Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Health Column – Getting the year off to a healthy start – Part One by Sally Cronin

I am the first to admit that I love Christmas, even if this year was a great deal more restrained and there was just the two of us.  We don’t drink alcohol except on high days and holidays, but we certainly had a glass or two on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and we felt the effects immediately and were hungover the next day. Amazing how the body regards alcohol and other sugars as toxic and lets you know about it.

We also enjoyed some mince pies, Christmas cake and other baked goodies and I will admit to not making them myself, they were the best the store offered but there was definitely likely to be too much sugar, and unhealthy fats in the ingredients. We don’t normally eat them during the year and they were delicious, but long term they are not a healthy option.

The New Year Resolution craze

When I was practicing as a nutritional therapist and had my own centre here in Ireland back in the late 1990s, I would have a diary full of clients starting the first Monday back after the holidays. The appointments would have been made in mid-December about the time the women’s magazines started touting the crash diets for the New Year.

I was always very clear that I did not believe in rapid weight loss programmes and most of my clients were just checking in to get a damn good talking to! Most knew what I was going to say to them, but it was an opportunity to get back into a way of eating that had resulted in weight loss and importantly better health for them, and they didn’t want to lose their momentum.

They usually only had to come for a couple of quick visits, a weigh in and a check of their food diaries and they were back to normal again. But it was evident that even two weeks of being on high levels of refined sugar, had not only resulted in weight gain, fatigue but also cravings.

I would also have new appointments with clients who had made New Year resolutions to lose their weight and were hoping for a quick fix, that was another thing we cleared up at their first appointment. One lady who weighed 250lbs hoped to lose 100lbs before her daughter’s wedding in March. She did lose the 100lbs but over 8 months but she did lose 20lbs in time for the wedding.

Something to think about.

I will be upfront with you. I do not agree with water only fasts, or drastically reducing calories (nutrients) to starve a body into submission. Whilst I find intermittent fasting (eating within an 8 hour window) suits me, at my age, with my level of activity, and to maintain normal blood sugar and blood pressure levels. I don’t recommend this restricted form of eating  if you are in working full time including as a mother, have a very active lifestyle, or are already underweight.

I also do not agree with removing any major food group for your diet unless there is a diagnosed medical condition that requires it, or a confirmed allergy. This includes wholegrain carbohydrates which have an important role to play in your complex nutritional requirements.

Protein is essential to our health and development at every age, and if you choose not to eat animal protein then you must ensure that you include sufficient plant based proteins and foods that provide adequate amount of B vitamins.

Healthy fats are essential to our bodies and think of it as oil in a car. Without it everything seizes up from the engine (the brain) the mechanical elements of the chassis, (the joints) the carrying of essential chemicals in petrol and oil to all parts of the car so it runs smoothly and efficiently (the bloodstream).

No one eating programme fits all.

We are all individual with different physical calibrations, mental and emotional issues that impact our weight and the ability to lose excess pounds. Some can drop 3 or 4 lbs in their first week as they lose water from the fat cells, and perhaps 2lbs a week from then on. Others find they lose 1lb a week and feel frustrated, but as I point out that is 52lbs in a year that has been lost safely and is unlikely to return.

If you need to lose more than a few pounds and are looking for a long term programme for extensive weight loss, then I am more than happy to send you my book FREE –  Size Matters in Kindle or ePub.  It looks at the issues surrounding obesity (I weighted 330lbs) and includes the programme I developed to lose 150lbs over 18 months and the one that I introduced to my clients over the last twenty-five years. Just email me

This series is about taking the pressure off the body after a short period of overindulgence and you might well lose a few pounds as well, but the main purpose is to ensure a healthy start to the new year. There is one organ in the body in particular which bears the brunt of our over indulgence and that is where I would like to start today.

Give your liver a New Year’s holiday.

The liver is the organ that struggles the most when we indulge in too much refined sugar and unhealthy fats even over a few weeks over Christmas and New Year.

We are told that our hearts are the organ to protect, but in fact it is our liver which is the powerhouse behind our health and vitality. You can find out more about this vital organ: The Liver

The Liver in a Nutshell

Your liver has two essential roles, making or processing chemicals and eliminating toxins and waste. Without the portal system none of the nutrients that you have carefully processed and passed into the intestines could be carried in the blood, through the liver, to nourish the body and provide you with energy.

It is not really the liver that does all the work but the millions and millions of cells within the liver that maintain the critical life processes. Specialist cells called hepatocytes deal with the raw materials our body runs on – proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

The liver stores iron as well as other vitamins and minerals that you need, such as Vitamin B12. The organ also makes clotting factors that stop bleeding after injury, and without which you could bleed to death.

Your liver helps manage the cholesterol in your body – and the body needs cholesterol – but like anything in excess it can do more harm than good. It forms the base molecule for hormones like oestrogen and testosterone, and it is also the base for bile acids that are used to emulsify fat in the small bowel so that fat and fat soluble vitamins like E and K can be absorbed.

The good news that if you frequently give your liver a break and a chance to recuperate it will regenerate. All except for parts of the liver than have suffered scarring from liver disease. In six weeks you can improve its function greatly and I know from experience, when I have removed refined sugar and transfats for that short a time, I feel and look so much healthier.

The tell-tale signs of an overworked liver can be seen in your face. If you constantly have puffy eyes, slightly yellow skin tones and you feel nauseous when you have eaten a lot of sugary or fatty foods you are likely to be overworking your liver.

The first step is to remover all sugar in the form of alcohol, chocolate and sweets, all fizzy drinks (even the zero or low calorie with artificial sweeteners), high sugar pastries and biscuits.

If you do not eat sugary foods in great quantities and do not drink alcohol and daily fizzy drinks, the chances are that your liver is already in good shape.

