For many of us, especially those in the wine trade, January is a contemplative month of metaphorical and hopefully physical belt-tightening. The hefty outlay of Christmas shopping comes home to roost and the bathroom scales provide testament to days of festive indulgence. It is a time to take stock and put ones house in order but it need not be a case of penance and doom and gloom. Once you've jettisoned the Christmas cards and made the walk of shame to the bottle bank there is nothing more uplifting than hanging up a brand new calendar and planning some excursions for the year ahead. Whether it's a long weekend skiing in Saint-Moritz or bog-snorkelling in Bodmin there is much fun to be had in weighing up the pros, cons and, of course, costs of different options and getting something to look forward to set in the diary.
Then, of course, we have the unholy trinity of diet, exercise and (even worse) abstinence to contemplate. Here too it is essential to maintain a positive mind set. I always find it a tad depressing how gym attendance spikes and the swimming lanes become packed at this time of year only for good intentions to wain in a few weeks' time. Running, walking, cycling and (I'm 'on-trend' here) 'wild swimming' are all free once you've invested in the requisite kit and an hour or two spent in the great outdoors breathing fresh air beats the hell out of thrashing it out on a treadmill. You'll feel virtuous, sleep soundly and soon start to regain any lost muscle tone.
I'm not an advocate of calorie counting or self-denial generally but rustling up some healthy, warming winter dishes can be good fun and you don't have to don a hair shirt to do it. Current scientific thinking advocates serving foods that leave you feeling 'fuller for longer' and soups, which literally drip-feed into your metabolism, are high on the list. 'Super foods', like kale and beetroot, are de rigeur with nutritionists at the moment so a big bowl of borscht can bring colour and virtue in equal measure. Sure, it is probably best to lay off the mince pies, cheese and chocolate for a while but you've had a bellyful of those anyway so let's ring the changes.
While I can enjoy exercise and healthy eating to a degree I do find eschewing the demon drink difficult but I can proffer a few tips that may be helpful:
- Don't attempt the impossible and then throw in the towel because you have failed. Pace yourself day by day and everything becomes more manageable.
- Reward your own good behaviour. Wine writers Fiona Beckett and Jonathan Ray both advocate drinking less but trading up. If you don't drink during the week you can then treat yourself to a really aspirational bottle or half-bottle at the weekend.
- Opt for wines that are lower in alcohol. This may seem like a 'no-brainer' but it is all too often ignored. Light, racy Chenins, Sauvignons and Riesling and toothsome Gamays and Cabernet Francs often weigh in at just 12° alcohol by volume, or less, so seek them out.
- Be aware of your personal 'triggers'. After a hard day at the rock-face I only need to hear the Archers theme tune and I'm grappling for a corkscrew like one of Pavlov's dogs with a can-opener. The trick here is to distract yourself with a new activity whether it's those guitar lessons you always meant to take or a correspondence course in Mandarin think new and exciting rather than same old same old.
So there you have it. A new year – a new you. It is all about accentuating the positive, looking ahead and not behind and celebrating your successes. There are only another 353 shopping days until next Christmas – so what are you waiting for?