t’s your final chance to see me in this shoddy state: there are going to be some changes. A sleeker, brighter, better, post-pandemic me is coming out of lockdown. Yes, “data not dates”, our prime minister did warn us, but regardless, the date I’m focusing on is 12 April, the earliest outdoor dining can begin again – and the data I see whenever I step near the scales can be extrapolated thus: “Reduce refined carbohydrate now. No more comté and Heinz sandwich spread toasties with a Frazzle garnish in bed. The new world is beginning.”
This will, I fear, feature the need to wear button-up pants and to have fewer boobs on my back than on my front. If the sharp increase in forlorn, beginner-level joggers and power-walkers down at my local park is any indication, I’m not alone in this panic. One of my closest friends, also in his 40s, embarked on a strict Atkins plan as soon as the road map dates were unveiled. Or, more accurately, as soon as he realised that even his smart, lace-up shoes no longer fitted. “How … how have I gained weight on my toes?!”
Some of us are intensely relaxed about the extra Covid kilos; indeed, they’ve embraced their jiggle, wobble and wattle with aplomb. By God, I wish I were one of them. Body positivity, I have argued before in this newspaper, is almost always a Generation Z and millennial notion. Then there are people such as myself, Generation X, who find photos of 55-year-old Liz Hurley in a size-6 bikini deeply triggering. We knew the calorific value of a Ryvita and a tablespoon of cottage cheese by the age of 12, and have a slightly-too-snug formal outfit hanging eternally on our bedroom door with a deadline to drop five kilos via restriction and star jumps.
And now the day of reckoning is on the horizon, for folk such as myself and my friend, who is currently able to wear only carpet slippers. We may have spent the past 12 months swapping WhatsApp messages on finish-at-home dauphinoise potato kits and the morality of drinking iced vermouth for breakfast, but now, after blaming the government, the weather and our hormones for our weight gain, we have moved on to that stage we all go through two weeks into a health kick: discussing how brilliant clean, restricted eating can actually be. A large, filling, protein-rich omelette is just as lovely, we agreed, without yummy, thickly buttered bloomer toast. And although a warm, fresh croissant filled with sweet, squidgy almond paste and gently festooned in icing sugar is the perfect mid-morning pick-me-up, it was only making us sluggish.
We don’t want that because, in the new world, we must be at the top of our game. Too much time has been lost: new world inhabitants must be bright, alert and ready for anything. This is why intermittent fasting and conquering blood sugar spikes is so important. And did I mention smaller knickers?
At the end of last week, carb-starved, dizzy and finding changing the duvet cover an ongoing war of attrition, it struck me that, as the world begins to open, I have been building myself a new prison. The mere challenge of emerging from lockdown like a beautiful butterfly, rather than a clomping Very Hungry Caterpillar, is only one of the many transformations and challenges I’ve set for myself. New me, I vowed, would not only carry on walking or running at least five miles daily, she would stay abundantly, vigilantly hydrated and spend early mornings manifesting growth and whispering personal affirmations. (The millions of users on the new-ish social media platform Clubhouse are obsessed with this.)
New world me will pre-plan all her time off for the coming year with rewarding staycations and catch-up dinners with friends on great tables in the loveliest restaurants. New world me will drink vodka shots on the Trans-Siberian railway, play topless ping-pong in Antigua and squeeze every inch out of life, because, after all, life is for living. The new world sounds exhausting. I miss nights in with pasta already.