Chitra Ramaswamy: Detox your life with a 16-month-old

The new year brings an onslaught of detox plans, celebrity diets and gym membership offers. Picture: PA

The new year brings an onslaught of detox plans, celebrity diets and gym membership offers. Picture: PA

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Congratulations! You’ve made it to 2015! You’ve pulled off Christmas, seen in the new year, survived a massive hangover and tutted at the dead-eyed consumerism that the January sales seems to bring out in all of us. Now here you are, blinking into the wan winter sun, knackered, a little porkier than you were a month ago and dreading going back to work.

And now what do you find yourself fending off? No, not a year’s supply of free doughnuts but an onslaught of detox plans, celebrity diets, gym membership offers, fitness regimes, recipes featuring kale and general fat-shaming that appears to go hand in hand with the birth of another year.

No-one is immune to the mysterious powers of this manipulative industry that goes by the name of detox but is ironically enormously toxic to our sense of self. Most of the advice is unwanted, conflicting and meted out by people referred to either by themselves or a media bent on making us punish ourselves as “diet gurus”. But who turn out to be people. On a diet. That probably won’t work. One “guru” known as the Grit Doctor orders us to “cut the crap” and change our lifestyles. We are told the 5:2 will make us healthy, then that it is extremely dangerous.

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Then there are the celebrities, weighing in with the fantasy that we are but a lettuce leaf away from looking like Angelina Jolie. If we only followed her “ancient grains” diet, we too would be able to reveal the magnificent bone structure lurking beneath all those jowls. And look! There’s Beyoncé promoting Master Cleansing! Gwyneth Paltrow infusing a smoothie with a shot of sadness! Our bodies refuse to buy any of it. They continue to be as soft, pasty, wibbly and furry as polar bears, and to crave butter, cheese, pasta, pastry, curry, pizza, chocolate …

I’ve never been one for dieting. I love food – and myself – too much. But this year, for the first time, the detox myth cannot touch me. No matter how many women in magazines I see laughing over a plate of salad leaves, I will feel no shame. That is because I have embarked on the most hardcore diet of them all. It’s called full-time parenting.

The day begins with what could be called a Body Pump class, but is in fact Getting The Baby Changed, Dressed, and Fed to a soundtrack of Thomas The Tank Engine as opposed to motivational techno. Then I move on to a short but eye-watering weights exercise: wrestling a 16-month-old baby, buggy, nappy bag and dog down my communal stair, which is also known as the The Least Baby-Friendly Stair in Edinburgh. Seriously, it’s as infamous as that toilet in Trainspotting. It is extremely old, narrow and spirally. The steps go straight up from the street (no space for buggy storage) and each one is the height of the Great Wall of China. Hitchcock would have loved to shoot a thriller here. Mothers look up it and their eyes well in sympathy.

Having made it outside, the actual day can begin. I walk the dog for an hour then go back up the stairs with my small, irrepressible crew of portable people and animals. I drop off the dog, then it’s back out again. The rest of the day is made up of bending, lifting, coaxing, buggy pushing, cooking, cleaning and failing to sit down. I wriggle under sofas looking for balls and lift armchairs above my head in search of errant cars. I pick the baby up. He asks to be put down. I put him down and, well, you can see where this is going. Hours pass, fuelled only by toast and the baby’s heart-stopping cuteness that makes me forget my muscles are twitching as though in the final throes of life.

So there you have it. I suppose in a way the Grit Doctor is right. Having a baby has cut the crap from my life. I have never been stronger, fitter or more exhausted. I have never been less in need of a fad diet. My life is one long, unrelenting, fitness regime, punctuated by a vast amount of carbs, eaten standing up, whenever I get the chance. If you’re looking for the most insane, outlandish and guaranteed-to-work detox on the market, then have a baby. Or borrow one. Or get a puppy. Or change your attitude to what fitness can be. Then move into my building and negotiate my stairs four times a day. And you know what? Transferring the focus from your own body to something else can be healthy too. A win-win result, as the “gurus” would say.

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