Stephen Jardine: Dry January will do wonders for waistline

SCOTS need to get back on the wagon after festive excesses, writes Stephen Jardine

SCOTS need to get back on the wagon after festive excesses, writes Stephen Jardine

They were one of the big selling gifts this Christmas but most but are probably still lurking in their gift boxes this weekend. And no wonder – with the average person consuming 6,000 calories on Christmas Day, the festive season is a tough time to receive a fitness wristband.

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It’s an even tougher time to be writing a column devoted to food and drink.

On this day, of all days, most of us are stuffed and sated. The Burns Night celebration may be just 23 days away but the mere thought of eating and drinking again is too much. On January 2nd, even a wafer-thin mint could be enough to tip us over the edge.

Instead, most of us are focussed on damage limitation. While the average weight gain over Christmas may be just a couple of pounds, all the research suggests putting it on is much easier than taking it off. So work starts now.

In theory, the last thing Scotland needs is an annual food and drink extravaganza. With around 65 per cent of us now overweight or obese, we are sitting on a ticking health timebomb. Despite years of health education, last month’s report from Food Standards Scotland showed our diet has hardly changed in the last 15 years and we’re still eating 40 per cent more calories than we actually need.

The last couple of weeks will hardly have helped but there is an argument that, in the darkest days of winter, a feast to warm the soul and boost our energy is quite excusable. It’s what happens the rest of the year that really counts.

Diets may be difficult but healthy eating has never been easier, if we have the willpower. The big food corporations don’t make it easy for us with junk available in every size and shape but there is an alternative. They may not be seasonal or local but these days salads and vegetables from around the world fill the shop shelves year round leaving little excuse for us making bad choices.

From Paleo to F -plan, there is a diet to fit everyone but the experts believe in only one weight loss plan and it’s remarkably obvious. Eat less and do more. By increasing exercise and decreasing calories, weight loss occurs thanks to simple science. It’s not very sexy but it’s true and it starts with saying no to that last mince pie lurking at the back of the cupboard.

But if small changes in diet are the key to success, drinking needs a hard reset in January.

In December we are simply bombarded with booze.

From Glühwein at the Christmas market to drinks parties and the office bash, it’s hardly surprising average UK alcohol consumption rises by 40 per cent in December.

While we do still need to eat every day, we don’t need to tuck into tequila, which is why more and more people are choosing to participate in Dry January. Organised by the charity Alcohol Concern, last year more than two million people took part. In addition to improving sleep, boosting weight loss and saving money, doctors say abstinence for even a month also reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of several life-threatening diseases.

Stopping doing anything for a month seems extreme but in Scotland we have a broken relationship with cheap booze and January offers a good focus for dealing with that. So good luck at the salad rather than the gin bar. On this day good intentions are all we have.