January detox?

Back to rain- and windswept Britain this week, and the annual post-Christmas purge. Just when the days are at their darkest and the cold at its most intense, people make their new year resolutions and put themselves on detox diets.
There’s a big element of self-punishment involved; if you binge, you must starve yourself later. It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t help you lose weight. Nor does joining the gym or the salsa class, though you might have more fun with that, at least. And when you’re feeling the cold, it’s a normal physiological response to eat more foods that are rich in carbohydrates and fats. You need to keep the internal fires stoked; and in the days before central heating and imported foods, the ability to store fat to see you through the lean months before the next harvest could well have meant the difference between life and death.
What you see in places like Sri Lanka, where a high proportion of people are directly involved in agriculture, is that being ‘well-covered’, or downright fat, is seen as a good thing, a sign that you can afford to eat well. Ever since we invented farming and settled in one place, humans have valued this quality, and have selected for it. It’s only in post-agricultural places that being thin is what everyone is supposed to aim for, and it goes against generations of tradition.
So it’s no surprise that for a lot of people, losing weight is really hard, and makes them miserable. We do have an obesity epidemic in the west, borne of overabundance and fast food, and it is already beginning to cost us dear. But we also need to bring compassion and understanding to the business of dieting and detox. It’s not really about weight control, it’s about living well, on all levels. Not many of us can truly manage that.