The best New Year’s resolutions are the ones you actually keep .
So, let’s all choose wisely this year. We really need 2021 to be a better year than 2020.
According to the research, while as many as 45 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent report being successful in keeping them. Hmmm, we are not exactly crushing it when it comes to our level of commitment. In fact, that’s such a miserable statistic it got me thinking about why we even make New Year’s resolutions at all.
Turns out humans have been doing some version of a new year’s resolution for the past 4,000 or so years, and further that the origins are steeped in superstition and fear. Still, wouldn’t you think we’d have the hang of it by now and therefore be a little better at it?
Part of the explanation may be that even though the custom of making New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years, it hasn’t always looked the way it does today. Maybe the history of New Year’s resolutions will help to explain its lackluster success rate in modern times.
The ancient Babylonians appear to have been the first people to make New Year’s Eve resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to celebrate the new year—which for them began in March. Akitu, the festival in which the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the old one, was a time for making promises to the gods to pay their debts to the current king with the expectation of prosperity for the coming year in return.
These promises are considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. The Babylonians believed that if they kept their word to pay their taxes to their king, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—and their very survival might be at risk.
In other words, they were incentivized on pain of death or misfortune, to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know about you, but I never think I’m going to die if I can’t keep my New Year’s resolutions nor do I think I will lose all of my worldly goods… At worst I may experience a little teasing or shaming, but only if I make the mistake of sharing my New Year’s resolutions with others.
The point is that historically, fear of rather dire consequences based upon superstition appears to have been the incentive.
A similar practice began in Rome when Julius Caesar established January 1 as the beginning of the new year around 46 B.C. The Romans believed that January, which was named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit could see the past as well as the future, could dictate one’s fortunes. Good Romans offered sacrifices and made promises to Janus for the coming year along with paying their taxes to Caesar in exchange for prosperity. Again, with the superstitions, fear and bargaining with a Pagan god promulgated by a human emperor with a personal agenda.
Fast forward to Christianity. For early Christians, the first day of the new year also became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do better in the future. Many churches and Christian organizations encourage this soul-searching and commitment to living a better life. Nothing wrong with that.
In practice, despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions for most Americans today are a secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, or to one’s own God, most people make resolutions only to themselves. In addition, the focus is almost always on self-improvement. Indeed, according to the most recent data, for Americans who are making New Year’s resolutions, the most common ones are exercising more (50%), saving money (49%), eating better (43%), and losing weight (37%). There is nothing wrong with any of these. And yet they fail 92% of the time. What is missing?
Three of them, eating, exercise and weight management, are lifestyle issues. Although everyone has total control over whether or not they move their bodies, eating healthy and therefore less fattening food, in moderation is much trickier. Indeed, many people are completely unaware of the dangers of the conventional US diet. As such, they are at risk for failing miserably in their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight by eating “healthy” foods. You cannot eat healthy food if you don’t understand what healthy food is. Put another way, if you are naïve when it comes to the safety of conventional US foods you are at a distinct disadvantage.
For example, if you are unknowingly eating foods that are designed to be as addicting as possible and have also been determined to be obesogenic, It will be very difficult to manage your weight.
In the past 10 years since I, along with my scholarly counterparts, have been writing about the issue of the pollution of the US diet, awareness has improved dramatically. Ten years ago you didn’t see “non-GMO” anywhere. Today you see it everywhere! There is a reason for that. GMO‘s, which are sprayed with Glyphosate, are among the most serious health hazards facing us as a country. Glyphosate has been shown to cause cancer, autoimmune disease, allergies and obesity.
Even though awareness has improved significantly, the vast majority of people still do not understand what GMO‘s/Glyphosate are doing to their health or the health of their loved ones. This is just one example of the dangers of the US food supply, but I do believe it is probably the most serious example.
Other examples include the fact that we eat 10,000% more sugar now than we did 30 years ago and most of it is made from genetically engineered corn that the body does not recognize so it stores it as fat. The list goes on.
Indeed, compared to the food in other wealthy nations, ours is far and away the most polluted. As such it causes the highest rate of obesity in the developed world along with epidemic rates of other life-threatening diseases.
My thinking on this, given that the US is the unhealthiest/wealthiest country in the world, along with the most obese country in the world, and finally a wealthy nation with one of the lowest rates of infant survival, is that we are doomed to fail our lifestyle resolutions unless we come to terms with some of these realities.
Let’s go back to the beginning of New Year’s resolutions, in which they were steeped in superstition and fear. I don’t think we have really moved very far away from that. It is rare to meet an individual who will investigate and incorporate the latest science on what is and isn’t a safe food. And if you suggest that people do that, they get very angry. Instead, we blindly follow the so-called experts who tell us our food is safe to eat for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that many of us are addicted to them but also because it’s too frightening to look at the reality.
We are just as in the dark as the Babylonians and Romans who believed what their emperors told them; that they should pay exorbitantly high taxes if they wanted to remain in favor with the Gods and prosper. We are doing exactly the same thing when we buy polluted foods that corporate gods tell us are safe. Why? Because we have been led to believe that if we buy organic food we are wasting our money and being taken advantage of by organic farmers! Superstitious much?
Most people never figure it out. Others finally do after they get sick or so obese that they can’t function. By that time, they are spending significantly more money on medical treatment for problems that were preventable than they ever would have spent on clean organic foods.
None-the-less when I talk about the dangers of the US food supply people literally cross their fingers, tuning me out and wishing me to be silent. Would that I could.
Want a really good suggestion for a New Year’s resolution? Don’t believe me, don’t trust anyone but yourself to make the decision about what you put into your body. Let your 2021 New Years Resolution be to do the research yourself. Learn the science, understand the consequences of eating food that is not organic, 100% grass-fed and wild caught. I did, and I have been able to reverse out of dementia, high cholesterol, diabetes and who knows what else that I just wasn’t aware of having.
Resolve to be the master of your fate. If US citizens could do this perhaps, we wouldn’t be the most obese, unhealthiest/wealthiest, highest rate of infant mortality country in the developed world today. In addition to which we could probably do a lot better job keeping those New Year’s resolutions when it comes to weight management and healthy eating. What have you got to lose besides unwanted weight and worry?
Whatever you decide, my staff and I wish you a very happy healthy new year!
Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.
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