Smorgasbord Health Column – Forget Crash Diets – Ease your body into that swimsuit this summer

It is that time of year when women’s and fitness magazines, begin to guarantee that you can have a bikini fit body in six weeks. To be honest, unless you are already quite slender, the chances of most of us getting into a bikini in six weeks, is not practical and in some cases, dangerous.

A lot of the celebrity diets will assure you that drastically reducing your calorie intake, and dropping one or two major food groups for six weeks, will do wonders for your figure. And it is true that starving your body for that period of time will usually result in weight loss.

However, although the thought of losing only 2lbs a week seems very sedentary and unlikely to achieve the results you require in such a short space of time, any more than that and you are creating a vicious cycle of weight loss and gain that will take a long time to re-balance.

The “diet industry” is worth billions of pounds/dollars a year and there are hundreds of  slimming products available on the shelves and in my time, when I weighed 330lbs, I tried most of them. In fact I starved myself regularly and would lose 10lbs quickly and then once I began eating normally again, it would rush back and add a few extra pounds for good measure. Many of the meal replacements that are available have unhealthy amounts of chemicals, artificial sweeteners (that the body reacts to in the same way as sugar) and cost an arm and a leg. Our bodies do not recognise this as food and over an extended period of time you are in danger of becoming deficient in some of the major nutrients.

The body is 100,000 years old or so – yet it is only really in the last 50 years that we have been told by experts that we have been doing it all wrong for the last 99,950 of them.

Foods that provided us with nutrients during that lengthy period that are easily processed by the body are dismissed as “bad”. Well, there you go. For most of my adult life I believed the marketing and official edicts on what to eat and what not to – and certainly contributed to those billions! However this is where it got me! As you can imagine the owner of the mechanical bull was very concerned when it ground to a halt in protest.

I lost my original 150lbs 22 years ago and whilst I have an added few pounds now at 65, I have thankfully avoided some of the health issues associated with obesity such as High Blood Pressure and diabetes.

One of the main causes for my weight gain, was yo-yo dieting from my teen years when I starved my body to emulate Twiggy, and then binged when I resumed eating. I also took diet pills for several years which did nothing for my metabolism, and now that some of those are banned from the market, I am also lucky that I did not do more harm to my heart and liver. Many of the meal replacements that are available have unhealthy amounts of chemicals, artificial sweeteners (that the body reacts to in the same way as sugar) and cost an arm and a leg. Our bodies do not recognise this as food, and over an extended period of time, you are in danger of becoming deficient in some of the major nutrients.

Then of course there was the ban on fat in the diet and I embraced carbohydrates with great delight, unfortunately whilst we need a moderate amount on a daily basis, we need healthy fat even more.

Anyway…. bearing all that in mind!  Here is my easy to follow plan to get a little bit healthier and lighter before your summer holiday.

I am still working on my middle bit, which seems to have a mind of its own!  So I am going to be following my tried and tested method of shedding 10lbs in the next month.

If you are interested in losing a few pounds before the summer really gets going or just want to revamp your diet and lifestyle a touch.. then here is Top Tips to getting into that bathing costume (one piece at least – in my case the bikini would definitely take a great deal longer and require surgery!)

It is very important that you do not starve your body into submission or deprive it of all the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Instead take a long hard look at what you are currently eating and with the help of these tips, make some sensible and easy to keep to changes that will help you lose weight and become healthier.

Weigh yourself on some new scales. Most people underestimate how much they weigh by quite a bit. If people weigh 15 stone and have no scales they think they way 12 stone. You need a place to start so that you can set realistic targets. Most people expect to lose too much in the first week or two and are then disappointed when they fail to do so. 2lbs of body fat per week is absolutely healthy and if you lose more than that you are in danger of losing muscle. The body would rather sacrifice muscle because it uses up far more calories to fuel – if you lose this muscle you will find it very difficult to get back. You will lose excess water the first week which might give you a boost, particularly if you have reduced your salt intake or processed food intake, but after that aim to lose 2lbs per week.

Remember that 1lb per week is still 52lbs lost in a year.

Once you have established how much you weigh, you then need to write a food diary for 14 days of everything you eat and drink. At the end of 14 days you will have a good idea just where you might be overdoing it.

Apart from our weight, we also underestimate how much we are eating – usually by 1000 plus calories per day. Most of us know deep down what is unhealthy or healthy in our diet and if you find that more than 25% of your diet is rubbish then you need to alter the balance. Nobody is saying that you should never have a burger or an Indian takeaway but once a week is enough. Also if you know that you are going to be indulging on a particular night then schedule in extra exercise on the day before and afterwards.

Do not starve yourself though – you can eat lighter by eating salads and fruit but make sure that you are still eating breakfast and lunch with some healthy snacks otherwise your body will whip the takeaway right into storage.

Reduce your salt intake. You should not have more than a level teaspoon per day or 6 grams. If you eat a lot of processed foods you will be consuming far in excess of this.

