Detox January - An Apologia

It's January, and articles about diets abound. Some portray the January detox in a good light, but others are more scathing. On Monday, for example, Word of Mouth was prophesying the inevitable failure of the January diet in a piece that caught A's eye. We don't usually write opinion pieces on Slightly Peckish, but A (who is the I in this particular post) decided to submit Word of Mouth's assertions to a bit of scrutiny to see if the claims stacked up.

If you've not read Word of Mouth's post, here's the speed read.

Don't bother dieting in January, for the following reasons:
  1. Necessity: it's winter and you need the extra calories
  2. Leftovers: you should have loads in your larder from Christmas
  3. Cost: dieting is both economically and environmentally expensive
  4. (Implicit) difficulty: losing weight is hard
Sadly, it appears that Word of Mouth's experiences of losing weight are mainly restricted to weird fad diets such as the "Detox Diet", the "5:2 Diet", the "Nordic Diet" and the downright scary "Cabbage Soup Diet". Not all weight loss regimes are about bizarre strictures on what you can and can't eat.

After asking my brother Doctor K about this, it appears that weight loss is more or less a simple formula: burn more than you consume and you lose weight; consume more than you burn, and you gain. This being the case, dieting doesn't have to be about Atkins or Dukan: a successful "diet" might be as simple as taking a teaspoon of sugar out of your tea and walking to the station rather than taking the bus.

Now, on to the arguments.


1. Necessity:

Apparently, we need the energy because of Britain's harsh winter climate. However, as of 2004, 93% of British homes were centrally heated (and I can only assume even more than that are centrally heated nine years later). I would imagine that a similar percentage of British workplaces are heated too. If we are all tucked up warm in centrally heated accommodation most of the time, we probably don't need too many extra calories.

2. Leftovers:

I would like to suggest that Word of Mouth cooks a less extravagant Christmas dinner in 2013. This saves on up front expense in December and means that you don't have to get endlessly inventive with the leftovers. I also only need so many ramekins, and terrine gets sickly quite quickly - particularly after the usual overkill at Christmas.

3. Cost:

Fad diet or no fad diet, in my experience many weight loss regimes tend to:
- (a) include greens at the expense of processed food and/or meat and
- (b) control portion size.
Vegetables are cheaper than meat, and if you factor less food (and fewer treats) in your shopping basket at the checkout, I struggle to see where extra costs come from.

I also tested the carbon footprint claims a bit. Among other things, I tend to cut out meat and eat more pulses when I'm watching my weight, so I used that as the basis for a quick calculation using a rough and ready web tool.

Let's say that Word of Mouth and Slightly Peckish make identical curries, but Word of Mouth uses one pound of locally produced beef which has travelled 200 miles to reach the pot, and we use one pound of beans which have travelled 2000 miles to reach ours. The beef will still be 14.25 times more costly in terms of carbon dioxide emissions than the beans. I ran these numbers past flatmate N (who has a degree in this sort of thing), and he concurred. In fact, I could probably fly my beans in from New Zealand and the carbon footprint would still be lower than Word of Mouth's beef curry.

4. Difficulty:

Underpinning Word of Mouth's post is the message that dieting is difficult. This is true: we live in a place where high calorie food is cheap and plentiful, and lots of processed food is engineered specifically to be very moreish. I'm not advocating that "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" by any means (I am a food blogger after all!), but occasionally a little bit of willpower is needed to resist ploughing through half a packet of hobnobs in an afternoon.

If you're of the opinion that dieting is futile and ultimately doomed to failure, you are probably going to fail whether you start in January or June. The time of year has little to do with it.


Dieting doesn't necessarily have to an exercise in martyrdom or boredom. As we hope to show with Slightly Peckish's series of detox January posts, a little bit of imagination (and the odd indulgence) is par for the course. It's perfectly possible to watch what you eat, lose a few pounds, and still enjoy your food. All you need to do is think that little bit harder about what you put on your plate.


  1. There are so many misconceptions when it comes to good diet. For some people, skipping meals makes them lose weight faster. This is definitely wrong because, people who skip their meal especially on breakfast tend to be much heavier than people who don't.


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