Happy New Year! My main cause for happiness today is that yesterday I wandered around the shops of Hereford City and found two pairs of casual trousers in a size 14 that I could actually do up around the middle due to the fact that they had quite a lot of give in the waistband, and they came from a store known for its generous sizing.
There are probably many people for whom size 14 sounds elephantine (many years ago I wrote a book called Size 12 in 21 Days, and several people remarked, 'Who wants to be that big?') but for me at 5ft 7, 14 is enough of a boost to make me feel I can definitely get to grips with my waist circumference in the weeks ahead (2-3 inches off my middle would not go amiss) and lose that ever-present surplus 12lbs as well.
Before writing this, I checked back to what I had to say to you a year ago about the best way to lose weight. I had chatted about the ubiquitous fast (5:2) diet and its rival for media inches last New Year, a low-sugar diet. Of the two, I preferred the low-sugar as almost every expert agrees that sugar is definitely the one thing in our diets we can do without.
This year's crop of diets are poor. The main contenders seem to be yet another version of 5:2 from Michael Mosley, and yet another version of a low-sugar diet, from Davina McCall (who, strangely, says her life has changed since 'giving up sugar', but her diet plan includes hefty amounts of honey and maple syrup – both of which are processed in the body like sugar is).
Then we have The High Fat Diet by Zana Morris; a totally expected tome (by me at least) after a small glut of pro-fat nutritional research was published in the past 12 months. However the finished book looks to me a lot like the very strict phase of The Atkins Diet, but with more avocado. The Nordic or Viking diet, another high-fat idea, is getting media publicity but I don't see a book about it – so that's one for next January, no doubt.
Sadly there are yet more 'detox' diets being pushed, e.g. the Red Carpet Detox Diet and Eat, Nourish, Glow, which, while not having detox in the title is full of the word inside. I say 'sadly' because we have known for several years in nutritional science there is no such thing as detoxing via what we eat or avoid eating.
However, my vote for the worst diet book of the season definitely goes to Juice by Liz Earle.
In nutritional and dieting terms, living on juices, however freshly squeezed or extracted they may be, and however rich in vitamin C and anti-oxidants they may be, is a very, very poor choice indeed.
Every dieter, every healthy eater, every exerciser, needs good amounts of protein, some fat and some carb on a regular basis. Juice is woefully low in protein and fat, and the carbs it contains will be treated by your digestive system just like refined sugar, as all the fibrous matter has been removed from it.
Without more than a smidgen of protein or fat to temper the process, the natural sugars in the ingredients are broken down and digested super-quick, leaving you hungry again quickly and with fluctuating blood sugar levels that are not ideal for anyone, let alone those who may be diabetic and trying to lose weight.
So the best plan for you, if you need to lose some weight? (And for me...) As I say every year – more often, probably – eat healthy, varied, minimally processed food with some protein (fish, lean meat and poultry, game, dairy, eggs), some fat (olive, nut and seed oils and some fat from eggs and dairy) and some (not too much) unrefined/wholegrain carb at every meal with plenty of fresh veg/salad/herbs (and spices are great if you can take them) – and moderate amounts of fruit.
Within these recommendations there are hundreds of choices, so pick foods you enjoy and prepare meals you enjoy – eating healthily isn't supposed to be punishment. Eat smaller portions. Eat slowly. And if you need a snack between meals, have a small handful of unsalted nuts, almonds, walnuts and pistachios being three great ones that spring to mind. Drink water or tea or coffee and avoid sweet fizzy drinks, squashes and juices like the plague. Should you need to cure a sweet tooth, you could do much worse than try chromium tablets – I mentioned them last year and they really, really do seem to help me, at least, control sweet cravings.
Oh – and don't forget the exercise. I've just taken delivery of a new indoor rowing machine. I had said last year that I would put up with my old Concept rower as it was fine apart from the display having died. But I found I couldn't get my motivation up without knowing my speed, how far I'd rowed and how many calories I'd burnt so that I could record it and improve day on day. And my new rower in the sales was hardly any more expensive than getting a new display for the Concept would have been.
So now I'm just waiting for a strong man to come and remove it so I can get started with my York R700 Platinum.
If it's general healthy lifestyle advice you're after, my absolute favourite book of the season is Bitesize Ways to Change your Life by Margaret Pardoe. It's full of good sense, do-able ideas and very little rubbish of the detox/juice/Paltrow kind. Well I had to mention Gwynnie in my first blog of 2015, didn't I?