This year we will mostly be eating...
As the annual resolve to lose weight sends us on a mission to lighten up, Tanya Sweeney explores the sometimes wacky world of diets, which this year includes an IV drip of vitamins, charcoal and even a tapeworm
When it comes to achieving the body beautiful, most experts are adamant that no shortcuts can be taken. Yet that doesn't stop millions of slimmers lurching from one new-fangled fad diet to the next in the hope that the men in white coats are wrong.
Come the start of the year, the common-sense adage of "eat less, exercise more" starts to ring hollow as the search begins for a regime that allows maximum results with minimum effort.
And, with the worldwide diet industry valued at a reported €45bn a year, many health experts are hoping for a slice of the slimming gold rush.
Hollywood stars have already blazed a trail with the most outlandish fads, and where the A-list goes, the rest of us are sure to follow.
Here are the regimes you're likely to hear a lot more about this year:
The Cookie Diet
With the tagline "Imagine losing 15 pounds a month while eating cookies!!" it's no surprise to find that Dr Sanford Siegal's Cookie Diet is gaining traction.
The science behind it? Siegal suggests going on an 800-calorie-a-day diet to test if slimmers have a thyroid problem.
If, after 21 days, you are not seeing notable results, chances are you have a slow thyroid. A thyroid-boosting diet cookie -- made with sugar, eggs, oats and cereals -- is central to the regime.
Siegal's plan is actually a very low-calorie diet, in which six of the special Siegal cookies are eaten when hungry during the day, along with eight glasses of liquid, and only one meal is eaten -- dinner, comprising six ounces of lean protein (chicken, turkey, fish or seafood only) plus one serving of vegetables, which comes to about 800 calories a day.
While any 800-calorie-a-day diet is bound to be effective in the short-term, most detractors are adamant that on the Cookie Diet, the body soon falls into 'famine' mode after a while, storing calories as fat reserves. What's more, several key nutrients are left out of the equation.
The Eden Diet
Ostensibly marketed as a 'spiritual diet', the Eden Diet, authored by staunch Christian Dr Rita Hancock, asks one simple question: what would Adam and Eve eat? The Eden Diet also addresses the emotions behind eating, teaching dieters to recognise the difference between actual hunger and habit.
Once we're in tune with the body, we instinctively crave healthy foods and only occasional treats. Hancock also suggests that followers only eat when they're truly hungry and keep their portion sizes smaller than normal. And so, when you respond to true hunger (not emotional hunger), you will feel sated with even small treats.
Weight Watchers Version 2.0
WW has helped millions of people achieve weight goals across the world, so when the powers that be deemed the age-old Points system a little old hat, the slimming industry's interest was piqued.
In the new world order, slimmers now adhere to the ProPoints system, where nutrients and food groups take precedence over calorie counting (as in the old regime). New research has revealed that successful slimming is not simply about counting calories, but about how quickly your body processes different nutrients -- and which healthy foods help us to stay feeling satisfied for longer.
In other words, the body burns more energy digesting complex carbs and proteins than sugars and fats with the same calorie value. Essentially, the better the food is for you, the more energy your body can burn digesting it and the more of it you can eat.
With WW, the emphasis is now on wholemeal breads, fruits and vegetables, all of which will help us feel fuller for longer. And, along with your daily allowance of around 29 ProPoints food values, you get an extra weekly allowance of 49 for treats which you can save up for a big blow-out or simply use throughout the week.
A newly slimmed-down Jennifer Hudson has become the face and body of the corporation, and is a glowing testimony to the diet.
The Dukan Diet is already a resounding hit in France, where it is thought that more than five million women are devotees. A none-too-distant relative of the Atkins diet, Dukan works by the same principles (a high-protein, low-carb diet causes ketosis and therefore weight loss).
Unlike Atkins, however, Dukan suggests eating only lean proteins such as turkey, fromage frais and cottage cheese, cutting down fat, and eating a small amount of oat bran every day.
The diet presents a list of 70 foods which can be eaten in unlimited quantities. The regime comes with plenty of caveats, non-negotiables and rules: Dukan dieters must drink two litres of water a day (to aid the overworked kidneys), walk for 20 minutes a day and continue to eat only proteins on Thursdays ... forever.
