January dieting? You must be joking!

explains why exam stress, dark evenings and sub-zero temperatures make now the time for hot chocolate with extra cream, not a skinny latte


I have a question. A burning question that I feel the need to ask every year in January, to the public in general, and to women in particular. Why would you go on a diet in January? Why? January is a time when it’s cold. January is when we all have exams and essays. January is the most depressing month of the year. So what do we do to make ourselves feel better? We eat lettuce instead of chocolate. Because that sounds like fun, right? Wrong.

I tried to go on a diet this year. I really did. I cooked and ate myself and my family to a standstill over the holidays, and by New Year I got tired of feeling full when I woke up in the morning, only to be faced with croissants for breakfast (The daily trials we face…). So, for the first time in a good few years, this very unsuperstitious and fairly lazy cook decided to take the unprecedented step of giving something up. Food, nonetheless. Not all food, just food in large amounts. And fatty foods. And, deep breath, chocolate.

I read somewhere that each meal you should only ever eat the amount you can fit in your cupped hands. So I embarked on this idea, full of enthusiasm, on 1st January at 10am with my modestly sized bowl of cereal. But oh, the potholes hidden around the corners of this road to slimness! Does it count if you pile it high above your hands? And is that cooked or uncooked? How does spaghetti work? Or what if you’re eating spinach? A handful of that is hardly worth the energy it takes to get it into your mouth.

Alas, no. I stuck it for a day and a half. The gremlin in my brain reminded me after my modest sized bowl of healthy soup for lunch that there was a stash of yumminess in the cupboard. I’m lost to the world of self-control. Several slices of Terry’s chocolate orange later, I spiral into a sugar high. Why did I even bother to diet in the first place? Who would give up such a gastronomical delight in favour of lettuce? Then the sugar rush subsided. I am assailed by self-doubt and despair. I cannot even resist a piece of, let’s be honest, fairly average chocolate. It wasn’t even Green & Blacks.

Then I hit upon the problem: it’s not my self-control, but my country. It’s England. It’s winter and I’m revising. The sun sets shortly after lunch, there is limited fresh air, and minimal enjoyment to be had out of my grey misty surroundings. This surely is the worst possible time to diet and the best time to delight in hearty stew and rejoice in the comfort of a really good sticky toffee pudding. Scrap the diet. Scrap the attempt to find my willpower. Hell, scrap the skinny lattes. I embrace my desire to eat, because in summer we may diet.

So my New Year’s Resolution is this: just sometimes, to indulge myself. Eat healthily, fine. Don’t exist purely on sweets. The basic stuff your mother taught you. But sometimes, just occasionally, when you think no one is looking, add another slab of butter. Or chocolate. Or rasher of bacon or whatever is your indulgence. So, yes, I would like extra cream with my hot chocolate. And a flake. And don’t look at me like that. New Year’s resolution? What New Year’s resolution?

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