'The last time I saw this many expectant Jewish faces was at my barmitzvah," quips Ian Marber. The celebrated diet expert is giving his inaugural talk as patron of the newly founded Food Academy at the London Jewish Cultural Centre's Golders Green building.
The building comes complete with a kosher demonstration kitchen in the basement which the press release portrays as a future hub for informative events and courses celebrating good food - a place in which members of the community will learn how to cook well, eat well and stay well.
Today's audience are keen to eat yet slim well. More than 55 guests, many serious enough to be wielding notepads, are here to discover the secret of how to get thin and stay that way. As Marber jokes: "The holy grail of all Jewish dieters is to look not just thin, but gaunt."
But Marber's message is that you do not have to starve yourself. Diet is a four-letter word and could be one of the reasons we get fat. "Our bodies don't know we are living in London in 2012, they believe we are cavemen," he explains. "The moment we stop eating, a hormonal response is triggered as if we are being starved." If you have ever dieted, you have reduced the calories your body needs to function. "The quicker the diet, the more problems you will have losing weight later," he says.
Marber also blames food marketing for our bad food choices. "We're given so many messages about healthy eating. My clients justify their chocolate habit because they eat organic chocolate!" he laughs. "Just because something is organic doesn't make it a healthy food choice. Your body doesn't care if it's organic or ripped from the arms of children. The minute you swallow it, your insulin and glucose go up."
Marber's key to a healthy way of eating - which he espoused while heading the Food Doctor clinic that he has now left - is to eat a combination of complex carbohydrates (wholegrains, vegetables, pulses, some fruits) and
protein every two and a half to three hours. It will allow you to maintain a constant energy level and avoid high and low insulin levels which can affect how your body stores excess glucose.
Another professional passionate about getting women off the diet treadmill is clinical hypnotherapist Jacqueline Hurst. "If diets worked, we wouldn't always be on them," she says.
Hurst claims to get to the real cause of why we are unable to resist finishing off an entire lokshen pudding after our guests have left on Friday night. "I believe eating is emotional and only if we recalibrate the mind, can we fix it.
"I can find the root cause of the problem within two to six sessions so that when my clients leave me, they have learned to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full."
According to Hurst, while regular, suggestion-based hypnotherapy works for approximately 30 per cent of patients, the advanced structured hypnotherapy she practices has a success rate of 97–98 per cent. "I keep tabs on my clients as I like to be sure of how they and I are doing," she says.
So, if you started the year (or even the week) with good intentions that are already history, Marbers's message is "to stop dieting and start eating". A steaming bowl of porridge topped with a dollop of yoghurt, sliced crisp apple and crunchy, flaked almonds for breakfast. Snack on a handful of cashew nuts or almonds and a ripe juicy plum. Lunch on spicy lentil soup and crusty bread or a couscous salad. After another snack of oat cakes and cannellini bean hummus, dine on juicy griddled chicken with a salad of roasted beet, dill and horseradish. Sounds delicious.