Every year I try, every year I fail—so this year I won't even botherby Cathy Rentzenbrink / December 11, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in Mid-winter (Jan-Feb) 2019 issue of Prospect Magazine
This year’s new year’s resolution: no diet. Illustration: Kate Hazell Oh, the misery of January! It’s so cold and we feel like pelicans in that everywhere we look there is an enormous bill in front of us. One of the big problems, I realised in a flash of inspiration a couple of years ago, is that no one is eating enough. Full up and fed up from Christmas we move into self-punishment mode. New Year’s resolutions that could be enjoyable—wouldn’t it be great to be able to play the ukulele?—often become big sticks with which we beat ourselves through the freezing, joyless days. It seems so obvious to me now but I had genuinely not linked my January mood crashes to the tragic fact that despite knowing that dieting is really bad for me, I am traditionally unable to resist whatever programme is being touted in the papers on the last weekend of the year. 800 calories a day? No problem. Protein only? A piece of gluten-free cake. I lose sight of everything I know and embark on a regime that often involves buying kit and always involves me being as a mad as a brush by the middle of the month. The year my central heating broke down was the worst. I was shivering in a café when I admitted to a friend that I’d eaten nothing but courgette surprise for three days (for the gloriously uninitiated, the “surprise” is there is nothing but courgettes in it). She fed me a ham and cheese croissant and made me promise to start eating properly again. I went on my first diet was I was 16. Don’t do it, I’d scream, if I could turn back time. I wanted to lose half a stone and I was in hurry about it. I was working in my parents’ pub and going to sixth form college in Scunthorpe at the time. I could have stopped eating crisps behind the bar or cut back on the lunchtime trips to McDonald’s for fries and mouth-burningly good apple pies, but instead I got a Rosemary Conley book out of the library and went low fat. Within a matter of what feels like seconds I had become a secret eater of stuff I didn’t even know I liked. Cheese! I had no idea how delicious it was until it went on my banned list. Pork pies! Let me buy them by the half dozen and hide them in my bedroom. I ate lettuce at mealtimes and Double Deckers on the sly. I couldn’t handle it for very long so didn’t lose any weight and then put on half a stone when I stopped. I swore off diets for ever but that is one resolution I’ve never been able to keep and I am deeply ashamed to admit that as recently as last summer I gave the Keto diet a try after accidentally binge-watching YouTube videos about how slim and healthy it would make me feel. It looked like science. There were graphs and everything. Would it have worked? I don’t know. I ate a lot of eggs while waiting for the promised uplift in energy but was sobbing into my omelette pan within a couple of days. Have I made no progress at all? I wailed at myself as I ate a whole loaf of bread and wondered how long it would take for my mood and diet to restabilise—it was about two weeks. I do know that paying too much attention to what I’m eating doesn’t lead me to a good place. I don’t need to be further educated about nutrition. We all know, don’t we, that it is better for us to eat vegetables than doughnuts, that it is good to cook food from scratch rather than live off the contents of the Deliveroo driver’s bag. It is better by far for me to not think about rules too much and to be grateful that my body works rather than critical of how it looks and too hyper-vigilant about what I put into it. Better by far to not think about rules too much and to be grateful that my body works instead of being critical of how it looks. I really do hope that the Keto disaster was my last ever flirtation with drastic weight loss and that in the future I can hold steady against the poisoned promises of perfection and channel any attempts at self-improvement into learning new things or having fun. So, January, let’s be having you. In all my years of making resolutions I’ve figured out it doesn’t pay to have too many or be too ambitious so I have only two for 2019: I will not go on a diet and I will learn to play the ukulele. Wish me luck.