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New Year's Intentions

I’ve noticed an increase in ads for diets – Weight Watchers, NutriSystem, Special K Challenge, Jenny Craig – as well as articles with suggestions for the new year, all seeming to encourage resolutions related to weight and exercise.

I’ve never had much luck with resolutions, though, partly because they seem very diet-like to me. If I set a resolution, it feels like something I have to do, or a specific way I have to act, period, without much room for flexibility.

For example, if I say I’m going to eat in a more healthy way, I might be inclined to change everything overnight and just force myself to eat what I think is healthy. This could include cutting out sugar and lots of fat, among other things. But this could also mean that if I slip, for instance having a piece of birthday cake, or some chocolates, I might get discouraged, feel like I’ve blown my resolution, and give it up altogether.

That’s why this year I’m thinking about things a little differently. Instead of a resolution, I’m setting a New Year’s intention.

To me, this seems more realistic, where I move forward with a specific aim, while realizing that there might be many different ways to get there. Some paths might have more twists and turns and bumps and detours than others, but it doesn’t mean I can’t achieve that goal.

From this perspective, if I set an intention to eat in a more healthy way, I can approach each day, each meal, as it comes, thinking about what the healthier options are, but still allowing some give and take. In this context, a piece of birthday cake or chocolate might be part of my intent to enjoy food in moderation, knowing that it will make me less inclined to feel restricted and later over-eat. Additionally, it doesn’t influence any later choices except that I may feel like eating something more nutritious later on; it wouldn’t derail my overall goal.

For some people, resolutions may work fine, but since that’s not the case for me, my intention for the coming year is to continue practicing mindfulness in all areas of my life, not just eating.

Whether you set a resolution or intention or neither, I hope that the new year brings you and your families many good things.

Note: If you’re interested in mindfulness and setting intention in relation to eating, the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program might help. Learn more here or at

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