However, these sugary foods and drinks are the ones that we have probably overindulged in over the lead up and during Christmas. I am not going to sugar coat this (sorry). Whilst you may have the odd craving because of the fats (in chocolate) and the sugars you will be amazed at the difference in energy levels and weight you can experience by not eating them.

Transfats – are not natural fats but chemically created to preserve foods and as a cheap alternative to natural fats found in butter, meats, fish, olive oil, olive oil and nuts. If you are hoping to lose a few pounds it is still important to watch your fat intake as it is calorific in large quantities.

Cheese is delicious for example, but it is very easy to nibble away at, and consume 1000 calories quickly, whereas you are unlikely to drink a cupful of olive oil! The same with chocolate -it is so easy to eat 100gm bar in one sitting which is 500 calories….However, a couple of squares of 70% or higher dark chocolate a day contains some anti-oxidants and is only 100 calories.

If you are tempted to switch off now perhaps I can give you an incentive.

If you normally drink a glass of wine per night, eat a small bar of chocolate and eat 100gm of cheese every day, at the end of six weeks of abstaining, you will likely lose between 10lbs and 14lbs in weight. And if you tend to leave these foods until the weekend and stock up with a week’s worth at time you will actually be doing your liver more harm… It will be overwhelmed.

Giving up alcohol for 6 weeks will make a big difference to your liver function. Giving up sugars such as those in chocolate, even more difference, and reducing the amount of cheese will make a little more.

If you use healthy fats like a scrape of butter on your toast or a small amount of olive oil or coconut oil for your cooking that is fine.

Normally, I have the philosophy that a little of everything in moderation is good for you and apply the 20/80 rule myself.

But during this first 6 weeks of the year…. I stop drinking alcohol (in fact I stopped last year and didn’t drink all year until our 40th wedding anniversary in November) and eating chocolate and cheese completely, and you will be surprised how at the end of that time, you will have lost the craving for the fats and sugars and food will taste differently. That effect can last all year if you continue to moderate the amount of sugars that you consume and I have seen clients who have adopted this approach lose 52lbs by the following Christmas.

This in part is down to a desire, once a few pounds have evaporated, to do more exercise, and take the goal of a healthier weight to the next level.

Some health issues should also improve as you lose even a few pounds and your risk factors for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease reduce too.

Fizzy drinks

There is little doubt that drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health in many respects. Your liver, brain and immune system come under immense pressure when they have to deal with excessive amounts and the long term effect on health is measureable. However, these days, the alternatives that are on every shelf of the supermarket and in bars and restaurants, should not be the first thing you turn to when moderating your alcohol consumption.

The effects of fizzy drinks on our health

Scientific studies have shown that as little as one or two soft drinks a day can increase your risk of developing a number of medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, osteoporosis, nutritional deficiencies, heart disease and neurological problems.

Most of the calories in soft drinks are in the form of refined sugars or artificial sugars and they have absolutely no other nutritional content. In one study by Dr. Charles Best who discovered insulin by the way, it was shown that teenagers who drink too many soft drinks could develop cirrhosis of the liver, something we normally associate with chronic alcoholism.

You can read the complete article on fizzy drinks: The Soda Stream worth 125 billion dollars a year at the cost of your health

Possible side effects as you reduce your intake of sugars

You may notice that for the first few days you may feel some fatigue, bloating and possibly flu like symptoms. This is both withdrawal from consuming over rich foods, in particular sugar, and your body getting rid of the toxins that are stored.

It is important to drink at least 8 glasses of fresh water every day to help the body do this. You might also like to drink some Dandelion Tea a couple of times a day although not late at night as it is a diuretic. (more about that next time)  I also take an herbal supplement to assist my liver as it detoxes, although I usually start taking Milk Thistle before the celebrations and during them.

Diet drinks, shakes and bars

Before you rush out and buy your pre-packaged diet shakes and drinks to lose weight perhaps you might wait until after you have read the next post in the series where I will be talking about the actual nutritional worth of shakes and bars and offering some alternatives.

I hope that you have found today’s post of interest, more on Wednesday and if you would like a copy of Size Matters, then please email me

©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020


50 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Health Column – Getting the year off to a healthy start – Part One by Sally Cronin

  1. Excellent post, Sally. Most of what you’ve recommended, I now embrace – except I have a “thing” for chocolate. It’s my go-to during times of stress and mindless pleasure, but you’ve prompted me to adopt a practice of “moderation.” Thank you. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks once again, Sally, for an absorbing article. I am guilty on three counts, wine, chocolate and cheese. I’m not overweight though as I exercise a lot and don’t overdo the goodies! As you say in the article, after eating mince pies etc. over Christmas you do get a craving for more sweet things. It takes a while to shake it off.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great information, Sally. I don’t do alcohol or sugar, but still manage to gain extra pounds in other ways. It is a good time to pay attention to what we eat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the hardest word in the English language in relation to a number of activities is the word ‘No’. Even too much of the good stuff adds calories we might not need. It is about balance and I find that if I stop eating two of things it makes a difference.. I have a fact accumulation table that I have shared here from time to time which shows how by just having one biscuit or piece of toast instead of two equates to a loss of 10 – 14lbs over a year. That is why keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks is useful as you can see at a glance areas that with a little tweaking can bring great results…xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m doing Dry January again – third year running. I lost a few pounds each time. I’ve been told not to worry about the weight I’ve gained recently because by body needs calories to repair the healthy cells the radiation destroys. Mind you, I don’t think that includes the calories in peppermint aero 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post as always Sally, I knew I shouldn’t have made that Christmas cake…sigh…I practice Intermittent fasting and follow the 80/20 rule and it suits me but as you say not for everyone depending on their lifestyle…My body is telling me I need to up the ante with the walking…shared today on my healthy eating..Have a great week Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

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