We’re nearly a fortnight into the New Year ~ so how are the resolutions going? The top three this year being: to eat more healthily – exercise more and spend less money…. Also included on the hit-list: get more sleep – learn a new skill – make new friends and improve appearance…. So, whether it’s one of the above or perhaps to quit smoking, cut down on the booze/chocolate or just become more organised – the general aim is to improve lifestyle….
A poll by BUPA asked 2,000 people if they were confident that they would stick to their 2018 goal – half answered ‘yes’…. A previous 2015 BUPA poll revealed 43% of Brits failed in the first month…. A 2007 study found 88% of those who took the ‘New Year Oath’ eventually dropped off the wagon….
Experts advise us, to have the best chance of success make only one resolution and then break it down into smaller, more manageable goals. Another tip : plan in advance – don’t make rash decisions to metamorphosis into a ‘super-being’ on New Year’s Eve….especially after half a bottle of the bubbly stuff….
New Year’s resolutions are made the World over but are most common in Western Society. For Christians January the 1st became a day to reflect on past mistakes and resolve to become a better person in the future; this has since evolved into us trying to better our lifestyles – whether it’s health wise, our spiritual well-being or financial status….
It appears people have been making New Year’s resolutions in one form or another for some 4,000 years…. The Ancient Babylonians are believed to have been the first; they are also, incidentally, the first recorded to have celebrated New Year….only their New Year fell in mid-March – with the planting of new crops…. A twelve day ceremony – known as ‘Akitu’ – was held, during which barley would have been sown for the coming year…. The ceremony played an important part in laying down the foundations of religions to come – both ritual and mythical…. Akitu celebrated the renewal of life; it was the time a new king was crowned or loyalties renewed to an old one…. Any debts owed were repaid and any borrowed items returned to their rightful owners – all in an effort to appease the gods….
The Babylonians dominated Mesopotamia (the part of Western Asia where Iraq, Kuwait, Eastern Syria and South Eastern Turkey now lie) from the beginning of written history (circa 3100 BC) right up to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC. In 332 BC it was taken by Alexander the Great and became part of the Greek Empire….
The Ancient Egyptians held their own rituals; their New Year beginning in July – at the time when the River Nile would flood its plains – bringing fertility to the land…. The people would make sacrifices to Hapi – god of the Nile; in return asking for good fortune, a fruitful harvest and military success….
The Romans originally only had ten months in their calendar; starting in March with the Spring Equinox. Around 700 BC two more months were added and in 46 BC Julius Caesar re-established the calendar making January the official beginning of the year – thus giving us the Julian Calendar. January was chosen as it was the time newly elected Roman Consuls began their tenure. It became fitting as a time of reflection, as the god for January was the two-faced Janus; one face looking back into the year gone by – the other looking ahead to the future…. Sacrifices were made to the god and promises made to behave in a better manner….
Now, we all know what the Romans were like….with their lavish feasts to show off their wealth…. It’s probably doubtful that healthy eating was ever on their agenda…. The Greeks, however, frowned upon gluttony…. They believed it to be their moral duty to maintain a healthy society and understood the need to have a plain but varied diet, whilst at the same time taking moderate exercise in order to sustain an acceptable weight…. “You should eat to live, not live to eat”…. Ancient Greek saying….
Medieval times were once again a time for the rich to flaunt their wealth…. Huge banquets, tables laden with every meat and fowl dish conceivable at the time – it’s hardly surprising that the nobility got fat….whereas, the poor, with their limited staple diet of pottage, beans and bread – combined with their lifestyle of hard manual labour – remained skinny…. ‘Portly’ became associated with ‘wealthy’….
In 1558 Luigi Cornaro, a Venetian merchant, made the connection between healthy eating and a long life…. In his book ‘The Art of Living Long’ he recommended a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates…. He lived until he was 100 – and his book is still in print today….
By the time the 1700s had arrived, thanks to an improving infrastructure the variety of food available to the general population had vastly increased; this in turn led to lass healthy diets for the masses…. As more and more sugary and fatty foods were being consumed, doctors began to advise eating little and often; small quantities of meat, plenty of vegetables and bran….and taking moderate exercise….
Now, where have we heard that advice before? In the up-coming second part of this blog we’ll have a little look at some of the ‘fad’ diets we have been familiar with in more odern times…. In the meantime – keep up the good work with those resolutions….