So the champagne is all drunk, and the hangovers are hung and the department store Santas have moved over to pave the way for yoga mats, teeny-tiny exercise clothes and pretend chocolate “meal replacement” bars. It’s beginning to look a lot like new years, the time where folks the world over look at themselves in their bathroom mirrors and make resolutions. And oh, so often, the resolution is the same as the one the year before. And so very often that resolution is to be thin.

So we join the gym and sign up for the diet “groupthink” organizations. We step on our scales and pull out the diet books. We start the year with big plans and even bigger hopes. We’re going to be thin by St. Valentine’s day. We think we’re turning over a new leaf when what we’re really doing is making a sharp left turn into the “Big Fat Cycle”. The pattern that will leave us frustrated, freaked out and yes, fatter by February.

The “Big Fat Cycle” is constant and universal. Nearly every girl or woman over the age of about 12 that I’ve ever talked to knows exactly what I’m talking about. Nearly everybody who sees this cycle or hears about it, immediately recognizes its contours in his or her own life. It’s like a merry go round that whirls out of control and won’t let us off. They cycle looks like this:

1) PANIC—Oh my God, I’m so fat. The doctor / my mom / my husband / my agent / my psychic says I need to lose weight right away. I look awful. I might die tomorrow. I have to lose like 100 pounds, NOW! Maybe if I sever a limb I can lose like 10 pounds in one week.

2) FANTASY–If I just eat healthy at every meal / eat cabbage soup at every meal / totally cut out carbohydrates or red meat / exercise for an hour every day, I’ll lose a lot of weight. Maybe I’ll only lose the 2 pounds per week that is recommended or maybe a little more. Then if I just do that for the rest of my life, I can be a size four and life will be wonderful and perfect in every way.

3) DEFEAT—Oh, well it’s week four and I only lost half a pound. This is never going to happen. I don’t look like Angelina Jolie. I don’t even look like Angela Landsbury. I give up. I might as well have a cookie, or a dozen. I haven’t had a cookie in a month and look at me. I look the same as when I started. I want a COOKIE. No, wait, I WANT A LOT OF COOKIES. I may gain weight, but so what? I don’t care…

4) SHAME—Oh my God. Not only am I fat, but also I’m hopeless. How could anybody possibly love me? How could I even possibly love me?

5) RETURN TO STEP 1. Rinse and repeat.

How many times have you gone around this little circle? A dozen times? A hundred? Every New Year’s Day since you were twelve? Many of us have been on this vicious little cycle for our entire lives. Many of us even secretly treasure this little routine. It’s familiar. It’s like home. But sometimes you have to wonder, after all these years, what it really does for you.

So what does the Big Fat Cycle give you? It gives you stress. For all the work, deprivation and distress of traditional weight loss efforts, you achieve physical, mental and spiritual stress and not much else.

What if there was a different way? What if you could make a New Year’s resolution that left you healthier and happier? What if by February, you could be basking in the glow of ongoing, consistent success? It is possible. Heck, it’s actually fairly predictable. But in order to achieve this glorious goal, you have to begin with a single resolution.

Resolve not to resolve your way in to the Big Fat Cycle this year. I’ll do it with you–a little at a time. But first you must resolve to begin your year in love, not fear, not panic, not fantasy and not hate—but loving yourself enough to do what’s best for you. 

2010 is going to be our best year ever!

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