Initially, the body becomes highly adept at burning calories, and the first stage of weight loss is often dramatic. After weight loss, Dukan suggests the dieters undergo a 'cruise' and 'consolidation' phase to ensure that the weight doesn't creep back on.
Kate Middleton and her mother are reportedly fans.
Metabolic Type Diets
Labouring under the assumption that each person has a different metabolic type, the Metabolic Type Diet claims that some nutrients may be appropriate for one person but not for another.
Once a person is categorised into a metabolic type, they are presented with an appropriate eating plan. The Metabolic Type Diet was marketed under the Blood Diet in recent decades.
There are three metabolic types: protein, carbo and mixed. Foods those types crave are the same foods they should limit. For example, carbo types are slow oxidisers and generally have relatively weak appetites, a high tolerance for sweets and a problem with weight management.
According to the metabolic typing diet, carbo types should eat diets that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein, fats and oils.
Protein types, on the other hand, do not function well on vegetarian, high-carbohydrate eating regimens.
Cheryl Cole is thought to be a fan, gushing recently: "[the diet] has made such a difference, not just to my shape but to how I feel and my energy levels".
The Charcoal Diet
Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding revealed how she crumbles charcoal over her food. "It doesn't taste of anything and apparently absorbs all the bad, damaging stuff in the body," she said in a recent magazine interview.
However, the benefits only come from activated charcoal, found in tablets sold in specialist health stores.
The Alternate Day Diet
According to a new study, weight loss can be achieved by fasting (or, rather, eating only 300-500 calories) every second day. It's then possible to alternate the 'famine' day with a day where it's possible to eat anything, where no food is off-limits.
On this regime, the body is shocked into action, and a weight loss of around 1.5 pounds a week can be achieved.
The brainchild of Dr James P Johnson, the diet has been criticised in many quarters and dubbed "part-time anorexia" by detractors.
The Paleo Diet
Also known as the Caveman Diet, the Paleo Diet insists that we subsist on a diet of meat, shellfish, eggs, root vegetables, fruits and nuts, just as our forebears did.
Paleo supporters argue that the human body wasn't originally designed to eat foods such as dairy, wheat, wholegrains and oils.
The HCG Diet
By ingesting a hormone normally found in pregnant women (HCG) for 26 days, weight loss is said to be possible. However, the diet only works if you eat just 700 calories a day. HCG injections can trigger ovarian cysts and blood clots and, ironically enough, can make you more fertile.
The Accessory Diets
'Coronation Street' actress Kate Ford is said to be a die-hard devotee: "A magnet worn on my wrist's acupuncture point helped me drop two stone in a few months," she claimed in a recent interview.
Elsewhere, David Beckham and Kate Middleton have resorted to similar methods: the Power Balance Diet suggests that a silicone bracelet embedded with a hologram improves strength, energy and flexibility.
However, the boffins state that, aside from a placebo effect, there's no evidence to suggest that either accessory method has any tangible, scientifically-grounded benefit.
AND NOW FOR THE REALLY EXTREME...
THE BANANA BAG DIET
Rumoured to be a huge hit during Fashion Weeks across the world, the Banana Bag Diet advocates the use of an IV drip bag containing multi-vitamins.
Designed as IV drips for undernourished alcoholic patients in hospitals, banana bags were once popular with marathon runners (before they became banned). But now, this yellow-coloured liquid — containing a multivitamin, thiamine, folic acid and saline — is being snapped up by those who opt out of eating to stay skinny but want to maintain their nutrient intake.
According to reports, many supermodels and celebrities have used the diet. Says one nutritionist: “Banana bags are used to ‘fill in the nutritional blanks'. When we are nutrient starved, one of the brain's automatic strategies is to signal to us that we are hungry.
“The banana bag may have the effect for some people of making them feel less hungry by putting back missing nutrients, so a dieter may feel more satiated with a small amount of food.”
Again, the diet denies followers many nutrients, including essential fatty acids, which are key to long-term weight loss.
Yet for stars who want to firm up before a photoshoot or premiere, the banana bag diet gets the results needed, and fast.
THE TAPEWORM DIET
A diet that promises results from eating as much as you want is bound to be popular Stateside, and suitably Tyra Banks recently discussed the whys and wherefores of this diet on her TV show.
Essentially, followers spends thousands to buy and then eat a live parasite, which keeps you from absorbing the calories you ingest.
Unfortunately, the tapeworm also devours key nutrients, too.