The futility of the holiday health kick and the poison it drags with it

Photo credit: wikimediacommons

“I’m never smoking again guys.” My friends laugh as I stub out my half smoked Pall Mall, throw the rest of the packet in the bin and fold my arms. I decide to sort my life out. I’m cutting out caffeine, I’m stopping drinking, giving up junk food and going to bed at 10pm every night. I will get enough REM cycles to put me in so much well rested bliss that I make Buddha look neurotic. I will pay for a gym membership, which I will utilise for one and a half hours every day with an equal balance of cardio, weights and resistance training. I’m going to eat wholesome, organic food so fresh the beef mince is still moo-ing a happy song and my eggs are covered in dirt. “I’m going on a health kick guys, it’s happening.”

Within four hours I’ve raided the bin and smoked the rest of the packet because withdrawal has led me to such desperation that I’m sweating and punching people in the face purely because they asked me how my day was. I grab a Dervish on the way back to hall from Tesco, bottle of Lambrini in hand with a fresh pack of cigs because I’m going to go out and get so blind drunk that I don’t sleep until  4 pm the next day. It gets to 4 pm and I wash down three ProPlus with a double espresso because, “I don’t want to ruin my sleeping pattern.” Oh, and I also cancelled the gym membership because I decided it doesn’t provide the facilities I need for a full body workout. The health kick lived and died in four hours. In other words, it’s Monday.

Why do we feel the need to do this to ourselves? It seems that the minute the sun dawns on Scotland for the first time since the previous September we harbour this innate need to better ourselves. It’s like our body clock was delayed from New Year’s Day and it is only during the first tentative weeks of spring that we decide our lives are a mess and we need to sort it out.

I blame holiday adverts. Damn you Thomson for spamming images of well sculpted men going to Marbella on my televisions screen as an example that I will never live up to. That’s definitely it. The first dew of spring sets in place and the mass hysteria calls us to “get ready for summer”.

And for what? Think about it. We plan on torturing ourselves by through pilates and forsaking our taste buds for that callous vegetable celery. We ditch those pleasures in life called dairy, gluten and sugar for a short-lived feeling of healthiness. Put ourselves through the pain and anguish of a heart-rate-plus-fat-burning-calorie-counting ordeal on a treadmill that leaves us lying in bed for the next three days wondering when the feeling will return to our legs. We hold onto some deluded fantasy that we will look like a celebrity A-lister by the first of July.

And for what? To have some pervy old man turned salmon pink by the beautiful Benidorm sun (because fat chance on a student loan we can afford to go to Marbs) to gawk at us while he winces in pain but braves it anyway because, well, he’s an idiot. We do it all for that one week in the package-holiday sun – because let’s face it, if you are like me and indulging in a Scottish summer, you are still wearing October attire in ten degree weather. Your outfit is only June-ified with sunglasses because the weather lady promised sunny spells.

I say no more of this nonsense. It’s time to get real.

First and foremost – don’t torture yourself with an over ambitious health kick. We all know you aren’t going to stick to it and you will end up crying, much like myself, into an OK! magazine and stuffing your face with Dairy Milk because you couldn’t hack it. Save yourself the depression, buy a bloody cheesecake and watch some Jerry Springer.

Secondly, learn that nobody really cares what you look like. We live in a culture in which there is a system on Instagram called ‘like4like’ for crying out loud. Chances are, whether you have shed a few pounds or not, you are only going to put up summer selfies if they are at the right angle, have the right filter and are in reasonable lighting. People are only going to like them because they are either your friend, pity you, secretly hate you and want to point that out by being passive-aggressively nice, or are a robot attached to a relevant hashtag. Nobody. Else. Cares.

Next on the agenda is celebrities. We can run the length of the country 17 times over. We can eat baby food for six weeks solid. We can save up and actually invest in that liposuction we always dreamed of. It doesn’t matter. Nothing can make you look more celebrity perfect than a cracking promotional team of underpaid interns who are handy with Photoshop and can craft the perfect stomach that your publicist can forward to Closer. Deal with it.

Finally – learn to love yourself as you truly are. Let no season of the year, number of likes on a photo or reblogged picture of a bronzed beach Adonis be a marker for your own self validation. Be that chain smoking, pseudo-alcoholic, garbage eating writer for The Saint and don’t do any exercise. Indulge in every second of it. Do what makes you happy and not what you think is going to make you happy because Instagram’s #beachbodyperfect says so. Unrealistic expectations are just tiresome. Parade in beachwear with pride on that package holiday and try not to die of hypothermia if you stay here. It’s like Dr Seuss said: “Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no-one alive who is youer than you.” That applies whether or not you have a summer six pack. Be real. Be yourself. Look in the mirror and smile.


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