January is a bastard of a month. As Christmas ends and we edge closer to January, we eke out the festivities right up until, literally, the last second; at that point, we can almost hear the death knell of January all around us (OK, so it’s the Big Ben chimes, whatever). The inner voice is yelling, “Live your best life! New year new me! We’re all on a journey” I mean, who needs pigs in blankets when you are one?
We feel the need to do something, anything, to counteract the fact that the preceding three weeks were spent devouring Toblerones for breakfast. The pressure to embrace abstinence of some form is pretty intense, and it creates a terrifying smorgasbord of moods, temperaments, fads and crazes as we all grab on to whatever we can to get us through the month.
Dry January has to be the most prominent one. New Year’s Day sees lots of us nursing colossal hangovers; even at our perkiest hour we look like we’ve been dug up. The light at the end of the tunnel? Dry January! A lovely, healthy stint of abstinence that, in the context of last night’s 3am freepoured rum cocktails, has exceptional allure. Sure, you slur. Sign me up. A month you say? Easy.
A few days in and we’re thinking, we’ve totally got this. We walk smugly past the pub on January 4th, dripping in virtue, silently scoffing at the weak people inside, throwing our eyes skywards and hoping that they, too, can find redemption. Our bank balances are limping slowly to recovery; they’re still post-apocalyptic wastelands, sure, but at least we’re not hammering our contactless cards every 30 minutes on tepid pale ale. Totally got this. We avoid social situations and instead profess how refreshing it is to have a full weekend at home, hangover-free, sorting out the spare bedroom. This is living, pal.
This abstinence goes hand-in-hand with that tired, recycled plan to re-join the gym. A classic. “Smashed another hour at the gym today. Avocado on rye bread for lunch. Feels SO GOOD not to be hungover!” Insta-brags aplenty. We’ve all been there. Saturday mornings spent flinging kettlebells around (by flinging I of course mean dragging them slowly, with effort, a few inches back and forth). We might even bake our own bread. Quinoa and kale stop being ingredients we mock, and become instead lunch staples.
There’s a silver lining; we sporadic and pathetically hopeful gym joinees are guaranteed to royally piss off the hardcore regular gym crew. They would never do something as crass as post about their workout, but they will make this once-a-year exception: “Going for a run because the gym is SO BUSY. Can’t wait to go back next week when it’s empty again”. Yeah, OK, we’re clogging up your gym with our box-fresh lycra get ups and inability to program the stepper machine (is that even a piece of gym equipment? No idea, send help) but we’re trying, god damn it. You’ll have your gym back soon, keep your sweatbands on.
This year has seen a huge uprising in the phenomenon that is known as Veganuary, a term I can’t even begin to get on board with. It sounds far too similar to the whimsical Vajanuary that did the rounds a few years ago; for those of you that can’t recall, this was the female equivalent of Movember. (As a campaign Vajanuary‘s heart was in the right place, but there was always something not quite right about the whole thing; it backfired somewhat in that nobody actually wanted to see our weekly thatch updates and thus, it fizzled.) I fully respect people who choose veganism, and those who contribute by opting for temporary veganism in January - I just can’t help but fear that if your heart isn’t in it, you’ll slip from vegan to vegetarian, from vegetarian to pescatarian, and from there you’ll be on a bargain bucket for one by the end of the week.
Trying any sort of health kick against the backdrop of London’s rich tapestry of debauchery makes it even harder; half price pizzas, street food markets re-opening with 150 free burgers for the first people to stampede their way there, and a free beer bonus if you go in your gym kit. Is it any wonder we weave in and out of these fads, semi-committing to some and abandoning others altogether?
A good number of people simply choose to shun all these trends; these are the ones out inhaling pints at the pub on the second of January, followed by destroying a Chinese takeaway and unashamedly bringing in the leftovers to microwave in the office for lunch, zero shits given, whilst maintaining unblinking eye contact and challenging you to shame them.
All in all, everyone seems to be a hell of a lot happier when they’re not piling pressure on themselves, or letting the torpor of January do it for them. If you feel you need to cut back, or exercise more, then go forth; but don’t beat yourself up if you found yourself four pints deep on January 12th, smashing down a Nando’s and sacking off your 5km run the morning after (that didn’t happen to me at all, nope, that’s just hypothetical, everything’s dreamy over here, let me know if you need any tips). Life is pretty short: enjoy yourself, eat and drink what you want (in moderation, the NHS is crumbling as it is) and if you know you’re going to appreciate that meal out with your mates or those drinks with your work buddies, then just fucking do it.
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