No Filter by Karla Walsh: The Anti-Resolution Resolution

dsm magazine, January/February 2020

Eighty percent. The proportion of calories from fat you’re supposed to consume each day on the keto diet. Also, coincidentally, the percentage of Americans who break or fail at achieving their New Year’s resolutions, according to several studies and surveys.

After writing for health magazines for more than a decade and penning more resolution how-to stories than I can count, I’ve honed my view on Jan. 1. Through research (and a lot of anecdotal evidence from friends, family and story sources), I’ve come to realize:

  Some 70% of people resolve to diet at the start of each year.

• More than 90% of dieters regain all of the weight they lose—or more—on traditional diets.

So what’s the deal?

Being obese is unhealthy, true. But so is being too skinny. And the mindset of dieting is often one of deprivation. “Don’t eat vegetables grown under the ground.” “Eliminate all carbs.” “No processed foods, ever.” 

The cycle typically looks like this: Your resolve is strong for the first week. You stick to the same safe menu, shed a few pounds, and start feeling slightly more energized. But then someone has a birthday at work, you’re invited to a neighborhood potluck or attend a church bake sale. Faced with cake (I mean, it’s filled with a layer of caramel and it is a special occasion!), you slip off your perfect-diet plan. You beat yourself up. Then you vow to get back on track the next Monday. Which happens to be six days away.

The “on plan” and “off plan” mindset—one of black-and-white restrictions—is nearly impossible to stick with for a lifetime, unless you have a health-related reason to do so (say, an allergy or a religious reason for abstaining). And isn’t that the goal of being healthy: extending your life and making it a high-quality one you look forward to living?

My new perspective is focused on that quality. For the new year that started Jan. 1, 2004, at the start of my recovery from anorexia, my psychiatrist helped me determine a resolution that added more good to my life or to the world. Every year since, I’ve set goals accordingly. One favorite: “Each week, try something you’ve never done before,” which resulted in skydiving, studying for and attaining a wine sommelier certification, and learning to surf.

From “do 10 minutes of yoga per day” to “try one new vegetable each week,” these can still be health-boosting, if you like. But by flipping the script from eliminating to adding, the resolution takes on a whole new meaning. The same can be true if your resolution is financial: Don’t buy any shoes this year vs. add $20 more to your savings account each week, for example.

I listened to a podcast recently that challenged listeners to write down their goal, whether it’s professional or personal, on the top half of a sheet of paper. Then, on the bottom half, write down the feelings that will result from reaching that goal. Now tear the paper in half and toss the top half. The bottom half—those feelings—are your real goals. Each is worth figuring out action steps so you can achieve it.

So my challenge to you is to ditch the diet this year, and instead make the next 365 days all about abundance. Feast on life by sneaking in more wellness. More good deeds. More adventures. More self-care. More time with loved ones. I pretty much guarantee you’ll feel 100% happier when you reframe your mission this way.


Karla Walsh is a freelance writer, restaurant brand manager and spin instructor. Feel free to share feedback or tell her about your 2020 goals on Instagram @karlaswalsh or via karlaswalsh@gmail.com.

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