The Irish are definitely not a nation of hardcore health fanatics, but we aren’t completely helpless in the face of a pint or bag of greasy chips (aka fries) and we do make new year’s resolutions about our health.
First time visitors to Ireland are often alarmed by what constitutes a ‘full Irish’ breakfast. Some might even suspect that massive plate of fried egg, sausage, white and black pudding, and fried mushrooms served with lashings of tea was a plot to keep the local cardiologists busy. Indeed, much of a typical Irish weekend strikes visitors with less fortitude as downright insane.
A night out drinking pints – remember it’s the rounds system so if you go out with five friends you could easily wind up drinking six pints – dancing (or trying to avoid dancing) into the early hours, then heading to the chipper for some deep fried fish and chips followed by a few hours of sleep before indulging in that full Irish is not exactly what the doctor ordered. Then again, it is not exactly what Irish people really do regularly, aside from college students, but college students around the world indulge in lifestyles that kill most of post-college age people outright. That classic Irish night out hardly gives the full picture.
Healthy New Year the Irish Way
In reality, Irish people are as interested in health and fitness as people anywhere. Don’t be fooled by the fact that many weight loss support groups meet in pubs here; in small towns their options are limited. And we do make New Year’s resolutions. They are forgotten as quickly as they are anywhere else, but sure then it’s Lent and we’re on our healthiest behavior again swearing off drink and sweets.
This is the second year the Irish Heart Foundation has launched its ‘On the Dry’ fundraiser. Participants forgo alcohol for the month of January and seek sponsorships, much as people do for marathons run for charity. In 2015, the event inspired 4,000 people to pledge not to drink for the month of January, and this year organizers are hoping to double that number. At the end of December, they had 3,000 people signed up, and as of January 6th, their website showed more than 6,500 individuals, 80 teams and 32 workplaces registered to participate. So much for our reputation for being enthrall to the bottle. (Seriously, the drink we are totally addicted to as a nation is tea. You will never see an event encouraging people to stop drinking tea succeed here.)
Once you leave Temple Bar and look around a bit, you’ll see groups walking and biking all over Ireland. In fact, we have more than 30 marathons a year plus many fundraising walks on this wee island including the Wild Atlantic Run in March, Darkness into Light in May, the Women’s Mini Marathon in early June, the Waterford Viking Marathon in late June, the Dublin Marathon in October.
So, if you’re visiting Ireland in 2016, do as we do. Enjoy yourself on a night out, and make up for it with some healthy exercise. If you’re a runner, you can plan your vacation to coincide with a running event. Or if you really want to have fun and avoid pounding the paved streets, try a bog run. And remember, salmon and kale were staples of the Irish diet long before anyone declared them to be superfoods.