Smart Thinking

Self-hatred is not the British way to start a New Year

Radical health-related resolutions aren't always a good thing, says our Managing Editor

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking at the slight extra wobble round your midriff and cursing the decision a few days ago to say, ‘Oh go on then, I’ll finish up the rest of the roasties.’ You didn’t hate yourself for it at the time, but now…

There’s a reason for this. As soon as Christmas is done, and even before it, you’re being bombarded with messages to make you dislike your midwinter body. Adverts for probiotic yoghurts where people lift up their t-shirts (don’t they know how cold it is in January? Where are their vests?) and show off wonderfully slender stomachs. Tube campaigns urging us to eat vegan in January – after all, think of the animals (read: think of how much weight you’ll lose).

“If you appreciate your body for what it can do, rather than how it looks, maybe it’ll inspire you to do more with it?”

It’s such a cliché, but all of us – men and women – fall for it every year. How else would people in San Francisco be able to get away with selling bottles of ‘raw water’? And why else would national newspapers run features about people who have too much skin after losing weight, about whether having a dog is good for your health, and ‘Dad bod challenges’? We’ve been primed to pay these things attention.

Now, I’m not saying it’s not good to keep an eye on your weight, that we shouldn’t eat well or keep ourselves fit. Given the UK is the most obese nation in Western Europe and that 63 per cent of adults here are overweight, clearly we do need to take stock. New guidelines suggest we need to cut our calorific intake to around 1,800 calories a day, working on the assumption that most of us over-estimate, most of the time. New Year can be a good time to do that – a clean slate and all that.

But there’s also no way that eating extra chocolate and potatoes over Christmas has added significant heft to your bathroom scales when you stand on them. And absorbing a sense of inadequacy that leads you to take drastic measures – completely quitting all animal products, going fully teetotal, signing up to do some hardcore fitness programme – isn’t going to help.

Appreciate yourself. Your body can and does do amazing things. Maybe it could do more and for longer if you took better care of it. It might sound ridiculously hippy, but if you appreciate your body for what it can do, rather than how it looks, maybe it’ll inspire you to do more with it? Shame never works as a motivator, so let’s have less of the extremes, and a little more British moderation please. And no regrets on the extra potatoes. After all, they were delicious. Who could resist?