Say you got a resolution

Resolutions are one thing - keeping them beyond January is quite another
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SCREW UP YOUR courage, and go and take a good, long, hard look at yourself in the mirror right now. Answer this one question honestly: what do you see?

If what you see is Mr, Ms or Mrs Perfect, all muscle-toned, tight-tummied, clear-conscienced, bright-eyed, emotionally-fulfilled, intellectually- enriched and nutritionally-complete, then go ahead and take the whole of 1999 off. In fact, take it right off, and go away somewhere. You're a public nuisance.

But if you do happen to notice just the teeniest, weeniest of character flaws, or an odd little physical aff- ectation that would really get to you if it were in anyone else other than good old you, then it's time you made a New Year's resolution or two. Time to have a little one-on-one with yourself, and to make this your personal spring-cleaning time. Time to dust off your very being, to vacuum all those bad, ingrained habits, and to scrub and polish and buff until a nicer, brighter, smarter you comes up out of all that grime.

I know, I know, you don't make New Year's resolutions, mainly because you're scared you'll fail. Yet isn't that the point? Haven't you already failed? That's why you need to make a few NYRs, for heaven's sake.

After all, you've tried before, and it didn't last three days. That's because you made it too hard on yourself. Anyone who resolves that in the space of a year they will learn Sanskrit, give up their Mars-Bar-a- day habit, never touch another pork sausage, go down three clothing sizes, and personally make this world a better place to live in, has only bitter disappointment, shame, self- repulsion and plenty of Mars Bars to look forward to.

Likewise, don't make it too easy. Resolving to give up Australian witchetty grubs, retsina, hookah-smoking and haggis, even for the full 12 months, will fool no one.

No, the trick is to write down carefully 10 things that could make you a better person, for yourself and others. In the spirit of honesty and sharing, here are mine.

1) I will not eat anything that comes in a polystyrene box.

2) I will abstain from any alcohol at all for one day a week (not Saturday).

3) I will try to eat organic wherever possible, with the possible exception of scorched almonds.

4) I won't eat in front of the television, unless I am watching Antonio Carluccio, Nigel Hopkins or Rick Stein.

5) I will only eat when hungry, and drink when thirsty. In this way, I will lose weight, not by following some rigid and ridiculous short-term diet named after an army or a person, but simply by enjoying the health benefits of the Mediter- ranean diet, the South American diet, the Asian diet, the Middle European diet and the French diet.

6) I will try not to eat any foie gras or caviare, and I will hope like hell that no truffle is stuffed with food until it gags, nor that it ever becomes in danger of extinction.

7) I will seriously question the need for a dessert at the end of every meal. This resolution does not apply to tarte aux pommes, but does apply to anything layered with cream. I think that's fair enough.

8) I will give up my dependence on grissini, corn chips, taramasalata and Japanese rice crackers with my evening cocktail, and make it to dinner unsnacked.

9) I will maintain a reasonable level of exercise. I will try to walk to the local restaurant, and jog to the local cheese shop, and do my stretches at the local bottle shop.

10) I will not eat chocolate in bed. Out of bed is another matter altogether.

I feel better already. I can see myself in 12 months' time at the mirror, all muscle-toned, tight-tummied, clear-conscienced, bright-eyed, emotionally et cetera, et cetera. The year stretches out before me, filled with promise, with joy, and with pride; a year of not eating chocolate in bed, of no corn chips and no Japanese rice crackers, and of being sober once a week. I give myself three days at the outside.