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Why New Year’s Resolutions Set Emotional Eaters for Failure and What to Do Instead

By Marion Holt December 12, 2022 Health and Fitness

New Year is coming, and I swear when the clock strikes midnight, I will turn my life around this time and turn into a slimmer, healthier, and happier version of me. I will get an annual membership to the gym and use it a whole three weeks, before falling back into my old patterns, disappointed in myself.

Making New Year’s resolutions can bring a great sense of motivation. But it is also a bad idea when you are an emotional eater.

New Year’s Resolutions Activate Our Fears, Therefore Reinforce Our Emotional Eating

Sometimes we may consciously want to lose weight, but a part of us may be resistant and just won’t let us do it.

Emotional eating is triggered when we are faced with uncomfortable emotions we don’t want to feel. Setting New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise can trigger some of these difficult emotions. Our coping mechanism, i.e., eating, will be activated to numb them, and lead us to counter-productive results.

For example, emotional eaters often struggle with low self-esteem. If we feel fundamentally flawed, a part of us might believe we don’t deserve to achieve a significant weight loss. If we believe we’re undeserving of success, this limiting belief will cause us to hold ourselves back from fulfilling our weight loss goals and fail to complete our New Year’s resolutions.

In some other situations, we feel like if we lose weight, we are going to be pulled into totally different activities, with new people. But at the same time, we don’t want to be disloyal to people who have stuck with us until now.

Our anxiety spikes, and we experience more frequent and more intense food cravings, subconsciously pulling back from our New Year’s resolutions. Because we fear we would end up alone, abandon our roots, or leave behind people we care for.

In addition, many emotional eaters feel like they are responsible for others’ feelings. They believe if they stick to their New Year’s resolutions and achieve a significant weight loss, they will shine too much, and will make others feel bad or look bad.

They have an internal upper limit to the degree of success, health, and physical attractiveness they allow into their lives. They subconsciously choose to fail their New Year’s weight loss goals, to not outshine people they love.

New Year’s Resolutions create too much stress for emotional eaters. They rarely work because they create self-loathing and other difficult emotions that lead us to eat more, making achieving the goals we set impossible. So, where do we go from here?

What to Do to Successfully Lose Weight as an Emotional Eater Next Year

Big changes don’t just happen. They require sustained action (and a different kind of action than you’re used to) that can move you forward towards your weight loss goal despite the challenges, struggles and pushback. To achieve your New Year’s weight loss goals will require you to become someone who is different from who you are today.

Until you can heal what turned eating into a coping mechanism that gives you food cravings every time you feel bad, you will continue to perpetuate the challenges you are trying to walk away from. Your level of self-awareness needs to increase before your eating behavior can change.

If you want to bring a significant change in your life and consistently lose weight next year, you need to understand at a deep level why you eat the way you do. You need to recognize what keeps you locked in specific negative, self-sabotaging, or self-limiting behaviors that resist your will to become healthier.

Once you understand what drives your mindset, what are your emotional needs, values, beliefs, and fears, you will become able to commit to a deep level of change and stick to a healthier lifestyle.

First and Foremost, Start with Why You Want to Lose Weight

Most of us know we want to get healthier, but why we want it is often unclear. For example, do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children or grandchildren can admire and look up to? Do you want to lose fat, so you’ll feel more confident and sexier in your body? Do you want to be healthier, so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, focus, and mobility? Do you want to lose weight to live longer?

Clarity over why you want to lose weight and mustering the energy to give yourself another chance does not systematically happen right for New Year. Don’t wait until the cosmos perfectly aligns, or when it seems like a good time of the year to get started.

Instead, make resolutions and start your weight loss journey when it is the right time for you. When you understand your struggles, your limits, and you have decided to go pass them. Make yourself a priority and you will find a way to adjust your daily routine to you needs, instead of the other way around.

