Friday, June 21Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The ‘New Year, New You’ Is Coming Under Review

It’s that time again. The age-old spiel of ‘New year, new me’ is back out in full force. I can’t tell you how many fitness adverts I’ve seen, Instagram posts telling me how to eat well and exercise better, influencers pushing a new diet regime that makes you lose more weight in less time during this first week in January. Even the News app on my phone is full of ‘health tips’, and frankly I am sick of it. We’re constantly being told to Do More!, Be Better!, achieve greater things, never stop hustling, always be grinding blah blah blah. It is becoming increasingly clear that we live in a society that values productivity and productivity only. Well, I’m here to say no more! Living in such a way can invariably cause burn-out, stress and anxiety – which are not the ideal. A more balanced form of life which values rest as much as activity is slowly beginning to be championed by activists, health officials and celebrities more often than not on social media platforms and on bookshelves. As a result, the term ‘Resolutions’ is beginning to be replaced by the term ‘Intentions’, and I believe this to be the shining star of the new movement away from this productivity-based, shaming, toxic culture of resolutions we have seen in the past. 

The New Year should not be a time for companies to shame us into eating less and moving more and making us feel terrible for not conforming to unrealistic body standards and practicing health and wellness in different ways. This should not be a time where we are almost afraid to check our social media feeds because it will be pushing a new kind of diet and screaming at you to achieve more this year, become the best of the best, make millions and Be The Boss. It’s overwhelming and in 2021 I think we’re done with it. After living through a pandemic in 2020 and continuing with lockdowns and social distancing measures into 2021, it is without a doubt that we have seen unprecedented circumstances that have affected our mental and physical health and our general day-to-day. In light of this, such harsh rhetoric is even more exhausting and dangerous. 

The call to lose that lockdown weight needs to be ignored. The only thing that matters is that we are staying as safe and happy as possible, no matter by what means. If that means completing Netflix with a choccy bar and G&T in hand then go right ahead. If it’s walking a mile every day and listening to meditation podcasts, then that’s perfect too. Only we know what is best for our overall wellness and mental health. If that means your jeans are a bit tight or you now have a very questionable fringe/bleached hair, then so be it! Now more than ever is the perfect time to tell all the revolutionists and diet-culture nags to sod off! Your weight is not you worth, your productivity is not your sole function, and your rest is not your failure.

Now is a time to move with a softness and patience. It is a time to treat ourselves and others with kindness and love. Hence the term ‘Intentions’. It aims to end the set-up for failure that Resolutions create and be a softer and more forgiving way to practice wellness and self-improvement. The difference is that intentions are not pass or fail. Say you wanted to read more, but only manage a chapter here and there? Even if you don’t manage to read a book a week like you first envisaged, you have still done more reading than you would have before and have made a conscious effort to do so. Intentions are also more long-lasting. You can break a resolution after having an accidental string of cheat days and by February 2nd your gym membership card is all but forgotten at the bottom of your bag, never to see the light of day again. Intentions, however, are ongoing. If, by July you remember that actually you only got through half of that book and you really wanted to read more this year, it is not too late! You haven’t failed yourself or broken anything – the intention is still there, whatever it may be, and you can act on it at your own pace, for whenever it suits you. 

So, my chums, go forwards with intentions, kindness and patience. I wish you all the love and light for this year and I hope the New Year nags stay home and stay silent.