Saturday 17 March 2018

How to Be a Better You

Pat Fitzpatrick

Let's face it, you suck. Or at least that's what a lot of people out there in the self-improvement industry would like you to think. Pat Fitzpatrick takes a look at the latest diets, exercises and other fads that promise to help you be all you can be.


You might have heard of Mindfulness. It's already popular with a lot of famous celebs. And Goldie Hawn.

A key principle is to focus on the task at hand and stop worrying about the future. It is the kind of Buddhism you can practise without other people sniggering at you for being a hippy. There are two sides to Mindfulness. The first is the mindful person, who takes eight self-obsessed hours to wash the dishes. The other side is his family and friends, who have to pick up the pieces because Mr Mindful forgot to pay the gas bill. As the Buddha himself might have said "Someone has to do the worrying. Just make sure it isn't you."

Another key principle is to avoid being judgemental. You can see how this might be popular with people who offer Mindfulness courses. Particularly because in some cases they are charging people hundreds of Euro and then essentially telling them to chill out. You don't want people rushing to judgement on that one. At least until you are well out of the hotel and back on the motorway towards your big gold house.

There is no shortage of people who will pay good money to hear they are doing it all wrong. Here's your choice. You can be one of the 20 people sitting in the audience in your local hotel. Or you can be the woman they're listening to. If you have chosen the former, then our agents are standing by to take your credit card details. If it's the latter, well done. You understand what Mindfulness really has to offer. The only drawback is that it has been around now for a few years. A true guru will need to give it an upgrade. We recommend Double Mindfulness. It's where you are truly present in two places at the one time. If nothing else it should be popular with parents of young kids.


You're never going to make it without superfoods. Let's start with a definition. A superfood is anything eaten by someone who thinks they are better than you. There is no need to ask what these foods are. The superfood devotee will list them out while talking down to you for eating cabbage. You loser. How can you live with yourself without eating a walnut, spinach, sweet potato and kelp salad with some kind of legume from Peru? (Peru is very now on the whole superfood front.)

A lot of people make the mistake of eating some superfoods. That's all a bit 2013. The trick now is to eat all the superfoods. This brings us to aisle-rakers. If you see someone wincing and farting furiously while standing on one leg, that's an aisle-raker. They have picked up every known superfood in the veg aisle at the supermarket and blended them into a smoothie. Who knows, the aisle-raker might have stumbled on the secret of eternal youth. But who wants to live forever when it means you can never be more than 30 seconds from the jacks. The kale and the ginger - together they were dynamite.

You want to be more choosy than the aisle-raker. The hottest superfood right now is the acai berry. It has been shown to destroy cancer cells in laboratory conditions. So, some great news there if you live in a test tube.

Acai is pronounced a-sigh-ee, as against och-aye. Except in Scotland. The berry comes from South America and people who take it become incredibly confident about their future prospects. So it has a lot in common with cocaine.

Still, with an impressive list of health benefits, eating acai berries is the ideal way to stuff it to blueberry fans. That crowd have had things their way for far too long.


And there were you thinking that ballet is for emotionally fragile Russians. This pilates-meets-ballet workout is the new thing. The barre here is the horizontal bar used in dance studios by ballet dancers. You lean on it while doing your workout. There is just one problem. Barre is pronounced bar. That's grand for Americans, who don't see anything wrong with telling people they plan to lose weight by leaning up against a bar. Unfortunately in Ireland people will reply "sure Jesus isn't that how you put it on in the first place?" Likewise there isn't much to be gained from telling people you are installing a barre in your house. Unless you want them to think you are a modern day Jack Duckworth. Which you don't.

You could always try and pronounce it bar-ray in a bad French accent. If you want people to think you are about as sophisticated as an old bottle of Cinzano Bianco. Just pronounce it bar and get on with it. The ballet association will give you a bit of je ne sais quoi anyway. The Irish think ballet is sophisticated because we haven't got a clue what's going on and it's popular with the French. The problem is doing it in public. You go along to your first class thinking you are going to be all Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Until a quick look in the mirror confirms you are more Mister Blobby in a Tutu.

This might be a good enough reason to install a barre at home. If you want to save some money you could always re-purpose that thing you installed in the study to practise your pole dancing. All you ever got from that was a pulled hamstring and really creepy looks from your husband's friend, Eric. You're still trying to get over that.


Let's be clear about one thing. A Mediterranean diet is not necessarily the food you eat while sitting next to the Mediterranean. There are no known health benefits attached to chicken and chips washed down with 18 pints of lager in Rinty McGinty's bar on the Costa del Sol. Or as some Irish people call it, breakfast. A proper Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil and fish. It often features moderate amounts of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. That doesn't mean a small glass of wine every half an hour. OK? It doesn't.

