Diet blog: A fad-free start to the year

Judith Wills / 15 January 2018

Have we decided to ditch fad diets? A dearth of diet book launches seems to suggest so, writes our diet expert.



I find this New Year peculiarly lacking in of the usual crop of weird and wonderful diets appearing in the media and bestselling lists, jostling madly for the diet crown.

We have just Dr Michael Moseley promoting yet another variation of the 5:2 diet or his healthy guts regime, and yet another version of Weightwatchers tried and tested formula, (which at least is do-able and joining a club works well for very many people).

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And of course, because veganism is the ‘latest’ thing and because now we also have the meat and dairy-free version of dry January - the clumsily-named veganuary – there are seemingly dozens of different versions of the vegan diet on the go.  If you want to know more of my opinion on that, may I point you back to a blog I did on the subject the year before last (don’t say I am not at the forefront of trends …). 

There are a couple of others but nothing that seems to have fired the imagination, or emptied the purses, of the general UK population.  Perhaps the would-be diet gurus have just run out of new ideas or they are just not selling.  The annual influx of ‘new’ ‘exciting’ ‘best-ever’ January diets has long been little more than a cynical ploy to make money.

Their lack may mean we’ve woken up and realised we don’t need them. At last, we’re maybe beginning to see that crazy, fad diets of whatever sort are not just a waste of money and willpower, but also just not necessary in order for us to reduce our TPO (total population obesity).

At best, they helped us shed some pounds for spring.  At worst, they resulted in all the weight piling back on by autumn, so we would hop on the diet bandwagon once more by January. 

Even worse, regular weight loss/weight gain (the so-called yo-yo) is bad for the spirit, the confidence, the morale.  Every time we put the weight back on – or fail to ‘stick to the diet’ and so lose little or nothing (up to 80% of us don’t even make it to the end of February with our diet and fitness resolutions intact), it brings us down, reinforces our feelings that we’re useless as well as fat.  And that we might as well not bother.

The simple proof that over the years, named diets (fad diets, in other words) don’t work is that we are still, as a nation, putting on weight. 

I freely admit that back in the ‘70s and ‘80s I was a part of the dieting bandwagon – I edited a slimming magazine and my early published books were borderline quick-fix though my efforts were tame compared with more recent offerings.  E.g.  I wrote “A Flat Stomach in 15 days”.  Some years later, someone else wrote “A flat stomach in 15 hours”!  I wrote “Take Off Ten Years In Ten Weeks” – a TV programme later came up with “Take Off Ten Years in Ten Days”.  So actually, I was erring on the side of moderation all along – but I soon began to feel wrong about producing such things.  I just had to look at the statistics of how people put back weight they’ve lost (these stats have been around for decades, now) to know that writing quick-fix diet books was not for me.  Instead, I tried to concentrate on the more staid and sensible approach of writing about long-term ways to stop yourself putting on weight and, if a diet was really necessary, how to do it right and keep it off for good.

Needless to say, this type of book did not go as high up the sales charts as the get slim quick, eye-catching titles.  But I felt better; I wasn’t conning people or building up false hope.  I was telling the truth.

Today I still try to do that.  It seems as though maybe the days of the crash and fad diet really are numbered and all the things most of us know, but hate to admit, will be the way to go.  Eat smaller portions.  Cut right back on added sugar.  Eat when you’re hungry.  Eat unprocessed foods.  Eat plenty of vegetables.  Eat plenty of whole, natural foods and fibre.  Get more activity into your life.  And so on.

Oh yes, it’s all non-exciting.  But it really is the way that works.  And you can tailor it to your own preferences, lifestyle and finances, thus ensuring you stick with it.  I’m currently slowing shedding half a stone that crept on due to illness, overwork and inaction back mid-late 2017, and I’m doing it by a not-quite-vegan diet.  But don’t let that influence you – I happen to love sprouts and all things green, but you don’t have to go vegan unless you want to.  I promise…

Ate for lunch

After the festive season excesses I was very glad to get back to plainer eating and very glad to find that there was NO chocolate, no GU desserts and NO packs of crisps or biscuits left in the house (bought mainly for guests who then didn’t eat them!!!). 

My husband’s parsnip soup is just what you need during times like these – warming,  smooth, full of fibre, and just about right in terms of calories and fat for a lunch, coupled with a smallish slice of wholegrain bread.   Even better that he makes it! 

To serve four, just chop up four good-sized, peeled parsnips and sauté in a little extra virgin rapeseed oil for ten minutes with a chopped onion, add a level tsp (more or less, to taste) of mild curry powder for the last minute, whizz up in blender with some vegetable stock and a dash of milk if you like (this adds protein).  Reheat, add more stock as necessary to get the right consistency, season to taste and that is it – simple and delicious.  Add a little grated hard cheese or tofu for more protein if you like, and even a blob of sour cream.

Find lots more delicious soup recipes in our food section

Happy New Year! 

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