The Bluffer’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

Each year on 1 January millions of determined people across the world announce that this is the year they will finally give up smoking/lose weight/stop drinking (delete as appropriate). But the perennial nature of these promises is testament to how wobbly our unwavering willpower really is.

It’s like Michael McIntyre once said: “you can give up junk food and promise to take the stairs but somehow you’ll always end up in the lift eating choccies.”

SO HOW DO I PERSUADE PEOPLE THAT THIS YEAR I’M SERIOUS?

For starters, you need to be realistic; there’s no point saying you’re giving up smoking, drinking, beige-coloured superfast foods and all other simple pleasures — because even your local corner shop will know you’re lying to yourself and others. Instead, pick just one of the following New Year’s resolutions and stick to it:

GIVING UP SMOKING

For the diehard smoker, giving up is very difficult. The important thing is to equip yourself with all of the accoutrements of quitting (an e-cigarette being the obvious choice, and there’s even an app which tells you where your nearest stockist is). Conversely, the best accessory for quitting smoking is a complete lack of accessories (divesting yourself of all cigarettes, lighters, filters, smoking friends etc. is a good start). Whatever you do, don’t spend the month declaring that you were only ever a ‘social smoker’ and then asking to borrow a spare cig off everyone you meet. Put down that stolen cigarette and get over your smoker’s FOMO (admit it, cigarette breaks were always less fun than they looked, and it gets bloody cold standing around outside). If you feel your cravings rising then remind yourself (and others) that if you smoke 5 cigarettes a day you’ll save £56 a month and £670 a year by giving up. And if you smoke 50 a day . . . , you might be interested to learn that the cost is the equivalent of a fortnight’s holiday in a 5 star hotel in the Maldives. Twice.

Oh, and then there’s the knowledge that smoking will unquestionably kill you eventually. That’s not a bad argument for giving up.

DON’T SAY: “I’ll start tomorrow, New Year’s Day doesn’t count.”

GIVING UP DRINKING

This is a tricky one, made trickier as the month continues and you’re invited to more and more events where it would be rude not to have a drink. But after the excesses of Christmas and New Year’s (a bottle of Bolly contains 9 units and 570 calories) it might be worth sticking to the lime and sodas for a while. In fact, festive binging can even lead to Holiday Heart Syndrome. This isn’t a moment of anagnorisis in which a Scrooge-type character discovers the spirit of Christmas, this is the irregular beating of your heart coupled with shortness of breath and changes in blood pressure which can occur after multiple evenings drinking 15 or more units (that’s five large glasses of wine).

DON’T ASK: “Crabbies is non-alcoholic right?”

EATING HEALTHY

Forget ordering salad whenever you’re out to lunch (there’s always someone ready to point out that McDonald’s salads are more calorific than their burgers). Instead buy a copy of the 5:2 Diet and leave it on your kitchen counter/coffee table (whichever is more visible). The diet seems simple enough. It dictates that you factor 2 non-consecutive days of ‘fasting’ into your weekly diet — fasting in this context being 600 calories for men and 500 for women. That works out as a pint of lager and a packet of crisps or a couple of bowls of soup with a side of Ryvita. It’s only when you start counting that you realise how impractical it is to eat this few calories in a day. So rather than risk fainting, keep your social calendar varied and irregular so you can always claim to be on a 5 day when you see Vicky from Pilates without inviting suspicion.

DO ASK: “Oh, haven’t you been counting the calories from the milk in your tea? Don’t worry, I found my fasting days super difficult when I first started too.”

EXERCISING MORE

Although joining a gym might seem like the easiest way to persuade people you’re exercising more, it’s not. You should be the first to point out that the January dropout rate for gyms is about 60% (if asked about your sources, say the receptionist at the gym was emphatic about the veracity of this stat). Even if you do make it through the gym doors there’s no point setting up a direct debit just so you can stand in line for the running machine with the rest of the January-converts. Instead, wax lyrical about the benefits of walking or cycling rather than taking the tube and make a show of bounding up the stairs at work.

DO SAY: “It’s surprising how easy it is to swap public transport for walking! (When it’s not raining, that is…)”

SPENDING LESS

Rather than being a New Year’s resolution in its own right, spending less is one of the (many) advantageous side effects of giving up smoking or drinking or taking the tube. Mention how much you’re saving at every opportunity, except when at the pub. The only exception to this rule is eating healthily; a tuna steak from Waitrose will never cost you less than a chicken burger from Chicken Cottage.

DON’T ASK: “Do you mind getting these coffees? I’m at the limit of my overdraft.”