Don't give it up, take it up

2006 - resolutions : Why torture yourself with diets, guilt and exercise at this delicate and chilly

In recent weeks I, like many other people, have been brooding over my resolutions for 2006. I like resolutions, with their musky scent of promise, and so far my list includes, in no particular order: to have more sex, to acquire more cats, to eat more cheese (this may clash slightly with the "having more sex", but no matter) and to master throwing perfect pots on the wheel.

This list follows my resolution of 2004 (to take more drugs) and of 2005 (to go clubbing more). As is probably obvious, all these resolutions involve taking up a new activity, or increasing the pursuit of an old one.

There are few things more depressing than New Year abstinence. Ever since I can remember, the word "diet" has been synonymous with New Year, which is why much of the population spend the first freezing week of January wrapped in Lycra and self-hatred, dragging their raddled bodies to the gym. And as my friend Lucie, a gym regular, points out, it doesn't lead anywhere: "I went to the gym on 1 January last year and it was packed, but within eight days I was exercising by myself. There seemed something so inevitable and depressing about it - all these people starting the new year with a flurry of self-flagellation, resolving to completely change their lifestyles, falling at the first hurdle, and then flagellating themselves even more."

If we had any real facility for abstinence, these great yearly attempts at detoxification would be unnecessary. We'd turn down that third tequila shot and wave away the seconds of crumble or cocaine, and our bodies would resemble, if not temples, then something much better than what we've got. Instead we binge and purge, and the very worst time to purge is surely New Year, when, with winter stretching out ahead, most people could use an affirmative new start.

There is another way, and it can be fun, as Lucie explains: "In 2004 I went to one gig - the White Stripes - and I liked it so much I decided to go to more . . . This year I've been to five gigs and they've all been great. I've met people I'd never usually come into contact with and it's given me something new to talk about with old friends."

Some others: Kate, a former fine art student who gave it all up to work in publishing, decided that in 2005 she would do a pencil drawing each day. She now has a collection of more than 300 sketches, ranging from a banana to the BT Tower, and plans to use them as an ideas archive for bigger projects. Omar began kung-fu lessons; Jenny started digging an allotment; Laura took up swimming; Lorraine mastered dressmaking.

As for my two most recent New Year resolutions, I confess my attempts were pretty poor. I managed to fulfil 2004's, rather pitifully, simply by taking a course of Valium for back pain. And 2005 wasn't exactly all about clubbing: I may have managed a few extra turns around the dance floor, but those were at weddings.

The point is, though, that with these resolutions there's no downside of self-hatred. I'll try to stick to my resolutions, and even if I make only the most desultory showing it will be better than nothing. So I'm off now to the cats' home, taking in a good fromagerie along the way. Happy New Year!

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