Thursday 18th April 2024

January is a bad month to become a healthier you – here’s why

It’s January again, the month of food angst, apathy, and opportunism. We’re carrying more weight than we’d like. Dark days and seasonal illness make us sluggish.

Dreaded tax returns and bills beckon. And this miscellany of midwinter delights is underpinned by an all too familiar new year reality: January is a very long month, and we’re skint.

Nevertheless we’re encouraged to carry on consuming. The difference now is that it’s not gifts nobody really needs that we’re being manipulated into buying. Instead it’s time to invest in becoming a “new you”.

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Like ambulance chasing lawyers, the “wellbeing industry” scents profit in our seasonal frailty.

So we should join a gym, sign up for yoga classes, lash out on scarily expensive running shoes that this time won’t knacker our knees, cruise supermarket ‘wellness’ aisles, buy the latest weight loss book, stock up on far-freighted berries and avocado.

Or better still, radically alter our diet so that instantly a huge chunk of our former routine food shopping list becomes redundant and needs replaced with a series of novel, allegedly health-improving products.

Like ambulance chasing lawyers, the “wellbeing industry” scents profit in our seasonal frailty.

January is one of the worst times for seasonal vegetables and fruit.

But you know what? If I’m going to become a healthier me it’s not going to happen in January. Why? For starters, January is one of the worst times for seasonal vegetables and fruit. UK production is limited, European imports as yet thin and paltry. And the weather is still dark and energy sapping, which means that the emotional lure of everything that’s stodgy, comforting, and no effort to make, is intense.

So if you really want to improve your diet, hang on until April; from then on, the greengrocer’s range starts getting the gastric juices flowing.

January for me is a month for retrenchment, to be got through by lying low and avoiding spending money. But that doesn’t mean utter passivity. One obvious creative challenge for the month ahead is artfully using up all the food in the store cupboard and freezer.

Unless you’re one of those bare-larder grazers who lurches from one ready meal to another, odds on, like everyone who is better at buying food than cooking it, you’re sitting on a small fortune of unused edibles.

Cracking into it stimulates your ingenuity and resourcefulness with food and will palpably improve your January financial forecast.

Dipping into old cookbooks can be surprisingly revelatory.

Most households have a recipe book or two lying around reminding us of the theoretical possibility of preparing our own food, as opposed to relying on poor value-for-money convenience stuff, but these volumes have a habit of becoming invisible.

Dipping into old cookbooks can be surprisingly revelatory, reminding you of a few old favourite and quite doable recipes. Before you buy a new food book this month, look at what you’ve already got.

Exercise? I can think of one that it’s never too early to start: don’t trail round the supermarket passively sucking up whatever is being marketed to you.

Instead, map out your positive, alternative shopping route, favouring small shops, markets, and every progressive outlet in your area that’s beavering away to build a saner, healthier food system.

With these simple, free actions you can step into February with a spring in your step.



Joanna Blythman

Joanna Blythman is an award-winning investigative journalist, the author of seven landmark books on food issues, and one of the most authoritative, influential commentators on the British food chain. A great believer in basing your diet on whole, unprocessed food that you cook yourself, Joanna is a passionate supporter of independent shops, markets and similar non-supermarket outlets. Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018.

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