Now some hard truths. We're always being told that the Mediterranean diet can add years to your life. A quick look at the latest Eurostat figures shows that an Irish woman can expect to live between one or two years less than her counterparts on the Med. That said, a lot of your Mediterranean mamas shrink away to nothing in later life. We're not saying this is because of their diet. But do you really want to take the risk?

Irish men can expect to live about twelve months less than their pals down south. Fair enough. But is it really worth eating sheep's genitals once a week just so you can have an extra year at the end of your life? Sitting around with a dodgy looking puddle by your ankles? You might want to think about that.

Here's another thing. Your Mediterranean types probably get to enjoy that year sitting out in a warm breeze. Donal and Nuala will spend half of it in semi-darkness watching re-runs of Judge Judy. Is that any kind of reward for a lifetime of sardines? We doubt it very much. Here is our recommendation, plain and simple. There is only one way to enjoy the Mediterranean diet. And that's sitting by the Mediterranean.


POUND is a workout you do with special drumsticks. And no, we're not talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sorry for getting your hopes up. The people behind it say you can burn off 600 calories by doing a pilates-style workout for 45 minutes, while drumming on the ground with specially-weighted, neon green sticks. If you think it is possible to do this and maintain your dignity, you probably need to look at some POUND videos on YouTube. The Americans are going mad for this workout right now. No surprise there. When did they ever care about looking foolish in public?

That said, you must give POUND a try. Why? Because self-esteem is a zero sum game. If a friend or relations feels bad about themselves, then your situation has improved without doing a thing. Telling someone you are all over a fad that's hot in America will make them feel terrible about themselves. (Particularly since they thought they were cool for taking up Zumba.) Look at you there, self-improving like a boss.

First up, you need the drumsticks. You might as well buy the official ones, known as Ripstix. If you think these are very cheap because the founders of POUND are only interested in your health, we will probably never stop laughing at you. Let's just say you won't find them in a pound shop. Once you have the sticks, look out for POUND sessions here in Ireland or else buy the DVDs and do it at home.

The final thing to work on is your Eejit Drummer Face. Here is our 2-Step Guide. 1: Empty your mind completely. 2: Smile. 3: That's it. Now you look like a proper drummer.


No, Crossfit is not the name given to a muscle-man with a short fuse because of all the steroids. (We've all met a few of them.) Crossfit is in fact a rigorous type of bootcamp exercise regime that involves lots of jumping around, weights and lifting yourself up on bars. It's popular with celebs like Cameron Diaz and Jessica Biel.

A large corner of the internet is now given over to Crossfit and its off-shoots. It's the opposite of Fight Club. The first rule of Crossfit is you must always talk about Crossfit.

There are already a good few Crossfit gyms across the country. They're tougher than your standard gym. You know. those the ones where 70 pc of the 'fitness freaks' turn up at 6:30 pm for a gentle treadmill jog while they watch Home and Away. (It's a perfect show to watch with the sound down. You know the hot new teacher is hiding a shady past; Alf would like to get angry with a few idle teenagers but he's too busy organising a search party; nothing good ever happens in 'the city.')

The membership at these places is about 100 Euro a month. That's pricey. But apparently Crossfit gyms are popular with police forces, so you might make some of that back on cancelled penalty points and fines. It never hurts to ask.

You might prefer to try Crossfit at home. The key accessory here is a pull-up bar which you place across a bedroom door. (They will be familiar to anyone who has scored with a well-toned culchie.) You might have noticed on your travels that pull-up bars are freely available in public spaces in cities like Barcelona and Sydney . There are no plans to install them here. Let's face it, the only time they would get used is by people coming home from the pub. We've enough problems with A&E as it is.


Ever get the feeling your morning coffee would be better with a spoon of butter? Then this diet is for you. The guy behind it also says that training is stressful and should be kept to a minimum. See, now you're all interested.

The Bulletproof diet is hot in the States right now. It is, according to its website, an abrupt departure from what is known as The Standard American Diet. This is a good thing, given what we know about the standard American. (Particularly after we sat next to one on a plane. Or under him, to be more precise.)

A key feature of the diet is you add something called Brain Octane oil and butter to your morning coffee. The diet also involves giving up all forms of bread, cereal, pasta and sugar. So you will definitely need to leave Ireland. It also proscribes a lot of grass-fed meat and wild-caught seafood. So you might want to win the Lotto before you go.

Here's the best bit. You're not just watching what you eat when you sign up for Bulletproof. You are also becoming a biohacker. This is the good kind of hacker - not the kind who steals photos of celebs in their knickers. It's a growing trend in America, where people get together to experiment with biology. With the Bulletproof Diet, you are effectively biohacking yourself. Amateur biologists experimenting on themselves. What could possibly go wrong? One theory is that this is the start of the path towards eternal life. Others worry that you could end up with seven noses. The choice is yours.