Analyze the Past Year, Looking Toward the New One

This new year, instead of setting goals, you might take the opportunity to assess what worked well for you this past year. Who was of good influence, what activities fulfilled your emotional needs, and what situations made it possible for you to stick to a healthy lifestyle. You may also decide what you don’t need in your life anymore, and why. Forget about standardized norms, what you should want or enjoy, and be true to yourself.

If you must set resolutions for this New Year, make them about behaviors (i.e., drink only water, walk 30 minutes every day, etc.) rather than clothing sizes or numbers on a scale. Be as specific as you can when you set your goals and remember to enjoy the journey!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you plan to make the best out of this coming year? What priorities are you going to focus on? What behaviors were helpful for you in the past year or two?

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Toni Stritzke

I’m an emotional eater. Usually I’m suppressing anger and frustration and then eat in a blind, unconscious way.
Some good advice I was given recently; is to take a break of some sort, distract myself by taking a short walk, meditate, go do some art, tidy a drawer, until the feelings pass.
I’m trying to do this. However, I also need to spoil myself with a specific “go to” treat as well, so I always keep some extra dark chocolate on hand, the stuff that’s so rich it’s impossible to eat a lot of it.😜

Marion HOLT

Some food we’d like to have can easily turn into an obsessive thought, and disrupting it by distracting yourself is a good idea. However, when you eat to suppress an emotion, a healthier distraction than eating will not deal with what you feel. As an emotional eater, you will usually go back to your primary coping mechanism after a while, which is food.
Learning to deal with those difficult emotions and to not let the situations in your life that produce such emotions happen will allow you to not have the need to turn to food or any other distraction. It will allow you to stick to the lifestyle of your choice in the long run, effortlessly.

Lana Muir

I have always thought that making a New Year’s “Resolution” was a bad idea. Especially when it comes to weight loss. In the summer and fall of 2022, I dropped the 20 pounds I gained over the last two years thanks to being at home most of time thanks to the pandemic. It was easy. All I did was eat my favourite foods in smaller quantities. Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure……why not take little baby steps towards a weight goal? Something that is easily achievable? And this was written by a lazy person who loves food.

Marion HOLT

Congratulations on your weight loss success Lana! I totally agree with you: changing one small habit at a time until the healthier behavior becomes the new normal is an efficient way to maintain our desired lifestyle in the long run. Going for sudden and dramatic changes often creates so much stress that we need to turn back to food to release the inner tension.


I couldn’t agree more. I’ve never done New Years resolutions either. I’d rather use the baby step approach too, to achieving almost anything that’s difficult. It seems to work well.

Marion HOLT

This is a great way to aim for progress, not perfection, and to handle your challenges one day at a time. Great recipe for success!


The ONLY New Year’s resolution that was ever successful for me was when my husband I quit smoking 35 years ago. I smoked up to three packs of cigarettes every day and I never thought I’d be able to do it. My motivation was that I didn’t want to be pregnant and smoking. That’s what did it for me. Best decision I ever made. But eating is another story. I eat mostly healthy food but probably too much of it. I’ll try your strategy.

Marion HOLT

Andrea, I am so glad you were able to quit smoking! I am indeed sure that making the decision to protect your baby was more significant than the time of the year you made it. But it is an exceptional achievement no matter what and you probably added years to your life! The trick with eating is we can’t stay away from food like we can from cigarettes. We still have to expose ourselves 3 times a day, every day, and that increases the opportunity for relapses.


I don’t make resolutions – I like to live in the present and not reflect upon past mistakes or worry about the future. I meditate and use mindfulness techniques to help me focus on the day. I feel happier and at peace with myself.

Marion HOLT

These are great tips! Thank you Cindy!

The Author

Certified professional coach Marion Holt has been an emotional eater since childhood. No longer. In her workbook series, Never Eat Your Emotions Again, she shares specific behavioral expertise and techniques for efficiently recovering from emotional eating. She’s helped many others going through their own journey to a healthier relationship with food – and a much more fulfilled life.

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