Monte Nido is highly customized. We always take into account each individual’s needs, their specific diagnosis, lifestyle challenges, and their unique gifts. We offer both medical and psychiatric treatment in a comfortable, safe, and home-like setting.  

Contact Monte Nido Treatment Centers Today

As you look forward to the new year, it’s common to feel off track with one’s personal and recovery goals. For people who have recently completed an anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa treatment program, this can be an especially difficult time. But that doesn’t mean that personal goal setting has to interfere with recovery. With the right tools and an open line of communication, it is possible to set goals that will only help to improve one’s chances of enjoying long-term eating disorder recovery.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an eating disorder and are seeking compassionate treatment, the team at Monte Nido can help. Interested in learning more about the adolescent eating disorder recovery programs available at Monte Nido treatment centers? Please don’t hesitate to call one of our friendly admissions specialists at 888.891.2590 or contact us online today for more information.


Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.