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Are you thinking of starting a new dietary regimen for the New Year? This is a time when so many of us are inspired to make healthy changes. However, it is easy to be tempted by diets which promise rapid weight-loss, or a ‘magic’ regimen which will solve your problems where all else has failed. These regimens are often surrounded by a lot of convincing sounding pseudoscience or recommended by people who claim to be experts in nutrition yet have limited knowledge and offer no protection to the public.

Often known as ‘fad diets’, they have been around for ever! For example, William the Conqueror went on an ‘alcohol diet’ to slim down to ride his favourite horse, and the poet Byron famously dieted on egg whites and vinegar to maintain his fashionable pale, thin look. Mainstream fad diets have been popular in modern society since the early 19th century, with the cabbage soup, blood type, Dukan, Alkaline and maple syrup diet to name just a few.

Be very suspicious of any regimen which demonises particular foods, excludes whole food groups, involves eating foods in strange combinations, suggests testing for ‘intolerances’ or ‘allergies’, mentions ‘detoxing’ or requires you to buy supplements or meal replacements.

Risks of these diets include nutritional deficiencies, dizziness, constipation, irritability, headaches, bad breath, insomnia …. and even unwanted weight gain and increased risk of heart disease – as well as increased anxiety and a bad relationship with food. They can also cost extra money that few of us have to spare in January.

Any weird and wonderful regimen is likely to leave you tired, frustrated, hungry … and then guilty as you inevitably fail to stick to it!

We all know, deep down, that there is not, and never will be, any secret to weight loss or good health. Don’t spend another January punishing yourself! Eat regularly, drink plenty of water, include plenty of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and lean sources of protein. Watch your portion sizes, think about keeping a food diary to keep track of your eating habits and accept that a realistic rate of weight-loss is 1-2lbs (0.5-1kg) a week. Find a physical activity you enjoy (and perhaps can share with friends and family) and think about easy, sustainable changes for the long-term. Food should be an enjoyable part of life!

If you need a little more guidance, The NHS has an excellent 12-week weight-loss plan developed in association with the British Dietetic Association: And, if you feel you need individual advice (and particularly if you have a medical condition that means you cannot easily follow normal healthy eating guidelines) then ask your doctor to refer you to a Registered Dietitian – you can also refer yourself. Dietitians have recognised qualifications and are regulated by the Government. They will be able to guide you through the maze of dietary information that bombards us and give you safe, unbiased, evidence-based advice.

Alex Evans

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