The Five New Year's Resolutions You Should Never Make

Self Help Gone Wrong

Resolution Gone Wrong: Lose Weight

We've read enough to know that numbers on a scale don't mean anything. But somehow that doesn't seem to matter on January 1, when we're more eager to drop 20 lbs than a Jillian Michaels makeover contestant. The problem, of course, is that muscles and metabolisms don't watch The Biggest Loser. The health risks and self-hatred that come when you assign your body a number are numerous…and crash dieting actually makes it harder to lose weight in the long run. Like the coke fiend you thought was so cool in college, this resolution seems like a rush, but it's really just a bad time.

Instead...

Forget about "getting skinny" and get healthy instead. Resolve to hit the gym a few times a week, and schedule your workout sessions into your iCalendar as if they're work meetings or dinner dates. When you focus on the process instead of an imagined result, you'll actually get what you want: a better body, more energy, and a free pass through bikini season.

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Resolution Gone Wrong: Only Raw Food

Your friends can't quit smoking cold turkey, but you think you can quit turkey (and burgers, and bread, and extra foam lattes) in one fell supermarket sweep. The truth is, your body will not thank you-and your digestive system may revolt-if you start gulping green juice and nothing else overnight.

Instead…

Take nutritionist Kimberly Snyder's advice, and refine your food in phases. The nutritionist to celebs like Olivia Wilde advocates a gradual reduction of processed foods. In her book The Beauty Detox Solution, she suggests swapping the order in which you eat food (veggies first!) while gradually reducing your processed food intake. One thing you can nix right away? Dairy, which is often a secret cause of bloating.

Resolution Gone Wrong: Find Love

A funny thing happens when you desperately angle for a boyfriend or a husband: You get one. And then you begin to realize, little by little, that although the idea of a partner is beautiful, the actual person himself leaves a lot to be desired. Leave the rom-com plot lines to Kate Hudson and save yourself enough sanity to fill a thousand Birkin bags.

Instead…

You want to meet someone new? Go somewhere new. Take a class, bar-hop through a new neighborhood, say "yes" to dinner parties and cocktail invitations, sign up for online dating with the understanding that it's for possibilities, not for an instant "life partner" (sorry, eHarmony!), and don't be afraid to tell your friends you're open to a set-up. There's no shame in having a drink with a stranger (as long as it's in a public place and you've given yourself a first-date curfew).

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Resolution Gone Wrong: Buy a Whole New Wardrobe

What Not to Wear is just a TV show, and dumping everything you own into a trashcan isn't a practical solution to your style woes. Plus, buying an entire stash of clothes at once means you're limited to one season's trends. What happens next winter? Besides, some of your clothes are likely fantastic-you might just need to give them a remix with some new accessories or layering techniques.

Instead…

Flip through your favorite issues of ELLE and note the outfits that make you feel inspired. Then go through your own closet and find corresponding pieces that are similar, and put them together using the magazine as a guide. (You can also use your favorite celebrities, old movies, or TV shows. I speak from experience when I say Serena Van Der Woodsen still makes me rethink a shoe or a coat.) You'll be surprised how different your favorite striped tee looks when you pair it under a strapless dress, instead of your usual blue blazer. And after you've given real consideration to what you already have, then yes, you can head to Barneys and do a little AmEx damage.

Resolution Gone Wrong: No More TV

It's such a noble sentiment, but 2014 marks a new year of Mad Men, Girls, Game of Thrones, and Orange Is the New Black. And besides being entertaining, many of these shows are cultural touchstones that inspire fashion, beauty, and music trends. Do you really want to be out of that loop?

Instead…

You know how there's good junk food (Ben & Jerry's, for example) and then there's crap? The same is true for television. Pick one show that makes you feel ill-it's probably a reality show, and you probably compare watching it to staring at a car wreck-and wean yourself off. Your eyes and your mind will thank you (and the Kindle you got for Christmas will get a lot more use).

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