Sunday 21 January 2018

New Year: Time for a New You

Worrying about what you eat is actually a medical condition.
Worrying about what you eat is actually a medical condition.

Pat Fitzpatrick

It's the first week in January, which can mean only one thing. You suck, and it's high time you embarked on a journey of self-improvement. Our reporter takes a look at the various avenues to a better you. He highlights the diets, workouts, holidays and spiritual changes you need to both improve your life and show others that you are in touch with the zeitgeist. He even has advice on how you might profit from these trends, because nothing improves you more than extra cash.


Forgiveness was almost all the rage there in 2013. It didn't break through because it came up against our old friend mindfulness. Forgiveness was never going to win that one. It's hard to focus on other people's indiscretions when you are half way up your own ass.

But all the smart money is on forgiveness for 2016. Prince Charles started the ball rolling last May when he shook hands with Gerry Adams. This was interpreted by all concerned as an act of forgiveness for the murder of Lord Mountbatten. Presumably, Gerry passed on the handshake to someone who was actually senior in the IRA back in 1979. Or maybe he went home and shook his own hand. We might never know. The point is that forgiveness is back.

So, what to do? Well, you can start by forgiving the person who persuaded you to spend a fortune on mindfulness books last year. Excellent.

Bear in mind that forgiveness is the best form of revenge. So you know what to do when your husband starts Facebook-messaging your former au pair. That's right. Forgive yourself for throwing his iPhone down the jacks.

Obviously, some people will try to make money from all of this. You should try and be one of them. Missing out would be unforgiveable.

We know what you're thinking. If only there was a way to get people to buy forgiveness for things they didn't even do. Unfortunately, a large multinational is already running that racket in markets all over the world. They call it confession. Don't forget to make a donation to the roof-repair fund on the way out.

One final thing. Forgiveness isn't for everyone. To see this in action, ring the debt-forgiveness helpline at your local bank. "If you are a former developer, a country or owe us more than one million euro, please press 'one'. All other callers, press 'two', and we'll send one of the lads around to give you a kick in the mickey."


Please tell us you're not still going to Zumba. Here's the thing. The American College of Sports Medicine recently relegated Zumba to number 28 in a list of popular fitness trends. If you're not going to be guided by an organisation you just heard of, then who are you going to trust?

So bye-bye Zumba. If nothing else, it removes the threat of being struck by lightning and ending up with Zumba-face for the rest of your life. You know, it's the eager-but-nervous smiling face that Americans put on when they haven't a clue what you're talking about. ("What's he saying, Chad? I think he's from Ireland.")

The best way to get on-trend for 2016 is to leave the gym. This will have a major impact on your life. And not just because you will no longer know what's happening on Home and Away. The next step is to take up body-weight training. This includes exercises that you can do at home, such as push-ups, squats and lunges. The lunge is not to be confused with a popular move in Copper Face Jacks at closing time. Although there is one similarity. Do it right, and you could end up having loads of sex. As with everything else these days, there is a variant called extreme body-weight. This is mainly aimed at middle-aged men who are in a rush to make a pass at the new intern in accounts.

One word of warning. It's no coincidence that body-weight training thrived when we thought we might never see a rich day again. But people will soon resume spending a fortune on fitness equipment, mainly because the value of their house has gone up. They call that 'the wealth effect', because they are too polite to say 'shagging bonkers'. The point is that body-weight training has about six months before it's replaced by a craze for diamond-encrusted barbells. So don't spend too much time on it.


Worrying about what you eat is actually a medical condition called orthorexia nervosa. You're nobody these days without a mild dose if it. The good news is this can be treated by highly-qualified professionals. The bad news is these highly-qualified professionals are probably the same people who panicked you into hating bread in the first place. You have to admire the medical profession's ability to create work for itself.

So here is our top diet tip for 2016. Give up food entirely. So long, orthorexia nervosa. OK, this approach has its own medium-term drawbacks. But at least you'll be able to sleep at night without worrying about vegetable oil, red meat, gluten, sugar and wheat. Not to mention the food nutritionist in your head going, "Eating food that I say is bad for you, is so working class. Is that what you really want?"

If you are uncomfortable giving up food completely, we have only one word for you. Fodmap. It stands for 'fermentable, oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols'. We'll stick with Fodmap. It's hot right now with the celebs. That's because it claims to counteract irritable-bowel syndrome. And let's face it, nobody wants a bloated celeb farting their way down the red carpet.

Fodmap-high foods include milk, custard, ice-cream, beer, and anything else that tastes of more. If you think you are allowed to eat more of these under a Fodmap diet, you haven't being paying attention. You need to go on a low-Fodmap diet, which means saying hello to bamboo shoots and espresso. Look at you go, fidgety monkey.

