Post-Festive-Season Guilt

Emily Stamp shares her thoughts on New Year fitness and diet crazes. She reminds us that we shouldn't punish ourselves for enjoying our holidays and that exercise and dieting for their own sake, or for the sake of our looks, is not healthy, no matter what Instagram, television and magazines tell us. Health means moderation, both physically and mentally, so give yourself a break, and take your New Year's resolutions lightly and with a pinch of salt.

It’s officially the start of January and while that means that some will be moaning that it is already 2018 and that time is going too fast, others will be looking back on the Christmas period and criticising themselves over those extra servings of roast and the few too many drinks that tipped their weighing scales out of favour.

There is a lot of pressure, especially after Christmas and New Year, to get back into shape and gyms across the world run January taster sessions and “get fit” schemes purposefully to target people who are feeling down after holiday over-indulgence. After all, the holiday season is a time to eat, drink and be merry. It is then far too easy to set unachievable New Year’s resolutions to “eat clean”, give up all sweet food, go to the gym every day or to find a running partner, and then to feel bad when, by week two, you have already broken your resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions in themselves can make you feel like a failure and, while the three week marker is the point at which a habit becomes easier, setting an unachievable target is never going to bring joy in the long run. The unneeded self-criticism of Christmas is enhanced when the plan to work out often falls through. I have only ever kept one New Year’s resolution – not to eat any form of chocolate for a year, and did it make me feel like a better person afterwards? No. I have also had plenty of friends start an intense few weeks of gym sessions only to find this is not sustainable and who then feel guilty over not being able to go to the gym more.

However, it should be remembered that your weight, diet plan or exercise regime does not make or break you as a person. You are so much more than appearances. Your family and friends will love you regardless and in all honesty they probably over-indulged over Christmas too! Sharing food with family and friends brings joy and happiness and that is what the festive holiday period is all about. Deciding to look back on those times with worry negates the feelings of joy that you experienced and instead turns the next holiday period into a worrisome event instead of a happy one.

I cannot tell you that there is no need to feel guilty about overconsumption and to expect that to make everybody feel immediately better; however, I can remind you that moderation is key to both diet and exercise. Do not go to the gym every day for hours or cut calories everywhere you can in order to lose those roast-induced pounds. Instead, as ever, and not just for the period immediately after New Year, keep a balanced diet, do regular exercise at your own pace, and don’t feel bad if you don’t feel able to all the time. Health should be a lifestyle, not a punishment; and “health” is not healthy if you are sacrificing your mental wellbeing for it. Besides, treating yourself post-Christmas is a good thing too!