‘everything in moderation, including moderation.’ – Oscar Wilde
New year, new me.
So goes the infamous, annual vow of self-betterment. As midnight falls and December ends, we clink our champagne glasses and propose unrealistic promises for the future, drinking down bubbles as we cheers to health and happiness in the year ahead.
In reality, 40 percent of people make a New Year’s resolution. A cult of personal improvement seems to surround the concept of new beginnings, and we welcome a fresh start by resolving to kick our bad habits and commence afresh. Yet amidst fireworks, alcohol and celebrations there runs an undercurrent of self-criticism as we make intentions to better ourselves in the year to come. But why do we feel the constant need for self-improvement, bringing in the New Year by casting a negative eye on the past year’s lifestyle choices?
The largest percentage of resolutions revolves around health, weight loss and exercise, with 1 in 3 brits aiming to shed pounds and eat more healthily in the New Year. 2015 saw a huge rise in the health food industry, and fitspiration came to a specific light on social media, with such platforms now studded with ‘healthy living’ accounts and skinny, tanned women in lycra (cue feeling inadequate and turning to our favourite comfort food.) But statistics show that 66 percent of us break our New Year’s resolutions within the first month, and social media could well play a part in our lack of willpower.
According to psychologists, one of the main reasons we struggle to find motivation when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions is that we often base them around our faults, and habits we wish to change. So, comparing ourselves to our social media health guru can do more damage than good, as said fitness inspiration platforms can leave us looking negatively upon our own bodies, and diminishing our self-worth. ‘New year, new me,’ implies a certain criticism towards the old you, and can spark a willpower-sucking spiral of negative thinking. Beginning the year regretting your festive binge eating and resolving to lose weight imminently turns our frame of mind to self-criticism, and by focusing on the bad habits we want to kick instead of our new goals we are draining our own motivation.
If the constant body-shaming isn’t enough to make you avoid fitspiration like a morning gym session, such ‘fitness’ media accounts may play a further role in the breaking of our New Year’s resolutions. According to The Guardian, the main reason why most of us fail to see our diets through for more than a couple of weeks is down to setting unrealistic goals, and trying to do too much too quickly. Ever considered why gyms are so packed in January, but by mid Feb, the normal ebb and flow of fitness freaks has returned to its usual self, unflustered by the annual rush? A clear, vicious circle emerges here. We resolve to loose weight to look like our media icons, we follow fitness accounts urging us to eat clean and exercise daily, we fail to fit this in with our daily lifestyle and thus return to our normal lives, only to make the same resolution the following year.
Yet what about the people who run these accounts? Do those who genuinely prefer spiralised courgette to pasta genuinely walk among us? Yes and no. We have just entered 2016, and now live in an age when social media is the new television advertising, and the people we see on our laptops are those who we idolise. With our favorite fitness stars being sponsored by a multi-million pound health food industry in order to promote their products, it’s easy to see how the insta-famous can afford to invest so much into their fitness and image. For the rest of us, it’s a case of everything in moderation, and unless your career is based around fitness you’re better off finding a way to ease it gently into your every day lifestyle.
To give you an idea of the scale of the ‘Clean Eating’ phenomenom that hit us in 2015, retail expert Mary Portas drops some figures. Sales in coconuts have risen spectacularly, since fitness gurus and celebrities claimed coconut oil and coconut water as the year’s health must-haves. Over 1 million nutri-bullets, costing £80 a pop, were sold in the UK over the past two years. Even sportswear rose in popularity, as four times as many styles of gym leggings were available in 2015 than 2014. As a public, we’re quick to invest in our health and buy the miracle products that require minimum effort, but does spending money on our resolutions really help us to keep them?
Essentially, both fitness accounts and snazzy lycra are popular for a reason. It’s January, it’s cold, we’re full of Christmas food and we need some motivation. But psychologists suggest that it’s the order here that we’re getting wrong. Action proceeds motivation, they claim. Sounds unlikely, but they have a point. We go for a run – we imminently feel better about ourselves, and more driven to continue. We sit on the sofa trawling through pictures of gym-bunnies and pop to the sales to invest in a chic pair of sports leggings – we’re essentially finding an artificially feel-good way of procrastinating.
When it comes to keeping your resolution in 2016, remember that procrastination is just waiting for motivation, and there is plenty of money to be made from supplying you with just that. Keep it simple, try and resist the targeted January advertising, and remember that whatever the New Year brings, health and happiness don’t necessary come from toned thighs and a state-of-the-art blender.