Who cares? You'll be fart free, on-trend and sporting a flat stomach. That's all a person can ask for. Until the food-nutrition crowd start running out of money and come up with something else.


You're still into monogamy? What do you think this is? The Riordans?

There has never been a better time to do the dirt. First of all, the new year is a great time for an excuse. There is nothing suspicious about telling your partner in early January that you are taking up extreme Pilates classes. Announce the same thing in August, and you might as well be saying, "I am going to meet Ciaran from HR in a hotel that lets you pay by the hour".

And then there's the telly. Two of the most talked-about shows last year were The Affair and Doctor Foster. Both were about the effects that cheating can have on a steady marriage. So, if you get caught, you can always say, "But I'm so on-trend right now." OK, it's lame, but at least you're not just standing there like some kind of eejit, looking down at your shoes.

The improving economy is also a licence to stray. Getting caught offside a few years ago meant getting kicked out of a house you couldn't sell. There's only two words for that - erectile dysfunction. But the improving property scene is lifting all boats. Prices aren't the only thing that are up, says you to the au pair, making a right clown of yourself.

And then there's technology. There are so many options out there if you are looking for a like-minded love-rat. If you fancy having it off with a thick person who doesn't understand technology, just register for one of those cheating websites that can be hacked by a pigeon. Otherwise, there's Tinder. It's worth noting that the premium app, Tinder Plus, charges more for people over 28, so maybe lie about your age. Let's face it, you'll be doing that anyway.


Sorry to be the one breaking the bad news, but you are going to get a year older in 2016. This stopped being a good thing a long time ago. Unless it is your lifetime ambition to travel by stairlift.

It is completely du jour now to act 10 years younger than your age. You certainly don't want people to think you have suddenly gone all old and cranky. Just ask Ray D'Arcy.

There are a number of pitfalls as you try and roll back the years. One is to choose clothes you wore when you were young, because you think that nothing was cooler than the 1990s. Just two words for you on that one. Tie-dye.

Another classic gaffe is to go into Topshop or New Look because you want to be down with the kids. Put it this way. Any middle-aged man can tell you that pulling on a pair of jeans designed for a teenager is a great way to save yourself the cost of a vasectomy. Go to Gap instead, where everything is mildly elasticated for your pleasure.

Here is something to bear in mind. There was a time when the only groups allowed to cross the gender boundary in Ireland were transvestites and light entertainers from Cork. But that has all changed, with a lot more tolerance and understanding for people who wouldn't describe themselves as male or female.

It's alright to be gender fluid these days. Not surprisingly, the kids are all over it. They are not going to allow anyone to force labels on them, except for maybe Nike and Ralph Lauren. Miley Cyrus has come out as pansexual, but don't let that put you off.

So forget about your genitals for a minute. (Or 10 seconds, if you're a man. There is no point in trying the impossible.) Make a brief announcement that you are gender fluid. We hardly need to add that you should leave mammy out of this one. Nothing good will come of that conversation.


Sometimes it can be difficult to spot a turning point in a civilisation. Other times, people over the age of four start buying crayons for themselves. It's clearly downhill all the way from here.

Yes, adult colouring books are now a thing. Don't be getting turned on by the name, you filthy perv. The word 'adult' doesn't imply that it's a colouring book with two rabbits giving each other a special hug. It is actually a spin-off from the mindfulness wheeze, with books for all sorts of ailments, including insomnia.

That's handy, because a lot of people can't sleep at night these days, since hearing that grown adults are spending their money on colouring books.

Adult colouring is all part of the art-therapy movement. You might think it wrong to apply the term 'art' to childish-looking doodles. But that just means you've never been to an art gallery.

Some of the books are plain odd. There is even one called Colour Me Good Benedict Cumberbatch, which has 16 line-drawings of the actor for your doodling pleasure. If this doesn't make you worry about the way things are going, it might be time to double your meds.

Apparently, the main driver for this craze is rising levels of anxiety. Here is how this works. "Are you an anxious person?" "Not at all, I tend to take things as they come." "Really? Are you not worried that you might be unaware of all the terrible things that could happen to you every day?" "I am, now that you mention it." "Welcome on board buddy, here are some crayons. And my card. I'm an anxiety guru." "But that seems likes a completely makey-uppy name." "Don't worry about it."


The life of the Irish drinker is a constant journey. And not just to the off-licence. Or the jacks. It is the ongoing quest for a bevvy that is so on-trend, you can drink it by the jug-load without risking an intervention. It would explain why Gaels of a certain generation can still explain the finer points of Malibu and pineapple to you. It will soon explain sherry.

Now, most of us would have a thing against sherry. It probably goes back to the time your aunt got into the Harvey's Bristol Cream and opened up a bit too much about her honeymoon in Rome. It's very hard to forget the phrase 'mad for mickey'. But it would be wrong to think this will be enough to keep you away from the sherry. Here is your journey in three simple steps: 1: You make it clear you will never drink sherry. 2: Aldi and Lidl start stocking it in attractive bottles. 3: You start drinking sherry.