Sodium is essential for our bodies to keep a correct water balance (so too much can cause water retention and can represent several pounds in extra weight) it is also necessary for nerve impulse transmission and prevents your blood from becoming too acidic or alkaline. However, take in too much and not only will it cause weight gain it can also drive your blood pressure too high.

Look at the labels on the food and your mineral water currently in your cupboard and fridge and see how much sodium is in 100gms. Multiply by 2.5 which will give you the salt equivalent.

So if a Pizza has 8400 mg of sodium you would times that by 2.5 giving you 21000mg of sodium or 21gm of salt which is 3.5 teaspoons or 3 times the recommended salt intake.

You will be horrified if you do this exercise with both salt and sugar.

You will see on most labels that it has carbohydrates of which are sugars in grams.

Divide that number by 4gm which is equivalent to a teaspoon and see how much your favourite treat contains.

A 100gm chocolate bar contains 16 teaspoons of sugar.

The recommended daily intake is 10 – and there is going to be more in all the food you eat throughout the day – even in savoury food. 3.5 teaspoons in a serving of chunky pasta sauce.

Think in the terms of one. This applies to the individual – you are responsible for your own health and lifestyle. You would not be happy if someone was popping in and out of your bank account or your home every few minutes and dictating what you spent your money on or what television programme you watch.

Yet, we allow food manufacturers to dictate what we eat – we expect the medical profession to pick up the pieces when we become ill with lifestyle related illness and we do not take responsibility for the one asset that is truly ours.

If you want to live for 90 or 100 years you have to take back control.

The power of one applies to how we eat as well. For example 1 biscuit with your tea. 2 biscuits every day with your afternoon tea (digestives) equates to 15lbs in body fat per year. Having one biscuit instead means a potential loss of 7.5lbs per year.

Habits that need to be broken often come in twos and require you to give up both to be successful. If you automatically reach for the biscuit tin when you have a cup of tea or coffee switch to fruit juice for a week or two and that will help a) because it is sweet and b) it will break the association. The other aspect of this is that addiction loves company. If you are with a group of friends that smoke, drink and has a takeaway after the pub three or four times a week, you are going to find it a challenge to become the one in this familiar group that is not following the group rules.

Misery loves company. Start listening to the language that your family and friends use and then see if you are falling into the same language patterns. Negativity is the worst enemy of change. One word that we use a great deal is ‘should’.

  • I should give up smoking.
  • I should give up eating chocolate.

Should is a soggy word. It does not imply any definite action just a possible one. If you use ‘should’ a great deal consciously change it to the word ‘must’ I must give up smoking. I must give up chocolate. But like any good sales pitch you need to give yourself the benefits.

  • I must give up smoking so that I don’t get lung disease.
  • I must give up chocolate so that I lose weight.

Just because a toaster has two slots does not mean you need to put two pieces of toast into it. A piece of wholemeal toast on its own is only about 80 calories but add butter, jam, cheese or ham you are taking it up to 200 calories – multiply that by 2 slices and you are looking at a snack of 400 calories.

If you currently eat two slices of toast with butter and jam a day for a snack you will potentially lose 20lbs per year by swapping them out for a piece of fruit.

Whatever alcohol you are drinking divide by two to start with and then divide by two again in 4 weeks. For the person who drinks 2 glasses of wine per night this represents 20lbs of body fat per year. Just by drinking one glass per night you will potentially lose 10lbs. A burger with medium fries and a medium fizzy drink can be as high as 1040 calories and 17 spoonfuls of sugar. If you are in the habit of having this once a week in a year this adds up to 15lbs of body fat. Have one a month and you will potentially lose 9lbs.

Do not eat white bread, white pasta or white rice. Change to whole grains and you will be adding fibre into your diet which will potentially help you lose your weight – it is nutritionally much healthier and you will find that your energy levels are much more stable by reducing your sugar cravings. Recent research has identified that those that include moderate amounts of whole grains such as brown rice in their daily meals, lose more weight than those who go carbohydrate free.

Stop drinking diet or normal fizzy drinks. Artificial sweeteners in diet drinks are just as addictive as sugar and have the same affect on the body. Use unsweetened fruit juices with sparkling water for a fizzy drink. Do not give your children fizzy drinks. In America they are treating young teenagers for cirrhosis of the liver and they have not had alcoholic drink only fizzy drinks on a daily basis.

Take a look at your exercise level and if you are currently walking every day, try to reduce the time it takes you to complete your normal route. Measure it if you can in the car so that you know the exact distance. After you have speeded up extend the distance until you are walking briskly for at least 45 minutes a day. Over a period of six weeks increase your exercise level so that you are walking four miles per hour.

Being realistic, we get to a certain age when we do look better in a one piece bathing costume. We are not expected to look supermodel beach ready, but I know from my own personal experience that it still takes a lot of courage to appear in front of others in a near state of undress. I do admire those that feel that they can let it all hang out and I wish that I had that level of self-confidence.

©Sally Cronin Just food for health 1998 – 2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. 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. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from

And Amazon UK:

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4:

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally