Duff Said: A life of extremes

Rather than swapping excess for monk-like abstinence, find more sensible ways to achieve balance, suggests Phil Duff

What a time to be alive. There is now such a thing as Beer Yoga, which is to say yoga conducted while drinking beer. Indeed, to continue the theme, in California (of course), group yoga sessions have apparently been even more chilled out than normal with the addition of a group partaking of marijuana. Now, I don’t know if Gin Spinning or Bourbon Bodypump will be the fitness trends of 2018, but health and wellness, mental and physical, is a huge trend, and there’s an elephant in the room. That elephant is our love of hedonism, and how we see-saw from overindulgence to over-atonement.

I was once invited to a flavour company’s trend research presentation to a major liquor firm. In this particular presentation, the company had spotted long-term positive shifts in thinking about health and its importance among young people. I was the youngest person in that room (it was quite a while ago) and agreed with the finding, adding that, in my experience, while health had certainly become more important, everyone I knew was still getting drunk and overeating as often as before. They were just working off their hangovers with green juice smoothies and vinyasa yoga instead of a fry-up and a morning pint. My valuable input did not receive the respect it deserved at the time – I wasn’t invited to any more of that company’s presentations – but I still think it’s valid. We evolved with a simple animal brain that divides everything into yes/no, or stop/go, or good/bad. Thankfully we evolved a second, more advanced brain later on, but the unfortunate thing is that our animal brain is in the driving seat by default. Our animal brain thinks you can balance overindulgence (bad) with excessive exercise and kale (good). So, when we’ve been hitting the party circuit hard, we now start pushing the wellness button equally vigorously. Hence the rise of Dry January (and its offspring, Sober October, and let’s not even talk about Veganuary). Hardcore week-long juice cleanses. Exercise classes that would test a Royal Marine. We are, on some level, trying to “earn our booze” (another T-shirt slogan) and we’re doing it the wrong way, because after you’ve pushed yourself so hard in an attempt to work off a night (or a week or a month) of indulgence, you have no willpower left over to resist celebrating with a bit of a binge. And so the cycle continues.

So instead of cutting out alcohol for a month next January, commit to having no more than two alcoholic drinks every day. Go to the gym (yes, that boring old gym which costs $60 a month instead of $35 per class) two or three times a week, but do it every week, not just for the first few weeks of the year. Say no to sugary things unless it’s the weekend. Skip most carbs. Be temperate. You’ll always want another drink or another bite, but even if you have them, you’d still want one more after that, so why not stop now? You’ll feel better about having more self-control, and – whisper it – that feeling makes your drinks taste better. Pass it on.