5 Toxic New Year’s Resolutions to Avoid in 2024

woman's hand writing new year's goals 2024The New Year and its traditions are upon us. For most of us, the festivities will include some combination of watching football, eating collards and black-eyed peas, attending a party, counting down the ball descent on Times Square, toasting 2024, AND making a New Year’s resolution!

Notice that the last item is not likely to help any of us look forward to 2024 with optimism. The reason is obvious. Experience tells us that most New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail. So today our New Year’s greeting for patients and friends will not include the typical health-related suggestions. Improving fitness, getting more sleep, quitting cigarettes, and controlling weight are still worthy goals. BUT, if you have taken a moment to read this, we want it to bring you some positive thoughts and encouragement.

Last year, our message focused on “Heart-Warming Resolutions” like learning something new, caring for friendships, or creating a memory. Today, we propose that you think in another direction. Steer clear of resolutions that will make you feel bad about the new year and bad about yourself. Some mental health professionals describe a pattern of behavior called “false-hope syndrome”—in other words, the tendency to set unrealistic goals and expect a good outcome. Talking with women every day about their personal goals for their health and well-being, we realize that some goals are loaded with red flags for future disappointment. Here are our top five!

Something Someone Else Wants You to Change

Your partner may want you to invest in a couples’ gym membership or start a strict ketogenic diet in 2024. Think hard about whether you want to set yourself up for this frustration.  A habit or behavior you’ve had for a while is hard enough to change when it makes YOU uncomfortable and you sincerely want to end it. You are less likely to be successful if you have been pressured to make a certain resolution.

A Resolution Based on Comparing Yourself to Others

Competition is innate to human nature. The caveman who could dominate his competitors was more likely to survive. But competition in a modern social network has settled on values that do not fulfill any real human need. We naturally compare ourselves to others, but beware of allowing comparisons to shape your goals for yourself. When comparisons cause you anxiety, they are unhealthy. Dr. Erin Hall-Minnie offers the example of preteen and teen girls who face pressure from peers, social media, or reality TV to achieve a certain body type. For some, the comparison to others leads to a lifelong struggle with unhealthy body image, eating disorders, or other destructive behaviors. (See her post “Developing a Healthy Body Image for Pre-Teens and Teenagers”) Ask yourself whether the goal or resolution you are considering comes from a place of low self-esteem about who you are today.

A Resolution Based on False Claims or Promises

The self-improvement industry generates annual profits of billions and billions by convincing you that you are deficient in some way, but that their product will solve your problem. The message is often cloaked in misleading medical or scientific information. If your weight-loss resolution involves buying a product—usually a dietary supplement—know that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Their claims about weight loss are not supported by FDA approval. The seller does not have to prove the supplement is safe and effective! You are taking the seller’s word entirely about whether the claims of amazing results contain any truth. Read the claims of weight-loss, skin care, and beauty products with a skeptical eye. Don’t choose your self-improvement goals based on the “to good to be true” claims of product manufacturers. Choose reliable sources for health and medical advice. Start with your doctor. If you are drawn to Dr. Google, at least choose reliable sites for your medical information. And sadly, even some providers are selling supplements these days. Recognize a health or diet product that is not an FDA approved medication. The FDA provides the following information to help you tell the difference.

FDA regulations require dietary supplement labels to bear a product name and a statement that it is a “dietary supplement” or equivalent term replacing “dietary” with the name or type of dietary ingredient in the product (e.g., “iron supplement” or “herbal supplement”…

Unrealistic Goals—Too Much Too Fast

This is probably the biggest reason resolutions turn into disappointments and frustrations. Unrealistic goals become part of the false-hope syndrome the moment they enter your mind.  We naturally want instant results. Knowing that you were once on the high school cross-country team may attract you toward an aggressive fitness resolution. But, if your high school graduation was decades ago, start slow. Training for Birmingham’s new Railway Marathon might not realistic for this year. (If you’re already a runner, it’s in February!). Fitness is about moving steadily in the right direction. The same is true for weight loss. Recall the number of months or years over which you gained the weight you now want to lose. Losing over that same time period is probably a reasonable goal.  If your weight loss resolution is tied to the management of a serious health problem such as diabetes, do talk with your doctor. Medical science has recently made great progress in the area of diet and weight management. Read on this topic Dr. Favor’s post from a year ago.

The Same Resolution You Made Last Year!

Seriously, why start the new year remembering last year’s disappointment? Refresh. Reboot. Maybe the tradition of resolutions is not for you this year. Put it aside. The only good reason to make a 2024 New Year’s Resolution is your own desire to have this symbolic goal. After all, it’s just a symbol. As you turn the calendar pages of 2024, remember that every new day brings an opportunity to make a new and better choice for your health and well-being.

Best wishes to you and your loved ones for 2024,

From your physicians at Sparks & Favor