Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

What's fresh on the menu for fighting flab

With the New Year comes the new diet as we try to get back into shape after the festive season - and there's a plethora of books to help us, as Hannah Stephenson disovers, delving through an ample lot

With the excesses of Christmas behind us, there's a raft of slimming books being published to help fulfil those New Year resolutions to fight the flab and do more exercise.

But while faddy diets such as the grapefruit diet, cabbage soup and acai berry come and go, experts are now advising readers to tackle their spare tyres through mind control techniques and general life changes rather than calorie counts and unachievable exercise programmes.

Among the predicted big sellers is Dr John Briffa's sensible guide, Escape The Diet Trap (Fourth Estate, £14.99), which shows how conventional advice - to eat less and exercise more - actually causes the body to resist weight loss.

His science-based approach to weight loss works with the body, won't offer any quick fixes or unrealistic exercise rituals, but rather concentrates on eating the right foods to stay healthy and establishing a healthy relationship with food. This one is probably ideal for yo-yo dieters who can't keep the weight off, as it's more a way of life than a diet and there's no calorie counting involved.

Other experts are treating obesity in the same way as other addictions, including Dr Mike Dow, who has written Diet Rehab (Michael Joseph, £12.99).

Dow, who trained at the famous Betty Ford Centre in California, throws at us scientific studies which claim that it takes two weeks to detox from junk food, compared with the two days it takes to withdraw from cocaine.

He explains that we crave certain foods as they actively change our brain chemistry, making us feel happy or relaxed. His 28-day programme gradually substitutes these problem foods with healthier alternatives and activities that release the same brain chemicals and avoid the crippling highs and lows of a cold turkey detox.

Of course, the majority of diet books are aimed at women, and none more so at the start of 2012 than Run Fat Bitch Run, by Ruth Field (Sphere, £10.99). With its glaring title, this offering from the self-styled 'Grit Doctor' aims to get the unmotivated off their couches and into a dramatic exercise programme. Not for the faint-hearted, those who buy it should be pounding the pavements in no time.

Skinny Meals In Heels (Murdoch, £14.99) is aimed at 'girls on the move' and sees food writer and stylist Jennifer Joyce making stressed dinner parties a thing of the past with this guide to cooking and entertaining without the calories.

With glamorous line illustrations, it features chapters on everything from snacks and nibbles to weekday dinners in under an hour.

For those looking for a more cerebral answer to their weight problems, diet coach Janet Thompson offers a step-by-step plan in Think More, Eat Less (Hay House, £12.99) to re-programme your thoughts surrounding food. It shows how your hormones control your body weight and how you can manage them by introducing a system whereby the food you eat helps to burn fat and cleanse your body. Its aims are to ditch dieting, calorie counting, weighing and measuring, and embrace a whole new understanding of your body.

The De-stress Diet by Charlotte Watts and Anna Magee (Hay House, £12.99) may be appropriate for people who comfort eat because of their anxieties. The nutritional therapist and health writer argue that stress is the missing link in the overweight equation. This book offers advice on how you can eat, relax and gently exercise your way to a better body, with fewer cravings, more energy and a calmer mind.

It features personalised nutrition, calming techniques and targeted exercise to alleviate stress, lose excess weight and increase energy.

More specific areas of weight gain, including bingo wings, love handles and man boobs, are tackled by health guru and nutritionist Max Tomlinson in Target Your Fat Spots: Get Your Body In Shape (Quadrille, £12.99). Using a home fat pinch test, he shows you how to drop your old eating habits and embrace healthier foods and attitudes, guiding you through a straightforward two-step programme.

This begins with a week-long detox to kick-start your healthy habits, followed by one of six six-week programmes specifically designed to shift your fat spot.

Each specific programme encourages you to eat the right foods, take the right supplements and do the right exercise. There are also tips on how you can keep that weight off for good.

Anyone who wants to be able to 'eat lots, exercise little, shed 5lbs in one week, lose fat, gain muscle, look younger and feel stronger' may want to invest in The De Vany Diet, by Prof Arthur De Vany (Vermilion, £7.99).

The 72-year-old former athlete and scientist looks to our ancestors' lifestyle of eating a lot and moving a little, claiming that we can beat obesity, diabetes and heart disease by living simply on meat, fruit and vegetables - and practically no carbohydrates - and embarking on only brief, intense periods of exercise.

There's also help at hand for people of a certain age with Eat Yourself Young by Elizabeth Peyton-Jones (Quadrille, £12.99), a book which basically reckons you can take years off your looks by changing what you eat.

The nutritionist and naturopath outlines the five food types that are most ageing and then the five superfood age-busters that research shows have a 'youthing' effect.

The programme itself starts with a deep-cleansing detox to refuel the body, followed by a youthful eating plan featuring more than 60 recipes, plus strategies and tips to aid progress. Within three months you'll look five years younger, she claims.

And if you just want something to slip into your handbag when the willpower is low, look no further than The Little Book Of Diet Help, by Kimberly Willis (Piatkus, £9.99), a pint-sized guide which offers common sense tips for when you're out and about.

Did you know, for instance, that rubbing your finger between your nose and top lip can help relieve cravings?

Acupressure, hypnotherapy and yoga are also advised, but most of it is about common sense.

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