I felt inspired to write this after reading a friend’s Facebook status on 1st January 2017. He proudly declared that his New Year’s Resolutions were not to give up smoking, drink less or exercise more; but to take up French lessons, spend more time with his family and join the local book club. And I couldn’t agree more – at the beginning of a new year we should focus on taking up, rather than giving up.
The contrast between the spirit and ethos of the month of December and January is cruelly stark - the former is all about the collective, yet the latter is wholly focused on the individual. We have cultivated a self-punitive culture: permitting ourselves to binge over Christmas, then shaming ourselves into a panic detox as soon as the festive period has ended. This culture is of course massively intensified by our hyper-connectivity; our days are filled with constant judgment and comparison via social media, further emphasising an inward-looking beratement of our own insufficiencies.
January weather-wise and work-wise is bleak at the best of times. It’s still freezing; we continue to commute in the dark; we feel like we are drowning in a sea of never-ending bills and unfeasible deadlines. And depsite the obvious need to go easy on ourselves through this grim time, we just pile on the pressure - lose weight, get fitter, do better - ultimately lowering our self-esteem further.
Of course exercise is good for you and of course drinking too much isn’t. But leading a healthy lifestyle needn’t mean depriving yourself or punishing yourself. And, as so many professionals will advise, it’s all always about balance.
We should turn our attention to the nutritional value of the food we consume, particularly during these winter months when our immune systems need an extra boost. So don't swap your porridge for a green juice - why not have both? Maybe just drink one glass of wine instead three with your supper - your head will thank you for it the following morning. :)
As Oscar Wilde wisely said:
‘Self-denial is simply a method by which man arrests his progress.’
Therefore don’t deny yourself this January – instead of convincing yourself that you have to diet, why not see the new year as an opportunity to learn how to make wholesome meals and snacks with seasonal vegetables such as carrots, kale and parsnips - humble veggies all simply bursting with goodness!
Why not wow your friends with a warming parsnip soup? Or if you need to give your digestive system a break from all rich food, then opt for a hearty salad - such as this simple slaw, or raw Pad Thai or this kale and avocado salad with lentils for some filling protein. All these can be made in a big batches and are perfect for a lighter family meal.
Food in January should continue to be about bringing people together, about sharing – as we experienced over Christmas. All that really needs to change is our mindset.