Brick by Brick: My toxic new year

Stephanie Brickman made the hop across the North Sea from Scotland to live in Denmark with her distinctly un-Danish family. This 40-something mother, wife and superstar is delighted to share her learning curve, rich as it is with laughs, blunders and expert witnesses.

I’ll never forget the first time I embarked on a detox diet.

Pringles to the rescue
It was this time of year; predictably the season of mellow fruitfulness had been swiftly followed by the season of mince pies and lager, and by the time I got to the season of hangovers and overdrafts, I was feeling totally toxic.

On impulse, as usual, I bought a juicer and embarked on a total detox consisting of water and freshly-juiced broccoli and stuff. By day two I was nauseous, dizzy and on the phone to my friend Jess pleading with her to help me retox. I can’t tell you the relief when she scored me a tube of Pringles and a can of diet coke from the corner shop.

Hard to resist
I won’t be attempting such a draconian detox again, but this time of year makes something in me twitch – the part of me that loves newspaper health features and self-help books. To self-improvement junkies like me, New Year, birthdays and even just Mondays are like seats on a chair lift – it’s an opportunity to hop on and we just can’t resist.

So this year my resolution is to relax more. I could become one of those totally zen people with unlined faces who space out when their phones ping that it’s time for mindfulness. Yes, and my house would be really tidy because inner-calm would triumph over outer-chaos, and I’d even be thin due to extra mindful eating of macrobiotic sprouts.

Delightful though this delusion is, at the back of my mind I know the resolution can only crash and burn like so many before it – no carbs after 5pm, self-hypnosis and a really unpleasant episode with cabbage soup to name but a few.

Framing things positively
So why do New Year resolutions have such a terrible success rate? I turn to Hanne Lund, a therapist and expert on stress and anxiety.

“One of the things I teach is how to frame things positively,” explains Hanne who runs the Frederiksberg alongside other associates – notably her doctor husband Jørgen.

“When you see things from the perspective of loving and respecting yourself, it becomes natural to do things to nurture your mind and body. Women, especially, have a tendency to do so much for others that they never allow themselves to be a priority, but they don’t do anyone any favours that way. Putting yourself first and learning to say no is not being selfish – it’s just like putting your own oxygen mask on first in a plane.”

“So the cabbage soup diet was a bad idea because I was actually punishing not nurturing myself,” I ask.

“Yes and because I expect it tasted horrible,” says Hanne sagely.

Vous êtes mince et belle!
I treat myself to a relaxation CD. I get a deluxe one in French because I get too uptight about accents and the choice of words in English: “tense the buttocks and release” with a slight touch of Essex is too much for me. 

But the deep-voiced Frenchman telling me to become conscious of various parts of my body – well let’s just call that oxygen.