The New Year is heralded as the starting point for creating a new, improved version of ourselves. We make resolutions to ban everything fun, with the latest fashions – generally based on “scientific” studies mixed with sub-D list celebrity endorsement – extending from alcohol to sugar to gluten and now even fruit juice. But by the time the grey clouds of January turn into the grey clouds of February (don’t you just love winter in Manchester?), the vast majority of people will have let their good intentions slip by the wayside in favour of comfort food, nights out and the everlasting lure of the ‘drunchies’.
While there is nothing wrong with deciding that life is just more fun with everything in moderation, including moderation itself, I can’t help thinking that our New Years mindset is decidedly unhealthy.
The whole of December seems to be set aside for indulgence, even gluttony (another chocolate orange? Why not, it’s Christmas. Stilton? Of course! And don’t forget the port…) Yet even during this we are bombarded with the idea that this should be making us feel guilty, and that we will have to face the consequences and repent our hedonistic consumption come January.
Suddenly these resolutions don’t seem like a positive message of self-improvement, but a guilt-ridden manifestation of our warped relationship to our bodies and to food.
The cynical amongst us might point to the multi-billion pound diet industry, often owned by the very corporations making us unhealthy in the first place. Clearly this is big business, evident in the sudden ubiquity of the “5:2 diet” and variations thereof. My housemate tried it and the only result was a very hungry and grumpy student unable to think about anything other than food. A couple of people I know who have stuck it out longer mumble phrases such as “intermittent fasting” and “IGF-1”, but it’s fascinating how such a simple concept can have been so successfully monetised.
At the same time it’s important to look at how people themselves feel about this, not just to assume they’re being manipulated by mysterious capitalist forces beyond their control. Surely they must recognise how daft it is to spend January subsisting on salad and lentils? This is the time when what our bodies really want are stews, hearty soups, roasts and a bit of stodge to keep the cold at bay! January is miserable enough as it is, what with exams, cold and rain. You’re really just setting yourself up for failure if you buy into the cringe-inducing ‘Banuary’.
So in the spirit of indulgence in moderation and banishing guilt from food, here are a couple of ideas of ways to cheer yourself up through the winter in Manchester.
First up is the new brunch offering from SoLiTa, a fab Northern Quarter restaurant already famous for its inventive burgers and excellent value steaks. They are now serving up brunch on weekends until 1pm, and I can’t wait to go and try their inventive offerings including the ‘Full English Toad in the Hole’ (£8.90), ‘Steak and Eggs Benedict’ (£9.90) or ‘Waffles with Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Sausage Gravy, and Maple Syrup’ (£7.90), washed down with a cocktail such as the ‘Blood Orange Mimosa’, a mix of Prosecco, Grand-Marnier and blood orange juice – a bargain at £5.
However if you’re not really a morning person, how about celebrating the start of a new semester with an indulgent dinner at Steak & Lobster at ALTO? £17 will buy you either a 10oz rib eye steak or a whole lobster, both served with unlimited chips and salad. Sure, you could buy a whole lot more tofu and kale with that amount of money, but think which will truly add to your happiness and create a memorable experience rather than a rather ascetic and overly ‘wholesome’ meal of the type that tends to cause flatulence rather than true satisfaction.Ben Walker
What I’m trying to say is that this time of year does not have to be defined by atoning for our collective ‘sins’ over the holidays. It is perfectly possible to eat a balanced but interesting diet, be kind to yourself and stay healthy without a generous dose of self-denial which would make all but the most iron-willed amongst us reach for the biscuit tin.
Go out and enjoy the wonderful, interesting and most of all delicious dishes the Manchester dining scene has to offer. Remove guilt from the equation and treat food as a positive and enjoyable resource for your body rather than some sort of indicator of your moral worth with dieting the ‘virtuous’ path to bodily beauty. Everyone knows that someone who enjoys their food is far more attractive than a protein shake or juice diet obsessive anyway.