It’s the start of another year, which means being constantly inundated with routines, diets and lifestyles that promise to change your life in weeks.
This is my annual reminder that we have such a fractured picture of what self-care and self-improvement is. We are surrounded by the belief that our goals – especially fitness goals – should come at an extreme cost in terms of time, nutrition, wellness and wallet.
Improving health and well-being tends to be at the center of New Year’s resolutions, with companies swearing that self-help books, a HelloFresh membership or a Peloton are all you need to make those resolutions a reality. Truth be told, these are just makeshift fixes to systemic ways to make self-improvement difficult.
Perhaps more importantly, access to healthy food in the United States is abysmal. According to a survey of more than 1,000 American adults, only 28% of Americans report having easy access to nutritious food. Food insecurity reigns supreme in many parts of the country, both rural and urban, contributing to obesity and poor nutrition.
That’s not all. The 40-hour workweek is linked to increased substance abuse, mental illness, and poorer overall health. The eight-hour shift seems to make it almost impossible to juggle physical or mental self-care in addition to other responsibilities.
Despite this, companies still promise expensive solutions to our most frustrating insecurities, hidden behind price tags and subscription fees. Social media has only made these solutions more ubiquitous.
For example, the “75 Hard” challenge has been popularized by its TikTok hashtag, where countless young people are trying out the routine. The rules? Train twice a day for at least 45 minutes and take progress photos daily.
The program’s other tenets are more promising — like reading 10 pages of nonfiction a day or performing acts of kindness — but still underscore the monumental pressure of this 75-day challenge, with no breaks or flexibility.
Andy Frissela developed the challenge in his book “75 Hard: A Tactical Guide to Winning the War with Yourself” with the tagline “How To Take Complete Control of Your Life in Only 75 Days”.
Self-care and personal growth is too often phrased this way: that you are the biggest obstacle to yourself and that being a stronger person requires fighting your own ideas of comfort. Rest days, periods of adjustment, and easing into difficult efforts are all part of care.
Forgiving yourself is part of healing.
That’s not to say challenging yourself isn’t important to the process, but framing so many routines and resolutions forgets about gentleness. Trends like 75 Hard forget that effective self-improvement programs are different for everyone.
Finally, personal care should never have an expiration date. 75 Hard is hard for 75 days and then completely unsustainable as a long-term lifestyle change. True growth, whether physical or mental, is endless.
Any program that preaches resolution after just a few weeks is probably lying to you.
It’s easy to read this analysis as being strictly against using the New Year as a time to implement a new diet or exercise routine. If I could give you an idea, it would be that healing and buffing aren’t linear. They don’t have to start when the clock strikes midnight, and the changes need to be on your schedule — not Chloe Ting’s two-week ab challenge.
So if you’re still looking for a New Year’s resolution, I suggest you take the pressure off yourself and start a self-care regimen of your own.
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