By Zaynab Nassurally, Second Year Economics and Management
As the festive period passes and the New Year rapidly approaches, the age-old question lingers: what’s your New Year's resolution?
The concept of New Year resolutions can be dated back to 46 B.C., when Romans offered sacrifices to Janus—the Roman God named after January—and promised good conduct for the following year. This tradition has evolved over the centuries, yet it was only until relatively recently that the purpose of setting goals for the New Year has strayed from its original intention.
A 1947 Gallup Poll reported that the most popular contemporary resolutions were to ‘improve my disposition’, ‘be more understanding’ and ‘control my temper’, highlighting the primary idea surrounding resolutions: that we want to become better versions of ourselves. Yet, unsurprisingly, recent resolution hopes centre less on personal improvement and instead aim at physical reinvention, with 35 per cent of Brits aiming to lose weight and 33 per cent wanting to get fitter.
December is the month filled with sweet treats and grand feasts, with family and friends coming together to eat hearty meals. However, the joy from enjoying a filling meal during the Christmas period is quickly interrupted by the societal pressure to lose any additional weight for the upcoming year: when the clock strikes midnight to mark a new year, the health and diet industry thrives most.
'[Focus] on increasing your compassion or humility, rather than on restricting your weight or behaviours'
So-named ‘diet culture’ has persistently reminded us of what we don’t have and what we should have instead, circulating the idea that in shedding that ‘additional holiday weight’, we are creating a newer and better version of ourselves. With the New Year comes the inevitable onslaught of advertisements depicting unattainable body standards and normalising restrictive one-size-fits-all eating regimens and diets, despite their propensity for failure.
Weight loss companies, gyms, fitness influencers and diet books all capitalise from money-making products and fad diets which motivate us to achieve the unattainable standards of beauty and wellness which they promote, influencing many consumers to purchase commodities that they are convinced they need in order to live up to the slogan ‘new year, new you’. A study by eBay reported that in January, those aged 25 to 34 spent, on average, just over £1000 on self-improvement products alone.
Whilst it is a new year, drastic resolutions that involve neglecting incremental improvements in favor of immediate changes to the way we live can be unsustainable in the long-term. In 2015, The Guardian reported that out of the 63 per cent of adults who failed their resolutions, 43 per cent of those didn’t even last one month.
Weight-loss resolutions also have an especially slim success rate: only three to five per cent of dieters lose weight and maintain their weight loss, and at least one-third to two-thirds of people tend to regain more weight than they originally lost.
As a result, the emerging anti-diet movement is now warning against the toxic propaganda culture surrounding New Year’s resolutions. An increasing number of mental wellbeing influencers and medical professionals are instead encouraging us to rewrite our resolutions, and unlearn the messages peddled by diet culture.
When asked about resolution culture, a second year student told Epigram that resolutions are 'just part of tradition', and that they 'never actually follow through with them'. They went on to say that ‘the general culture surrounding it can be quite toxic, but I have never taken my resolution too seriously'.
If you’re still looking to take the opportunity to reflect or implement your long-term goals this New Year, you could instead try making smaller, more sustainable and intentional changes that can be adjusted throughout the year. Or perhaps you could instead embrace the values you aim to embody into your resolutions: focusing on increasing your compassion or humility, rather than on restricting your weight or behaviours.
Featured Image: Flickr / Chris Frewin
Will you be making resolutions this New Year?