If you’ve just got back from a gap year trekking in the Andes, you could have lost track of time a bit, and not have been aware that the new year had started. Never fear. The tabloids are here to alert you to this state of affairs. This year, as in the past eons, they’ve taken the opportunity to make you feel guilty.

Some charlatan self help guru will exhort you to give up smoking, something you may have done so often in the past that you’ve lost count. But the real clincher is the plethora of diet plans covering acres of newsprint and creating a significant burden on the earth’s tree stock. What they all say is, ‘You were very naughty over Christmas and new year. It’s time to cease worshipping at the altar of Mammon, and shape up before you ship out!’ You may be told how to lose four dress sizes in only two weeks, which is not much use to me, or how to give yourself abs to be proud of, something I’m also not too fussed about

Some of the diet plans are of such dismaying asceticism they make the life of a hermit look like an all-nighter with the Hellfire Club. One hot favourite at the moment, being touted by the Daily Mail, is the 5/2 diet. As far as I can tell, because I’m not interested enough to find out, this allows you to act like your regular porkie self for five days a week, and drastically cut back for two days. According to the Mail, this is ‘The diet that really works.’ I assume from this that the other diets they’ve banged on about were completely ineffective. Quite an admission, eh?

The ones that really annoy me are the ‘celebrity diets.’ Why anybody would take any notice of some pampered celeb rather than a qualified dietician is beyond my ken. They also require you to scour the planet for obscure ingredients, so the cargo flights rack up some air miles, and hence your faddishness kills polar bears. Just kidding. You may want to keep in mind also that some of the weirder ‘superfoods’ come from countries where life expectancy is measured in seconds, so maybe there’s not much scientific rigour being applied here.

Probably the most irritating pseudodietiican in the known universe is the mildly unhinged Gwyneth Paltrow. This is unfortunate, since I have a very great admiration for her as an actress. As an aside last year she was rattling on about tantric sex, and following in Sting’s footsteps may harm your reputation a bit, and to be frank it didn’t do a lot for her marriage to Mr Martin, who occasionally smiles now. Ms Paltrow has been widely publicising her detox diet. There are two aspects to this. Firstly, this macrobiotic vegan guide to eating is of such intolerable dullness it would make you want to dash out to McDonald’s. I am not eating weeds, that’s the end of it. I don’t like kale either. There’s a good reason it used to be reserved for animal feed. There’s probably a good reason why her website is called Goop. I think it’s because of what you need to eat.

Secondly, the whole idea of a detox diet is complete nonsense. You, if you are in reasonable health, have some very very effective systems for the job of keeping your body free of toxins. Your liver and kidneys do that for a living, your lungs make a small contribution, the lymphatics keep a lid on things too.

Yes, if you really caned things over the holdays, laying off the alcohol (another perennial) and caffeine won’t do any harm. But don’t feel guilty enough to fall for the detox hokum. Life expectancy in the UK has increased by some 12 to 15 years since the 1950s. We must be getting something right.

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