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Back to Work : New Year Brings Visions of Uplifting Our Lives


The party's over.

Here it is, the day after New Year's, the official end of the holiday season. Those who had the holidays off are back in their places with long, solemn faces.

Suddenly, the boss is demanding that we actually work again--and we no longer have the excuse that our clients and various contacts are on vacation.

For that matter, all of those convenient December excuses have skulked into hibernation for the next 11 months. We can't say that we need to go to the mall when we should be going to the gym. We can't chow down on fudge and pumpkin pie in the name of Father Christmas. We can't procrastinate family troubles until after Hanukkah.

Yet, we must admit, we sort of like this renaissance month. We're fed up with overeating, tired of shopping, bored with "looking busy" at the job, and ready to address our problems rather than our greeting cards.

January is the contradictory month: anticlimactic and rejuvenating.

It is a month of hope, optimism and determination--those persevering qualities that often fade in the waning days of the old year.

And with it comes a unified energy to iron out those bothersome wrinkles in our lives. January makes us feel as if the world is at our feet, that this will be the year we do all those things left undone.

The month is paved with good intentions--and with gold for the Orange County enterprises that benefit from its burst of productivity.

Of course, any enterprise related to physical appearance can expect a flood of malcontents. Although we like to envision ourselves as much too deep to obsess on that which is only skin-deep, we also like for other people to envision us as physically fit and attractive.

Anyone who has muscled into a full-bodied aerobics class during January knows that health clubs hit the new year running.

"January is always our most successful month," said Kevin Steele, director of member resources for Holiday Spas, a chain that has six clubs in Orange County.

"The first of the year marks the time when everyone is motivated to get into an exercise routine or to rekindle the old motivation they once had," he said. "They come in and say, 'I've been bad this last year--this is the year I'm really going to turn my life around.' "

Waist-watchers also flock to Weight Watchers. "In January, we have about 100% more membership renewals and new memberships than in other months of the year," said Orla Lohmeier, advertising manager for Weight Watchers of Orange County, which has 35,000 members.

Those people who want a new look pronto , head for their hair stylists. "They don't want to wait until they've lost weight--they want to see something dramatic right then and there," said Neil Letham, artistic director of Jose Eber salon in South Coast Plaza.

"It's instant gratification--they can change their appearance in one day by getting their hair cut and color changed," he said.

What better place for instant gratification than a plastic surgeon's office (that is, after the bruising heals)? Smaller thighs and noses are only a few thousand dollars away.

"We usually have more patients in January than in other months," said Leonard Prutsok, an Orange plastic surgeon. "The new year tends to bring a heightened energy cycle that inspires people to come in.

"The common story we hear is that they've thought about it and thought about, and this is the year they're going to do it," Prutsok said. "If they haven't thought about (plastic surgery) for a long time, then they should reconsider. It's not something that should be undertaken on an impulse."

More people go under the drill for cosmetic dental work during January than in other months, said Newport Beach dentist Paul M. Johnson. "January is all booked up," he said. "It's like anything: 'Now it's time to clean out that closet and to get my teeth fixed.' "

And because beauty is indeed skin deep, another year down the hatch stirs people to join the noble cause of saving their hides.

"January is a good month for selling series of facials," said Sharon Orr, manager of Aida Grey skin care salon in South Coast Plaza. "At the beginning of the year, people are ready to commit themselves to a program."

New Year's resolutions, not surprisingly, breathe fire into programs designed to kick the nicotine habit. "We had a tremendous influx (of clients) last January," medical director Grant Dawson said of the stop-smoking program at Metro-Med Family Medical Center in Fountain Valley.

"A lot of people tell us that they tried to quit on their own the previous January; they've waited a whole year and this year they don't want to fail," Dawson added. "The good thing about quitting in January is that people are more likely to get moral support from their peers, because everybody is trying to improve themselves in some way."

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