It is detox and diet season once more – a month of people snapping at family and friends because they are only allowed juice (detoxing after too much festive wine), people nodding off in the office because they are on the celery-only diet (a result of too many Quality Streets) and those awkward envious gazes from those banned from eating carbs while you tuck into a jolly nice sandwich. None of that for me, thank you very much.
Seeing as it is already January it is far too late to warn people against over-consumption of things wrapped in shiny plastic wrappers and filled with orange cream, or slathering everything in brandy butter, but perhaps it is possible to still urge people to adopt a better attitude towards food for the entire year rather than concentrating on diets and detox for just one miserable little month.
It seems to be a concern for those working at the NHS too. They have weighed in on the post-Christmas explosion of dieting and detoxing and have put together their own twelve-week plan with help from the British Dietetic Association. It is less of a ‘diet’ and more of a healthy eating plan based on slightly reduced calorie intake and a sensible exercise regime.
It aims to promote safe and sustainable weight loss, which seems infinitely more sensible to me than a fad diet that promises miraculous results in no time at all.
No to 5:2 diets
I had a read of the NHS site as they had a lot of information on dieting including a section on that recent favourite – the 5:2 diet or intermittent fasting (so you eat normally for five days and then have a massively reduced calorie intake for the other two – just 500 per day for women).
Following the BBC’s Horizon documentary looking at the benefits of fasting, this method of weight loss has become more mainstream, with the book The Fast Diet becoming a bestseller. It is so mainstream that even the Daily Mail has launched its own version, though it surprisingly didn’t feature any images of celebrities in bikinis.
From what I can see after a brief browse of the internet, though, there is currently not a huge amount of research into just how safe this is long term. Initial results seem to show great results including weight loss and increased lifespan but on those two days with hardly any calories you will likely be very irritable, tired and may have problems sleeping. I don’t want to be grumpy for two days every week and I am tired enough as is. I want to be able to enjoy my food and stay healthy, which surely shouldn’t be impossible.
As my Pilates instructor told me, ‘Athletes don’t diet and exercise, they eat and train.’ It is about finding a good long-term balance rather than short-term extremes. There is no denying that January is a good time to make a start on new routines but perhaps rather than forsaking bread look at your eating habits a little closer and make adjustments that you can keep up all year – reducing refined sugar intake, cutting back a little on alcohol and generally following a healthier diet with more fresh produce and fewer processed foods.
I’m not a doctor or a dietician and I didn’t particularly enjoy biology at school as a result of a very squeamish disposition. I can’t, therefore, claim that any of what I have just written is scientific fact. To me, though, it feels like common sense and I’m sure we’d all much rather feel happy rather than miserable and ravenous. So, no extreme diets, please, but rather healthy eating and everything in moderation for the whole year.