One other thing worth noting. The diet doesn't just claim to make you thin. The science behind it also claims to make you smart. On the website, the founder claims he has improved his IQ by 20 points through bulletproof and other biohacking techniques. Maybe it will work for you. Although some might say that 20 points is a 100 pc jump for anyone who puts butter in their coffee. But there's no need to be so cynical.


As in, for ya pleasure. Yes ladies, we're talking about sex. This oil is all the rage across the Atlantic. Particularly since they tested it on a group of female volunteers in San Francisco who gave it a big Yes, Yes, Oh Jesus, Yes!

The idea is that you apply it around the genital area and wait 30 minutes before engaging in mind-blowing sex. (The 30 minute wait is one reason it's not so popular with men.) One problem. You can only get it in California. Why? Well, here's the rub, so to speak. It contains cannabis. And is therefore only available to women with a letter from their doctor recommending the use of medical marijuana. (There really is no telling what the Americans will come up with next.)

It also contains coconut oil. We're not sure if you can get the same affect using a joint and a Bounty Bar. We'll get back to you on that one.

Obviously you are not reading any more, because you are already Googling "where can I get foria oil in south Tipperary." Sorry, but it looks like you genuinely can only get the oil in California. It makes you wonder what was the point of inventing the internet if you can't get your hands on dodgy sex aids from half way round the world.

Reviewers of the product have made two points. One is that they didn't actually get high, but their vagina did. We're not sure what they mean by that. But we are stuck with the image of giggling lady-bits. It's difficult to shift. Says you.

The other point is the price. $88 per bottle. Sorry, if that's an anti-climax. You might have to make do with Ireland's current favourite sex aid. In fairness, there's great value in a €6.99 bottle of wine.


You know what your problem is? You don't have a machine to tell you what to do. Don't worry, the nerds have you covered. They are designing a range of gadgets to boss you around in every aspect of your life. (And not just so the wife can have a week off.)

People who aren't very good at making up names have christened this new phenomenon Coercive Tech. Maybe they should have called it Mildly Annoying Gadgets. Because it turns out our dystopian future is not like something out of a movie called When Good Robots Go Bad. (An army of cheeky robots are struck by lightning and turn out to be a right shower of bastards.) No, the future is actually getting a small electric shock from a wristwatch because you skipped the gym. That is what's on offer from the makers of the Pavlok fitness band. You'd wonder if they have nothing better to do with their time.

Another device - Darma - will nag you if you slouch at your desk all day. There is apparently no truth to the rumour that they have 15,000 advance orders from our civil service. Still, someone should probably look into that. Darma will also monitor your heartbeat and warn you when your stress levels are dangerously high. Think about that one for a minute. You are stuck in a traffic jam, dying for the jacks because you had a kale and ginger smoothie, when the car in front of you breaks down. Suddenly, an app on your phone says "Your stress levels are dangerously high" in a voice that sounds a lot like Kirstie Allsopp. There's the future. Loads of us in cars roaring "tell me something I don't fucking know, Kirstie."


Say hello to Garcinia Cambogia. No, it's not a woman involved in one of Silvio Berlusconi's bunga-bunga parties. Although we can see why you might think that. It is in fact a tropical fruit grown in Indonesia which might help you to lose weight. There is a real buzz around it right now. Although not the buzz people usually associate with diet pills. (Where you lost two stone because you went raving eight nights on the trot.)

It is rumoured to be popular with celebs like Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian. And who wouldn't want to be like them? It's not so popular with some scientific buzz-wreckers. They reckon there is no basis for the weight loss claims and there are certain side effects. For example, one report found that high doses caused testicular shrinkage in mice. This could be enough to deter a lot of men. On the other hand it could encourage anyone who suspects they have heavy balls. You never know with men.

Tea is a very trendy fat burner these days. Plain old Barry's or Lyons still works for a lot of Irish people. You'd be amazed the amount of weight you lose when you sit down for a chin-wag. Chi Ya tea is a global sensation right now. We're not sure of its weight loss credentials. But given that it's quoted at one Euro a tea bag on the internet, we're pretty sure it will lighten your wallet.

Another option is pu-erh tea. Rumour has it that Victoria Beckham likes this. We hear it tastes like poo. So maybe that's why we never see her smiling.

Of course you could always just go for good old green tea. You'll often see people order a pot of it in a Chinese restaurant after polishing off an 8000 calorie meal. It's fair to say that particular green tea has its work cut out.

Sunday Independent

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