New year diet and gym resolutions are often a bad idea

Surely a couple of sessions a week throughout the year rather than a daily grilling and diet for 31 days would be more beneficial?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Although sliding up and down on a grey, metallic machine at the gym (staring up at Come Dine with Me on a flat screen above) isn’t quite Henley-on-Thames, it still gets the body moving.

Factor in a gentle run or the occasional weight session and you really do feel as if you’re at least keeping the diabetes at bay for a few more years.

Lately however, the soothing hum of perspiration and effort has been infiltrated by murderous cries of misery and frustration. Before Christmas, all you had to do was close your eyes and spark a child-like imagination and you could well have been rippling along a tributary; the green river banks meandering by; perhaps a friendly otter even popping out of the bull rushes to say ‘good day’.

But now, even with moulded, fitted earphones for my iPod I cannot help but take note of the screams. In 2013’s early days there are men and women who are well past exasperation; far beyond a Tuesday evening work out. These folks are apparently going for gold and, while there’s nothing exceptionally wrong with this, it’s relatively apparent – or at least an even money bet – that before the festive season they’d not been in a leisure centre for quite some time.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with 100 per cent and the screams are not unheard of. It’s just that over January they’ve become a norm. People are way overdoing it. They’ve taken a healthy dose of exercise and turned it into a Spartan killing field. All manner of groaning and strain has arrived.

We know all about January resolutions. So many proclaim chocolate bans, cheese rationing or exercise regimes. In theory, these ideals are commendable. Most of us have given it a go at some point in our lives. What’s worrying though is that beneath the tirade of new £100 trainers and dietary supplements lies a fickle promise to the body. As Dr Christian Jessen pointed out a few days ago, with detoxes, fad diets and a ‘dry month’ particularly comes trouble at the close; going so far as to describe such abstinence as ‘poppycock’ and the concept ‘totally unsound.’ Indeed, it seems likely that when February arrives, which, for many, brings a strong feeling of success, allowances and excuses reign supreme. And what’s a month’s hard work and chastity to 11 months of standard, Western practice?

Obsession is a nasty business and anything in extremity is more than likely to be dangerous. This month so far the gym has turned into a torture chamber. The groaning is almost unbearable at times. The clink of iron and the occasional gasp for air is normal; these are the toils of the environment. But sitting next to Alan, as in my head I call him, while he grunts on every stroke, sweat pouring from his brow, looking as if he’s going to faint at any second is slightly worrying. I don’t know first aid. Surely a couple of sessions a week throughout the year rather than a daily grilling for 31 days would be more beneficial?

This January, the occasionally used and somewhat ironically named ‘cold turkey’ period, seems a sure contributor to the quarterly bad mood. Of course you’re not going to be happy if you initially deny yourself of any special treats and then celebrate such with Blossom Hill thereafter.

As was mentioned on Question Time last Thursday, the NHS only spends one per cent of its budget on prevention. So now more than ever, with a new year and minds open is a chance for editors and noted voices to instil some food for thought rather than a shot of radicalism – and minister to try to instigate further as the Scottish Lib Dem Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson did.

These resolves are cyclic and all-too-common in a ‘quick fix’ culture. So, with a world perhaps more health conscious than it has been for quite some time, it’d be great to see an end to ridiculous office-based chauvinism and unhelpful fad diets. Because just the occasional river musing and some lentils would do us more good overall. Pretending to be Steve Redgrave while watching a shrieking lady from an otherwise unnoticed town in the UK’s mid-West ruin her lamb is most definitely the way forward.  Not alcohol celibacy and nothing but celery.