You see, here's the thing. The people who decide these issues have put sherry on-trend for 2016, and you'd be a fool to give it a miss. It's a nice little number for Irish people right now. Sherry is the drink of choice in the tapas bars around Andalucia. That's the province in Spain where you can buy an apartment in the middle of nowhere and tell your friends that you have a place just outside Marbella. Excellent. As long they don't decide to pay you a visit. Anyway, now you can sit in a tapas bar near your gated community and fling sherry down your throat like a local.

Try not to get worried that, while your neighbours are popping in for one with a plate of calamari, you are downing them all day. Relax. It's OK. You're drinking sherry.


Really? You still look up TripAdvisor and print off an itinerary for your holidays? You are so Travel 2.0. It's all about letting the TripAdvisor app on your Apple Watch make decisions for you these days. (They're calling it Travel 3.0.) For example, at lunchtime, it will tell you the highest-rated restaurant in your locality, even though you didn't ask. Presumably, it will also pass on the same information to everyone else in the locality. Think of all the nerds you might meet in the massive queue. And turn off your watch.

Google Now will also try and point you in the right direction, based on your past choices. So turn it off when you are on holidays with a new girlfriend. There is no moment that can't be spoiled by your phone shouting, "Good news dude, you're just two minutes from the best little titty bar in town". Awks.

Don't rush to mock the IT companies. That sector is booming out of control. They are actually running short of nerds to sit in cubicles for 80 hours a week, wondering how come no one ever uses the ping-pong table at reception. As an incentive, they are now sending new recruits on a paid holiday before they start work. They are calling it a pre-cation. (We call it university.) So brush up your CV and get yourself a holiday, thanks to big tech. It's about time they gave something back.

Finally, a word of caution. The big trend in travel now is hipster holidays. This is not where you get a break from the hipsters, unfortunately. It is, in fact, where you deliberately hand over your hard-earned cash to visit a hipster area in another city. If you are tempted by this (perhaps you fell on your head?), consider this simple question. Would I pay money to wander around Stoneybatter for a day? Hopefully this will clarify the matter.


Home smoking is the new thing. And not just because the Government wants to make cannabis compulsory.

We're not talking about a bag of grass and a wasted weekend watching a boxset of Can't Pay? We'll Take it Away. This is about smoking your own food. It would appear the foodies have run out of food to bring back from small Sicilian villages in order to make you feel bad about yourself. So now they have started burning it.

It's easy to get on board. All you need is a simple kit you can buy on the internet, along with space in the shed to store it once you lose interest and decide to start your own micro-brewery. We hear a lot of smokers are wedging it in between the slow-cooker and the bread-maker they bought in Aldi. Perfect.

A word of caution. Smoking is already popular with a certain type of American. You'll have seen them on the Food Network. (You can also see them from space. These guys are not small, presumably because they eat one-and-a-half cows a day.) They're basically the Hairy Bikers, but with motor-homes the size of Westmeath. They drive these to barbecue competitions, where they smoke meat, compare assault weapons and come to the conclusion that America needs something harsher than the death penalty. Any association with these good ol' boys is a complete no-no. You'll be drummed out of the foodies.

You'll need some way to distinguish yourself from them. You could always make your own smoker from a biscuit tin. Some say this is a great way to release your inner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Others say that one Hugh on the loose is enough. We're with the others.


Don't rush to understand the meaning of fartlek. Just walk around saying the word for a couple of days and you'll feel much better about yourself. Fartlek. Fartlek. Things are better with fartlek in your life. Particularly when you start to speculate on its meaning. Is it like fartleg, where you have a preferred leg to lift when you are about to break wind? No, but good try. Google it, if you like. The first entry that pops up is a Yahoo question from someone in America - how do I fartlek? The Yanks are so nuts; we'd be lost without them.

Fartlek is actually the Swedish word for speed play. It's a type of exercise that involves running fast, slow and then fast again. See, fartlek was so much better when you didn't know what it meant. But that doesn't mean you can just ignore it. Because speed play is all the rage in the States now. So you're next.

Obviously, you will insist on calling it by the original Swedish name. That will allow you to say, "We left Ikea in the Volvo and went straight home for some fartlek". Look at you, all Swedish and rich. Give us a look at your Aga.

Fartlek is not to be confused with the 'couch to 5k' apps that everybody puts on their phone in the first week of January. Couch-to-5k involves a lot of walking at the start. The problem there is you spend a lot of time walking around in public wearing expensive running gear. Friends might pass by and think you're a complete plonker.

With fartlek, you're always running. And not just to the jacks, says you, unable to let it go.

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