Look at Life: Resolutions

27th January 2017

Self-motivation or self-conceit: should we resolve to make fewer resolutions?

By Kathy Walton

By the time you read this I bet you the price of a year’s advertising in Optima that you will have abandoned your New Year’s Resolutions.

Do you even remember what those resolutions were? Make it a dry January! De-tox until August! Give up chocolate, go jogging and brush up your ballroom dancing! Of course, you started with good intentions at the beginning of the month, when the afterglow of seasonal goodwill made promises of self-improvement seem so attractive. Yet so few of us stick to our guns, finding ourselves throwing in the towel before January is over instead. Why is that, when our intentions seemed so achievable at the time?

My first theory is that midwinter is actually the least favourable time to practise self-denial or exert yourself. It’s miserable outside; we still have the Christmas credit card bills to pay off and our children to argue with over writing their thank-you letters, and we may still be reeling from a Boxing Day row with an objectionable brother-in-law. Or is that just me?

Far from being hale and hearty, we’re often at our lowest ebb in January. The tax return deadline looms large; sick colleagues create extra work in the office; there are unwanted presents (polyester scarves and obviously recycled scented candles score high on my list) to be despatched to the charity shop; and, for most of us, the enforced jollity of the ‘festive period’ leaves us feeling jaded and sluggish – not energetic at all.

Worse still, when you’re suffering from a winter bug, the year ahead seems downright overwhelming. Personally, I’d rather spend January under my duvet with a good book than pounding the streets in Lycra, with my legs resembling two overstuffed sausage skins. The winter should be a time for spoiling ourselves, not beating ourselves up about being overweight or under-exercised.
Which brings me to my second theory. Are these resolutions to give up refined sugar, coffee or trans-fats really about getting healthy, or rather an act of vanity masquerading as self-denial? Those virtue-signallers who post photos of kale smoothies and quinoa broth all over Facebook… do they really need to go on a ‘bikini diet’ or it just a clever ruse to tell the world about their forthcoming trip to the Caribbean?

And, briefly, theory number three: turning over a new leaf is often an excuse for greed. There, I’ve said it. Is that eye-wateringly expensive juicer or vegetable spiraliser absolutely essential, or do you just like showing off your latest kitchen gadgetry?

So this year I’ve decided – nay, resolved – to do things differently. I’ve been carrying on eating what I like this month in order to keep my spirits up during the bleak midwinter. My resolutions can wait until the spring, a far more auspicious time for new beginnings, when the blossom is out and the sunshine makes a long, invigorating walk positively pleasurable, rather than a must-do that leaves me muddy and cold. Last year brought us enough troubles, globally and nationally, and with plenty of political uncertainty ahead in 2017, I believe we need to be kind to ourselves.

Of course I’d like to lose weight and have a blemish-free complexion, but not at the price of total abstinence, for, as lawyer and writer John Mortimer once said, à propos his habit of starting every day with a glass of champagne: ‘There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in a geriatric ward.’

I’d also like a tidy house: a desire which in my case, is going to be a triumph of hope over experience without help – so I’m going to get a cleaner. I’m going to walk more often, not just in the hope of whittling down my thighs, but because a blast of fresh air always cheers me up. I’m going to spend less time emailing and more time phoning friends for a real, uplifting chat. And, just occasionally, I’m going to give myself a break from the kitchen and spend more time with my box sets.

But please don’t let me put you off from giving up popcorn or kicking your habit of eating baked beans from the tin while still in your pyjamas. And don’t let me discourage you from foreswearing all alcohol until the end of February if that’s what you really want to do.

It’s good to have principles and I salute those of you who stick to them. It’s just that the world looks so much brighter after a glass of wine.

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