It’s the start of another year, which means being constantly inundated with routines, diets and lifestyles that promise to change your life in a matter of weeks.
It’s my annual reminder that we have such a fractured image of what self-care and self-improvement are. We are surrounded by the belief that our goals — especially fitness goals — should come at extreme costs to our time, nutrition, well-being and wallets.
Improving health and wellness tend to be the center of New Year's resolutions, with companies swearing that self-help books, a HelloFresh membership or a Peloton is all you need to make these resolutions a reality. Truthfully, these are just Band-Aid fixes to the systemic ways that self-improvement can be made difficult.
Perhaps most significantly, access to healthy food in the U.S. is atrocious. Only 28 percent of Americans report having easy access to nutritious food, according to a survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults. Food insecurity reigns supreme in many regions of the country, rural and urban alike, which contributes to obesity and poor nutrition.
That’s not all. The 40-hour workweek is related to increased substance abuse, instances of mental illness and overall poorer health. The eight hours of work seem to make it nearly impossible to juggle any physical or mental self-care on top of other responsibilities.
Despite this, businesses still promise expensive solutions to our most frustrating insecurities, hidden behind price tags and subscription fees. Social media has only made such solutions more pervasive.
For example, the “75 Hard” challenge has been popularized by its TikTok hashtag, where countless young people attempt the routine. The rules? Work out twice a day for at least 45 minutes and take progress photos daily.
The program's other tenets are more promising — such as reading 10 pages of nonfiction a day or completing acts of kindness — yet still underscore the monumental pressure of this 75-day challenge, with no breaks and no flexibility.
Andy Frissela elaborated on the challenge in his book “75 Hard: A Tactical Guide to Winning the War with Yourself” with the slogan “How To Take Complete Control of Your Life in Only 75 Days.”
Self-care and self-growth are far too often framed this way: that you are the biggest barrier to yourself, and that being a stronger person requires fighting your own ideas of comfort. Rest days, adjustment periods and easing into difficult endeavors are all part of care.
Forgiving yourself is a part of care.
That is not to say that challenging yourself is not significant to the process, but the framing of so many routines and resolutions forget gentleness. Trends like 75 Hard forget that effective self-improvement programs look different for everybody.
Lastly, self-care should never have an expiration date. 75 Hard is hard for 75 days, and then completely unsustainable as a long-term lifestyle change. Real growth, whether physical or mental, is never-ending.
Any program that preaches to have any resolution after only a few weeks is probably lying to you.
It’s easy to read this analysis as being strictly against using the new year as a time to implement a new diet or exercise routine. If I could impart you with one idea, it would be that care and improvement are not linear. They don’t have to start when the clock strikes midnight, and changes should be on your schedule — not that of Chloe Ting’s two-week ab challenge.
So, if you’re still searching for a new years resolution, I suggest taking the pressure off of yourself and starting a self-care regimen that is uniquely your own.
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