New Year, Same You (no more guilty resolutions)

— by Nilgin Yusuf

Photograph by Mowie Kay from the Leaf cookbook by Catherine Phipps. Food stylist, Marina Filipelli

I only made two resolutions this year. The first was I wouldn’t feel guilty about the fact I’d eaten too much, drank too much and moved too little over the Christmas period. I’d enjoyed it at the time and wasn’t going to enter into a torment of self-flagellation for the whole of January because of it. Spare me the birch twigs.

The second was – I wouldn’t be making any New Year’s Resolutions.

I’ve played this game most years. In the first week of January, I have historically told myself, I’ll eat more greens, start running, drink less vodka. But this year, I rejected the complete artificiality of the New Year Resolution concept. What makes January 1st any different to July 12th or November 16th? I’m not anti-progress or self- improvement but it’s just another day. We don’t live life as a series of stops and starts; it’s a continuum. Arguably, any day is a good day for potential change.

But most advertising – and magazine publishing – would have you believe you must do or change something in January if you are to strive towards a new, improved you – that Nirvana of identity, that yellow brick road of the self. We are all imperfect and if only we would try harder and exert more willpower, it would be possible to hatch a superior version of One – in all One’s glory. Advertisers are very keen to support this idea of the Better You, so January is a prime time for the purchase of new gym memberships, food plans, diets, holidays…

These are the same advertisers who, by the way, sold us excessive quantities of food, alcohol and goods the month before and encouraged us to overindulge. Suddenly, there is a manic switch into virtue mode and we see guilt-inducing mechanisms of salesmanship being ramped up and our alter egos being tempted with new versions of ourselves. I can’t help thinking that it is those who are selling that have the most to gain from these wild swings in our motivation and behaviour.

The week after Christmas, I opened the fridge door with a weary sigh and gazed at the racks of alcohol, cakes and 49 types of cheese inside. I found myself longing for Christmas to be over so I could take back control – of the fridge! I caught myself thinking this and realised I had fallen into the trap. Control is a highly seductive illusion. We all want more of it. If we have too little control in our lives, it can lead to anxiety or depression. But if our lives are overly controlled and taut as piano wires, that can lead to a neurotic mindset and that’s no fun either.

Can’t we just give ourselves the space to do whatever we like at Christmas with no strings attached? Can’t we love ourselves a bit more and enjoy the occasional flurry of complete hedonism with no payback time? This binge and purge mentality of Christmas and the New Year is unhealthy and unrealistic. It sucks the joy from everything and dehydrates the spirit. So, for me a Happy New Year means no more guilty resolutions.


Nilgin Yusuf. Photograph by Claudia Brookes

Nilgin Yusuf is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter @Nilgin and Instagram @nilgin_yusuf


Leaf vegetarian cookbook (published by Quadrille) is available HERE.

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I only made two resolutions this year. The first was I wouldn’t feel guilty about the fact I’d eaten too much, drank too much and moved too little over the Christmas period.