If nutrition experts are right about the average person gaining 5lb in weight over the festive season, it's likely most of us are feeling a touch bloated right now. So it's natural to be tempted to try a quick-fix detox diet in order to drop a few pounds.
Detox diets are, however, controversial. The very idea that you need to detoxify your body is dubious, to say the least, according to many nutritionists. For instance the official line from the British Dietetic Association is that the human body is more than capable of detoxing itself. Long-term detox diets - especially those that restrict whole groups of foods - may also lead to nutritional deficiencies, says the BDA.
But if you simply want to shake off that bloated feeling by eating simple, cleansing foods for just a day or two, it's not such a bad idea. At the very least you'd be giving your hard-working digestive system a bit of a breather.
So if you're up for the challenge here are a few pointers to help you on your way...
Hot water first thing As anyone who's ever done a detox diet will tell you, it's essential to drink a cup or two of hot water as soon as you wake up. Better still, add a few drops of lemon juice and a sprinkle of ginger powder. That'll get the cleansing process started.
Fruit in abundance Many detox experts recommend eating nothing but fruit for one to two days. The best types are apples and pears, as they're more gentle on your stomach. But if that sounds too severe, have a fruit smoothie for breakfast (include a banana plus some other chopped fruits - fresh, not dried - and a palmful of nuts and seeds to give you protein), then follow the next guidelines for lunch and dinner.
Unlimited veggies Your two other main meals could include a mixed raw salad with as many different types of vegetables you can muster dressed with a bit of lemon juice for lunch, then steamed veggies for dinner (again, have a good variety, but leave out the potatoes). At dinner you could also have a little low-fat protein, such as a boiled egg, some low-fat cottage cheese or a handful of chopped-up tofu.
Hydrate all the while Most importantly, during the one or two days while you're detoxing, drink plenty of liquids (water, of course, and fruit or herb teas - definitely no caffeine). Have copious amounts to drink in between meals as you're bound to feel hungry, as the liquid will help you feel a bit fuller.
Rest up While you're on this or any other type of detox diet, don't try to carry on as normal. Your digestive system could well be exhausted after the excesses of Christmas and New Year, so you need to take it as easy as possible. Take some light exercise - a half-hour walk if the weather permits - if you can too, but don't overdo it.
If you are suffering from any medical condition, do not attempt to restrict your food intake to this level without getting advice from your doctor.