New Year, New You

And so, a new year begins.  Magazines and newspapers are running features about New Year’s resolutions, which seem to equate to losing weight, dropping a dress size, getting more toned and running further in pursuit of the perfect body. Heat piles on the heat with photos of ‘slebs who have gained weight over Christmas, and what they should do about it. Closer gets close enough to point out muffin tops and post-Christmas acne breakouts. Reveal can exclusively reveal the “diet secrets” of some women who lost weight once, and who are willing to help you ‘cut the flab’ (my guess is by eating less and doing more, although I suppose it might also be speed.) We have enjoyed ourselves for the prescribed few days in December when society allows us to lie on the sofa eating handfuls of Celebrations in our pyjamas. Back to the treadmill, ladies, lest the Circle of Shame get a glimpse of your 2013 love handles!

A quick straw poll on Facebook (by Daily Fail standards, I’m pretty sure that counts as science) shows that a desire to shrink their bodies is the single biggest basis for women’s New Year’s resolutions – to lose a stone, to drop a dress size, to fit into that pair of jeans again. Even the women who talked about exercise apparently in terms of a hobby – to go running more, to get to the gym – would say in the next breath that they ultimately hoped to lose weight from doing it. The prevalence of weight loss desires in resolutions was depressing, not least because many of these women were of normal weight to begin with. And with an onslaught of women’s magazines screaming out at every angle that two slices of bread is just too much (where, oh where is the joy in a ‘breadless sandwich’?), it’s not exactly surprising either.

Standing in the supermarket aisle and running a well-trained eye across the racks of fad diets that appear on the cover of every magazine in January, you’re greeted with a downright shite version of womanhood. These rags would have you believe that the most important way to improve life is to battle a couple of pounds of adipose tissue, and to battle it with ferocity. They’re actually well on their way to telling you that you do believe it already. In reality, however, while you’re counting the calories in cucumber, you could be learning Mandarin, improving your welding skills, reading, running for public office, doing voluntary work, bolting up the career ladder, raising money for charity, mowing the lawn, making people laugh, making love, going somewhere you’ve never been, singing loudly to daft songs, hanging out with your mates. You could be living your life.  You could be changing your life. And not ‘your life’ in terms of the pinchable skin on your left thigh. 

Seriously. In the time you spend fretting about miso and pomegranate seeds versus chips and gravy, in the time you dither over whether you’ve “earned” a piece of toast, you could be busy changing the world. Women are almost invisible in some political circles, and Cosmopolitan wants you to become even smaller? Fuck that royally with a leftover Christmas cracker.

At the end of December, equalities minister Jo Swinson wrote an open letter to magazine editors asking them to ‘shed the fad diets and fitness myths’ in their January editions, arguing that they pose health risks and destroy body confidence. Now, technically Swinson is part of the coalition government, so praising her efforts feels a little like adopting the least offensive-looking creature that you just watched crawl out of Mordor: there’s always the possibility that one of its cronies might come for you in the night and bite you on the ass for your kindness, hard. However, the woman has a serious point. These New Year issues are nothing to do with promoting a healthy lifestyle; they are to do with capitalising on the insecurities that you harboured throughout 2012, selling diets to you direct from the latest C-list celebrity’s PR, and then reaping the financial benefit from advertising space for liposuction in the back. Secretly, they really, really want to see you cry in the Primark changing rooms when you can’t get a size ten pair of jeggings past your cankles.

So here’s my resolution. I will be bigger and louder in 2013 than ever before. I will be braver. I will seize the day. I will make a difference to the shape of the world, not the size of my pants. I will focus my energies on helping to make things better for people, not eating less pastry. I will protest when people say society is fine the way it is, not when they say I’m fine the way I am. Because I am, and it’s not. 

And because, you know what? Pastry is fucking delicious.