At this time of year, many of us will be pledging to become fitter, better versions of ourselves, and the majority (61%) of British women make at least one New Year's resolution, according to a survey commissioned by constipation treatment Dulcolax*. Health resolutions usually top the list, with more than a third (37%) of women saying they have pledged to eat more healthily and exercise more (35%). But - with many magazines encouraging us to try the latest fad diet for 2017 - it's worth remembering that short-term resolutions tend to fail. In fact 82% of women broke their resolutions last year**.
So while these miracle diets can seem enticing - promising speedy weight loss, glowing skin and numerous other health benefits - they're not made to last, and any 'positive' effects can soon disappear when you fall back into your normal habits. Indeed, not only can fad diets promote unhealthy choices, they can also have a negative impact on your digestion and do your body harm.
Raw, detox, cleanse, alkaline, juice, high protein, low carb, high fat and ketosis are all diets once discussed in the health farms and spas of the 1980s that have now crept into our daily vocabulary as something to aspire to.
Busting the detox myth
'Detox' is a particularly troubling term: we're told that we're ridding our bodies of accumulated toxins, leading to all sorts of health benefits. However, the liver has evolved to process and excrete toxins through sweat, urine and stool, and it's an incredibly efficient and hard-working organ. Unless you've had serious liver issues, green liquids and potions will do little to enhance its action.
A 'detox' tends to mean drinking more liquid and eating less, so you may very well lose weight and feel a bit perkier, but that won't necessarily last. A liquid diet can also make you constipated as you probably won't get enough fibre. Be kind to your body: it needs consistency and good habits, not shock treatment.
Everything in mindful moderation
I'm not saying the occasional smoothie, juice or raw meal is bad for you - far from it. But it's important to take extreme fad diets with the necessary pinch of salt.
My view is that you shouldn't even attempt to start something you can't stick to in the long term. It's better to focus on trying to create realistic and sustainable habits, so that your everyday life, all year long, is made up of (mostly) good, healthy choices.
While 'moderation' is a slightly oversimplified concept, I think there's real value in thinking about what we eat and drink in this way. Moderation means different things for everyone - we all have different needs, routines and habits - and these can change depending on the time of year. Raw foods can be great in summer, but as the temperature dips salads are probably the last thing you want; now is the ideal time for root vegetables, roasts and casseroles.
Additionally, being mindful about what you eat is, I think, the key. Instead of trying an extreme 'detox', I would start with awareness and making small changes to your daily habits. A good food diary really can be an eye-opener, showing where moderation is or isn't working for you, and if you're really eating enough of the good stuff, or too much of the bad.
It's a marathon, not a sprint
As I said, the secret is really to think about positive, sustainable lifestyle changes, rather than looking for a quick fix that can cause more harm than good.
Five coffees a day? Perhaps cut down to two. Not drinking enough water? Try to carry a bottle with you to help up your intake. Read labels to try and reduce your sugar intake, add another portion of vegetables to your day and try snacking on nuts. Make sure you're eating soluble fibre to keep your bowels moving otherwise you'll end up feeling bloated and sluggish.
Call it a mini detox if you like, but instead of shocking your body with a week of deprivation, commit to some manageable lifestyle changes so you're playing the long game: in the race to good health you're a marathon runner not a sprinter.
For lifestyle changes and tips for a healthy bowel and avoiding common issues like constipation visit www.myconstipationrelief.com
Kate Arnold is a Nutrition Consultant, health writer with over eighteen years' experience. She does not endorse Dulcolax or any other medicine.
*Survey of 2,003 people, including 1,035 women, conducted by Censuswide between 02.11.2016 and 04.11.2016.
**Survey of 2,003 people, including 1,028 women, conducted by Censuswide between 26.10.2016 and 28.10.2016.