December more than any other month of the year sees people over-indulge and pile on the pounds in the spirit of celebration, but that does mean that by the end of it we have to work twice as hard to get back into shape.
Of course, as soon as January hits, all the so-called nutritionists will be tumbling out of the woodwork determined to tell you the best way to lose those Christmas pounds. They'll be telling you to cut calories, go low-carb, eat raw and cut down to the diet of a Victoria's Secret model - and by the end of it you'll be so confused that you'll give up on the idea completely.
That's why Registered Dietitian Hala El-Shafie has come up with five key points when it comes to finding the right diet to follow. If you come across a fad diet that has any of the following features, they're a sure-fire route to failure.
1. Avoid carbs (or any food group!)
It's important to our bodies that we get the right amount of energy and nutrients, so cutting out food groups responsible for building those energy reserves and nurturing your body means that, while you might lose weight, you're not going to sustain that weight loss - and may just end up with a bunch of other problems on top of it.
"Cutting out certain food groups, means any changes to the diet become unsustainable in the long term and may lead to a risk of health issues such as constipation, nausea and headaches", Hala explains.
2. You can lose X amount of weight in two weeks
While it may be possible to lose half a stone in a week, that doesn't mean you should. We live in an age where people want results immediately, so they'll do everything they can to fast-track their weight-loss journey, and it just doesn't work.
"It's all about balance - diets do not work", says Hala. "Well, at least not in the long term. If that wasn't depressing enough, the statistics tell us that in over 97% of cases where weight loss occurs - the weight will soon pile back on (and then some)..."
The fact is, if you want to lose weight and stay that way, a full lifestyle change is required. There's no point in going on a diet and then going back to your old ways after you've lost the weight. The best way to lose weight is slowly, so be prepared to be patient.
3. Don't eat fatty food
We're not saying that it's a myth that burgers are bad for you, they are. But fats are not bad in themselves. In fact, you need the types of fats that are in oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds for cell growth and keeping cholesterol down.
"Healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in foods such as almonds, have great health benefits", Hala points out. "Almonds contain fatty acid linoleic acid which contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels, which is important for heart health."
The fats that you should be limiting are saturated and trans fats. Eating a lot of non-lean meats, cheese and butter can do the complete opposite and raise your cholesterol levels.
4. A super-fit celebrity is on this diet
All bodies are different, which means there's no one-size-fits-all diet or meal plan out there. A diet that works for some people may not work for you because everyone has different tolerances and all bodies work a bit differently.
"Work with what you've got, and find your kind of good", says Hala. "We are all individuals so you need to find out what works best for you. Make simple sustainable changes and stay away from anything that makes you feel bad - it really does not need to be that complicated."
Plus, if a celebrity is doing it, they are more than likely also spending thousands on personal trainers, personal chefs, nutritionists and therapists - and the average person does not have that kind of disposable income.
5. Restrict "bad" foods
There are a lot of nutritionists out there who stand firmly behind the belief that "cheat days" are hugely beneficial to any weight loss journey. But instead of thinking of chocolate and pizza as "cheat food", Hala believes that we should just look at all foods as "food". Yes, restricting your intake of fatty and sugary foods is essential for your health, but eating them from time to time is just as important and feeling guilty about it is only going to slow your progress down.
"Food is food, but when we're categorising it as "good" and "bad" and then rewarding ourselves using foods as "treats", we're potentially setting our ourselves up with feelings of guilt, failure and deprivation when we eat foods which we deem as 'bad'", she explains. "Which can then lead to binging and overeating which becomes a challenging cycle to break."