So this is January and what have you done? I don't know about you but I feel as stuffed and lumpen as Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. Listening closely I can actually hear my liver weeping, scratching around my abdomen like a depressive field mouse in the vain hope of escape. Add to this fatigue, a cold that refuses to vamoose and a general sense of ennui, and I'm a prime candidate for the 'New Year, New You' brigade, riding into town with guns blazing on a screen or magazine near you as I type.
'Detox! Diet!' they demand, shaking expensive blenders in your bewildered face, poking your post-festivities bulge with pointy fingers. 'Well, you've let yourself go, haven't you? And how! God, I can barely stand to look at you, you gluttonous, sagging, boring lump. Sort yourself out. Have you considered taking up skydiving?'
As humankind knows only too well, being a hot mess is not easy but post-Yuletide hot messes are the worst, the new year bringing with it a unique type of pressure to look and act superhuman. Thankfully, the Gods of Selling Stuff are always on hand to help or antagonize sans merci, depending on your viewpoint.
After goading us into overindulgence all December long, every January, without fail, the Gods flip the script, beseeching that we now cast off the old, festering, moth-ridden, filth-spattered selves we have been dragging about for the previous twelve months and replace them with a brand spanking new version of which we can be suitably smug. And what must we do to achieve this feat? Why, simply dust off our creaking credit cards and sample the wide-range of services and products under the glittering banner of 'New Year, New You'.
Key to the tyranny of 'New Year, New You' thinking is how simple it sounds, as if rebooting yourself inside and out is as easy as unzipping a onesie, kicking it aside with a flourish and doing jazz hands in your underwear. Add to this the starting point of January, widely acknowledged as a gloomy, anticlimactic pit of awfulness which makes getting out of bed feel like scaling Everest with a knapsack of warring monkeys on your back, and you have got a misery and dejection pie just waiting to be baked.
At the risk of stating the eye-splittingly obviousness, of all the twelve months, January is the absolute worst in which to declare a revolution of self and body. Reasonably sane individuals should, in theory, know this by now given how long this nonsense has been rumbling on, but the promise of a 'new you' is seemingly so all-consuming, so utterly tantalizing, it cannot hold its goddamn horses until spring, the season Nature has kindly and wisely designated for rebirth.
Instead, broken of wallet and spirit, we turn in foolish hope to the promise of a 'new you' proffered by detox charlatans, diet gurus, gyms instructors, self-help nitwits, models shovelling salad into their faces in a state of dubious nirvana and perma-tanned He-Man types gurning over the latest model of exercise bike, spending money we probably do not have on rubbish that does not work.
We end up, predictably, haunted by abandoned resolutions that were never attainable in the first place, alongside ever-increasing overdrafts for gyms rarely attended and mindfulness classes that bore us, while guts and thighs continue to swell because we're too demoralised by the whole sodding mess to begin to do anything about them. Happy New Year, indeed.
So for 2015, I purpose the following: why not politely ignore January and all the 'New Year, New You' buffoonery it entails? Like those annoying relatives you tolerated over Christmas (well done, champ), fortified by eggnog and seasonal altruism, treat January as a temporary annoyance, one that will be over sooner than you realise and one you won't have to think about again for another twelve glorious months.
Indulge those who lose the run of themselves, imagining how validated you'll feel sitting with your mate Julie in A&E after she has a lung collapse during an unexpectedly robust Zumba session. You'll clutch her hand supportively as she rasps, "you were right - I should've never signed up for that bloody class."
While the ubiquity of 'New Year, New You' nonsense is assured at this time of year, your reaction to it is something you can control. Be smart and don't let the capitalists get you. Keep your money and energy on lockdown until you are rested and clear-minded enough to make better choices than the panicked, shame-laced ones elicited by the 'New Year, New You' industry.
Have some salad if you fancy it. Take a walk if you want, avoid the booze if you think you need to, but whatever you do, do not become so consumed by 'New Year, New You' pressure that what is good for you is reduced to the status of punishment.
While it might be nice to trade in our old bodies for newer models annually, human beings are not cars. Shocking, I know, but there you are. The truth is, the 'you' you have is the only one you have got, so be kind to it. Perhaps most importantly, remember that January does not have the monopoly on new beginnings or resolutions. These can be undertaken in any place, at any time, at any stage in life and are most meaningful (and therefore, more likely to be followed through on) when they are personal rather than decreed by those looking to make a fast buck.
And if a perma-tanned He-Man type tries to guilt you into buying an exercise bike you do not want or need, by all means take it for a test ride, if only to cycle it over his thick head.