IT is often said that a New Year can herald a new you.
And as we recover from the seemingly endless turkey dinners and too many glasses of mulled wine, diet can become something of an obsession with people desperately trying to shed the Christmas calories.
But health warnings against celebrity fad diets and quick-fixes abound in January, as people try all manner of ways to lose weight.
Maria Jones, a Northern Ireland-based dietitian, warned those thinking of embarking on a New Year diet to make sure they don’t succumb to celebrity tales of rapid weight loss with minimum effort.
“We would all like to think we could become our ideal body weight overnight but the reality is it’s just not possible,” said the 26-year-old.
“The key to dieting is to eat healthily and exercise – it might sound like a lot of effort but with some simple steps you can really make a noticeable difference.”
Fiona Duggan knows exactly how difficult dieting can be, but said halving her body weight over the past four years has changed her life for the better.
Back then a trip to the shops would have terrified the Armagh mother-of-one, as she worried about people staring at her large frame and tried to avoid mirrors at all costs.
The 33-year-old told the News Letter she is “extremely happy” now, having previously had to turn down an invitation to be a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding because she had so little confidence in her size.
“It was heartbreaking on the day,” said Fiona. “But I just had no confidence at all in myself. I didn’t want to get up on the dance floor – I wanted to shy away in the corner.
“I didn’t want to go outside at all really.”
After that tipping point, the dental receptionist decided to cut down on junk food and start walking before joining Weight Watchers just over two years ago.
“We did eat very unhealthily, and I didn’t think I would ever get to the weight I am now,” said Fiona, having lost 10 stone in the past four years.
Losing weight is difficult and slow, but very much worth it for the good of your health and confidence, said Fiona.
She said: “I couldn’t have done it without my husband and my son – we do things as a family. Before I thought I didn’t have time to walk but now it is part of our daily routine. I would advise people against so-called quick-fixes and emphasise that you have to be determined and dedicated to get to a healthy weight.”
Stars including Rihanna, Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell are said to be fans of the latest celebrity fad diet – the Party Girl IV Drip Diet – where they have a bag of solution containing vitamins injected into their bodies.
Ms Jones said the side effects were not worth it for a diet that has no real scientific proof behind it.
“There is very little evidence that it has a significant effect on weight changes,” she said.
“All the nutrients the body needs can be contained through healthy food and drink alone. Some of the possible side effects of the ‘drip diet’ include dizziness, infection, inflammation of veins and, ultimately, anaphylactic shock.
“Other diets include the Dukan diet and the Ken diet where people don’t eat anything at all for the first week. Ultimately if you eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly you can achieve your target weight loss. One pound weight loss a week is a realistic target for most people.
“For more information on healthy weight loss I would advise people to visit www.bda.uk.com.”
And for anyone thinking dieting just sounds like a punishment, Fiona said she is sure to treat herself each weekend.
She said: “Don’t get me wrong, we still have a takeout or a treat at the weekend – that’s the way you get through it. You make sure you are healthy during the week so you can enjoy your weekend.”