New Year, Not-So-New-Me

Everyone faces the post-holiday binge eating blues. The extra roll we had during Thanksgiving or Christmas often turns into an extra fat roll. We look at how many pounds the turkey or ham was, and we step on the scale to see how many pounds we are.

The extra weight fuels several people’s new year’s resolutions: to eat better and shed pounds. The mantra I’ve seen all over Facebook is “New Year, New Me.”

But should we really strive to be new people just because there’s a new year?

There are two main issues with the idea that you’ll be a totally different person in a new year.

First, you’re setting up an unrealistic expectation of what you want to be in the next year. You can’t just change because the calendar flips from one year to another. Not to be a huge Debbie Downer, but time is a linear thing, and a calendar is just what we’ve created to measure it.

The next big issue that I have with new year’s resolutions is that people say that they want to accomplish something, but they often don’t create a specific plan to make sure they reach that goal. I hear people say all the time that they want to lose weight, drink more water and be a “better person.” What I don’t hear is how they plan to accomplish that.

Unfortunately, I’m a terribly vague resolution maker. Since I grew my very first adult tooth, I’ve bit my nails. It’s an ugly habit, often disgusts others, and my nail beds always look puffy and red. It’s gross, I’ll admit it. Each year I’ve said that I’ll stop, but I’ve never said how I’ll stop or by when.

As this year begins and school starts up, I’m not going to make one of those vague resolutions because I would just be setting myself up for failure. This year, I’m going to make a concrete resolution.

The first part of my concrete choice is that I’m going to quit by graduation on May 6. I want to make sure that I’ll feel confident showing off my class ring at commencement.

The second part of my concrete choice is one that I started in December. This involved making sure that there were consequences when I bit my nails.

In an attempt to “classically condition” me, my boyfriend decided to “Little Albert” me. In the 1920s, psychologists attempted to change the way an infant thought. To give an example, the researchers gave Little Albert a pet rat, but every time that Little Albert touched the rat, a loud, scary noise was made. The goal was to ensure that Little Albert would be afraid of touching the rat.

Now, what I experienced was more ethical and less scary than what Little Albert went through. Each time that I started to bite my nails, my boyfriend would make a rather unsettling sound, anywhere from a growl to a screech. It was all in fun and not an actual attempt to cause damage to me. But although we’re not in the same place now, when I start to bite my nails, I think of his weird noises, laugh a little because of his goofiness and then stop.

All of that is to say that you should have a concrete plan when you start a new year’s resolution. Don’t make a vague goal, but set a realistic expectation and have a way to achieve it. I will stop biting my nails this year – it’s in print, so I have to. I’m not changing who I am, but I’m making a plan to get rid of this unhealthy habit.