How to eat well: the madness of January diets

By Ian Marber, January 10, 2013
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January is viewed as a tough month by many people. Short days, long nights, the aftermath of the festive season to deal with and the miserable weather all combine to make it a challenge.
So, given that, why would anyone decide to follow a new diet in the hardest month of the year? It just doesn’t make sense.

While it might be obvious to take things easy after the December excesses, a full-on change to the way you eat should be something that you ease into, not adopt overnight.

But the pressure is on in January, at least in the media. I counted 40 new diet books due for publication in January 2013 — a few refreshed versions of older books, but most of them new.

Publishers will have been working hard to get the books visibly displayed on shelves, prominently featured on Amazon and mentioned or, better yet, serialised in newspapers and magazines.The reason is simple — January has become the accepted time to diet, and neither the publishing industry nor the media have any reason to change that.

This has been the case for as long as I can remember but, in my experience, diets started as part of a New Year resolution are, like most resolutions, likely to fail.

If you want to change your diet, perhaps to lose weight, or to improve the way you feel, or to address a niggling health issue, then my advice is to take your time. By all means buy the books if you need to, but beware of the marketing hype. Straplines offering the prospect of losing seven pounds in a week or such like are understandably alluring, but fail to mention that quick weight loss is often followed by equally quick weight gain.

A more truthful coverline would say: “Lose weight slowly so that you don’t gain it back and have to do this all again next year”. You can see the problem.

So, do take your time, choose your diet carefully — what you eat will affect your long-term health — and be suspicious of the claims, much like you would be of an advertisement that read: “Get rich quick without working or making any sacrifices”.

And most of all, consider bucking the trend and starting next month when the encouraging signs of spring aren’t quite so far away.

Ian Marber is one of the UK’s most highly regarded nutrition experts and the author of 11 books. www.ianmarber.com

Last updated: 1:27pm, January 10 2013