"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"
Bill Shakespeare couldn't have come up with something that sounded more like a challenge to those making new year resolutions – and from the way some people seem to go about the whole resolution thing, you'd think that denial was the only way to be good (whatever that is).
People brag at length about what they're doing – and so often it involves giving things up and trying to turn themselves into some sort of nun or monk, often complete with the self-flagellatory joys of a new gym regime.
It could simply be a dress rehearsal for Lent – which doesn't follow too far behind.
Gyms are boring and denial of pleasure is not good for the soul. Well, certainly not my soul.
But perhaps that's partly because I didn't go wildly over the top with food and drink over the holiday in the first place? If pleasure in something like food is a part of your everyday life, then it seems likely that you feel less need to go a bit bonkers when society gives your particular permission.
The quote at the top is from Twelfth Night – and today is twelfth night. So the halls were undecked earlier and Christmas was packed away for another 11 and a bit months.
That's not to say that I don't do resolutions at all, but it's more likely to be a series of internal memos to myself to – for instance, keep reading or remember to take my cod liver oil tablets every day. Which reminds me ...
But you could tell well before the 1 January itself that the denial movement was in full swing, with a profusion of adverts on the TV for diets, including some downright crackpot ones, How do Kellogs get away with advertising their boxes of cardboard as a calorie reduction diet so often? Now, having a bowl of Special K for lunch as well as breakfast will help you get into those jeans that make you feel fab. Later in the year, it'll enable you to get into your sexy, red swimsuit.
Presumably they need to keep reminding viewers of this wonder diet because, with such a drastic calorie reduction (and let's not mention the limits on actual decent nutrition), they'll lose weight – and then pack it back on and possibly a bit more for good measure (ensuring they need to do it again, and thereby helping maintain or boost sales of the product in question).
A colleague has bemoaning seeing a programme about diets, where it showed that the sandwich she'd had for lunch from Pret a Manger was full of calories. The women – it's all women, for a wonder – on the TV show in question were trying to diet to 1,200 kcals per day. That's about the amount needed to maintain the body weight of an elderly, bed-ridden woman, and thus, for healthy, active, younger women, pretty much guaranteed to end in long-term weight gain rather than sustained and sustainable loss.
Two years ago, another colleague put herself on a 500 kcals per day diet – yes, she lost a load. But she put it back in no time at all. And all this in an environment with a large percentage of female staff – women who are educated and literate, politically as well as in other ways; and not an environment that is overwhelmed by bitchy behaviour. Yet still the denial thing kicks in.
Well, not for me. Life is far too short to play such a drastic game – and anyway, it's a con: as I've found in recent years, sustainable weight loss is only possible slowly. Very slowly. And for me at least, developing a real pleasure in my food has made an enormous difference on that score too. So I'm sticking with the pleasure – on principle.