Belfast Telegraph

Don't let lifestyle gurus exploit your January blues

By Janet Street-Porter

January is traditionally the month of deep self-loathing. Big bills and big bellies inevitably lead to thoughts of new beginnings, a chance to mend our ways and start afresh.

Turn on the television, open any newspaper or magazine and you can't ignore exercise DVDs and diet books.

Davina McCall (slender mother of three) reigns supreme at the top of the bestsellers (again) and even the comical The Only Way Is Essex mob is flogging a keep-fit routine.

Ignore them. Here's how to deal with windy and grim January: eat the same food as in December.

I've enjoyed macaroni cheese, fish and chips and fruit cake, done the same amount of walking, played the same amount of tennis.

I realise I'm not typical. As our self-esteem ebbs to danger levels, a strident army of self-help gurus leap into action, making a mint out of our naive belief that buying into their philosophy will change our lives and make us achieve our full potential.

No one in our modern world is allowed to be happy nor think: "I like myself. I'm happy with my life and I couldn't give a toss about the size of my backside."

King of positivity is Paul McKenna. McKenna's latest opus, a work of supreme optimism, is a £10.99 bestseller cheekily called I Can Make You Smarter, which includes two 'free' hypnosis CDs.

McKenna has been derided for claiming to be a 'leading expert on the human mind', but let's not criticise him for that. Over the past 20 years, he says, he's helped millions of people lose weight, stop smoking, deal with agoraphobia and fear of flying.

I'm not even going to mock his two PhDs, one from a university (LaSalle) that wasn't officially accredited to dish them out and whose owner was subsequently charged with fraud.

Paul won a costly libel action against a tabloid which falsely suggested that he'd 'bought' his degree. His other PhD is from the International Management Centre in Buckingham, an establishment that admits its qualifications 'do not lead to degrees listed by the UK's Department of Education', although they are accepted in many countries.

You might wonder why, if Paul wanted a PhD, he didn't opt for a more mainstream college. Nevertheless, many find it hard not to be impressed by the patter of this dyslexic who was an academic flop as a child.

McKenna exploits our insecurity, but there's no easy 'way' to be happy, or rich or thin you can learn from a paperback or a CD.

He's not in a relationship and hasn't managed to grow his thinning hair back, so there are some things even the confident McKenna can't achieve.

We've bought these books by the lorry-load, but the country is still full of pessimistic fatties with low self-esteem.

Self-help manuals are worthless. Chuck them in the bin and enjoy what you've been dealt in life.


From Belfast Telegraph