New Year’s Resolutions have evolved. No longer do we set personal, independent challenges to succeed at over the next 365 days.
No, the fast paced, performative collectivism of internet culture leaves us disenfranchised from our own personal goals and happiness, leaning instead on to a crowd-pleasing fad diet, routine or lifestyle change.
Being able to show these achievements, be it through an Instagram snap of a #crueltyfreemilk or a tweet about ‘the gainz’ – is an endorphin filled joyride – even if it ultimately leaves us empty, when compared with changing more fundamental, difficult building blocks of our personality.
Psychology researchers from University College London conducted a study in 2009 which proved that the time it takes to kick a habit is much longer than the 31 days in January – it’s actually roughly 66 full days.
This is, in large part, due to the psychology of New Year’s Resolutions. There’s a built in challenge that, if broken, renders the whole thing null and void – and people continue smoking, drinking or binge eating throughout the year after ‘failing’ their resolution.
On her Say Why To Drugs podcast Dr. Suzi Gauge, a researcher at Bristol University, spoke with her colleague Professor Matt Field about the dangers of Dry January.
“The best way to improve your general health is to limit your consumption and have a few abstinent days per week throughout the year,
“Some of the biggest criticism of Dry January camp gain is that is creates an implicit conflict between moderation throughout the year versus complete abstinence and then do what you like throughout your year.'”
As for Veganuary, whilst shops across the country roll out various lines of vegan-ized foods, hopping on and off of trendy diets isn’t good for us.
Debbie Watson, is founder of Wednesday’s Child, an organisation which works to support the recovery journey of those affected by eating disorders, and provides education to schools and healthcare professionals.
“It is all too easy to dismiss the dangers of fad diets and underestimate the devastating territory into which someone can find themselves slipping,
“Any kind of restrictive eating regime can very swiftly start to become obsessive, harm social interactions, affect physical wellbeing, and cause disruption to mental health and wellbeing,
“In our work, we see plenty of incidences of where someone has relatively innocently entered into ‘diet intention’ and then, over time, has found themselves in a binge-purge cycle and ultimately needed significant medical care to recover from an entrenched eating disorder,
“This time of year is particularly difficult for those who are vulnerable to eating disordered behaviours, because colleagues, family members and friends are often proudly discussing their ‘quick fix’ approaches to losing weight,
We need to all be more mindful of any ‘diet dialogue’ that we enter into, and to remember that eating disorders carry the highest mortality risk of all mental health illnesses, either as a result of suicide, or consequences like cardiac failure.”
From Burger King’s non-vegan plant burger to Aldi’s -here-then-it’s-gone range of foods, brands jumping on the back of the vegan trend for clout often find themselves missing the point entirely.
I apparently shouldn’t have posted this photo on Instastories because avocados aren’t vegan. I mean, really?! Is this the point we’re at? This Veganuary has at times mentally exhausted me with the ‘I’m a better vegan than you’ arguments. pic.twitter.com/vMDgbWjBAp— Vegan Womble (@veganwomble) January 16, 2020
Indeed, veganism can become a self-defeating hell hole, where people vy for the right to be the most righteous.
This sort of race to the bottom blame shifting isn’t helpful, encouraging or positive and is more likely to put off people new to the movement.
“In general, denying yourself something makes you want to eat it more — and then eat it more,” ending alcohol-free, vegan diets in a huge February blowout.
It affects the pub industry, too.
“”As a small independent bar group, we do feel a hit at the start of the year,” Tom Jackman, director of the Northcote, Venn Street and Old Street Records bars in London,” told the BBC.
Around 4 million people in the UK gave up booze for January in 2019, so it’s no shock it’d have a knock on effect on an already-shaky industry.
The essential message here is boring but beneficial – moderation will do far more long term good than fads, but committing to veganism and an alcohol free-life is the best possible option.
Photo Credit: PEXELS