Struggling to get into the swing of the New Year's new you? The Gloss team read up on some of the best-selling health books to see which ones will help set you on the healthy straight and narrow
Feedback: “Using the latest fat loss techniques combined with metabolism-boosting workout programmes, The Fat Burn Revolution claims to be the body bible that will help you shed stubborn fat and get you into the best shape of your life. In particular, Julia’s book is based on the premise that her programme is adaptable to the needs of everyone whether you’re an exercise novice or a fitness aficionado - there are techniques to suit all levels.
“The book is split into a number of sections such as why health and exercise is so vital to the body, nutritional advice and a three-phase programme that provides seven days’ worth of 45 minute exercise regimes to encourage gradual improvement and fitness. Each section is accompanied by a clear walkthrough of each exercise and images, a warm-up, a warm-down and appropriate stretches - it’s comprehensive and leaves no room for misunderstanding or error.
“With over a decade of journalistic knowledge and experience, Julia’s passion for a healthy lifestyle is truly contagious. Moreover, the fact that she herself admits to having once been a less than ‘healthy’ individual in her younger days gives Julia a level of empathy that really helps the reader connect with her idea that anyone can indeed turn their lifestyle habits around.
“What’s probably most appealing about this book though, is that it can all be done from within the comfort of your own home and with only dumbbells and a gym ball to aid you.
“As a clear and uncomplicated book it’s a great way to easily introduce some health and exercise changes into your life without breaking the bank.”
Clean and Lean Diet, James Duigan
Feedback: "I don't have the best diet, and I've only just recently taken up exercise (and find myself enjoying it - bizarre), so I was definitely in need of some guidance and motivation for my New Year's resolution of cutting back sugar, and getting healthy in general. It's fair to say I have found the gold standard of knowledge and information in the form of Clean and Lean, the book by Bodyism's James Duigan. With Elle Macpherson singing his praises in the foreword and all the hype I've heard about him through colleagues and fitness fans, I've finally found a health philosophy that doesn't make me want to stick my nose up and grab a Mars bar.
"The title is inspiring (who wouldn't want to feel and look clean and lean?) and James is as 'real' as they get. The book starts with what eating clean is all about - that is, natural, fresh and unprocessed foods and the idea of looking after your body so it can clean away toxins (whether that be red wine or sugar) when it needs to. This in itself appeals as James already points out he doesn't expect perfection - it's all about being the best you can be so that when you do indulge, your body can handle it. From why sugar is 'not so sweet' to why stress makes you fat, Part One educates you in the effects of food and why caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods (or CRAP, as he likes to name them) all contribute to making you overweight. Part Two then gives you a 14 day meal plan complete with recipes, before offering beauty advice, a workout plan complete with photos of how to do the exercises and advice on how to keep it all up.
"Throughout the book, the most helpful tool I found was the 'Bad, Better, Best' tables which listed everyday foods and what you should swap them for. I don't believe in diets and I do believe life is too short to count calories or worry about every biscuit or glass of wine you consume - I doubt anyone on their deathbed looks back and regrets eating a slice of chocolate cake. But this programme is realistic, achievable and taps in to how I want to feel; I don't want to be tired all the time, I want energy, clear skin and a leaner body shape. Everything James says makes sense, and despite his experience it's not about looking like a model - his focus tends to be on how you feel rather than looks, which is refreshing in itself."
The Fast Diet Recipe Book, Mimi Spencer
Feedback: "Having just embarked on the 5:2 diet this January, this recipe book is really helpful and actually quite a fun way of keeping on top of calorie counting, which can be very tedious! Packed with tasty recipes and divided into helpful sections from Simple and Leisurely Breakfasts, to Suppers, Soups, Salads, Meat, Fish and Snacks, it contains a wide range of ideas to suit all tastes and to make fast days a lot easier to deal with. Each recipe is carefully laid out and is very easy to follow, with a calorie count at the top as well as how much it would be if you had one egg, two eggs, or a side of corn of the cob added on for example.
"It contains a helpful overview of what the Fast Diet is all about at the beginning, as well as explaining cooking methods, tips on flavouring and general learning points on different foods. I love that it also includes a ‘Lazy Fast Day Food’ list, which is great when you don’t have time to cook from scratch and just want to grab a lunch pot from Pret. What I love most is the meal planner and the index at the back of the book, which divides each recipe up into calorie counted categories for ease of use. Which is helpful if I only have 200 calories left for the day and I don’t want to flick through the whole book to find out what I can eat.
"All in all it's a great book for those starting out on the 5:2 diet. The only downside for me is that not every recipe is accompanied by an image. The images that are included are beautifully photographed, and immediately enticing; I think it would be a lot more beneficial for me if each recipe had this visual as otherwise I skim past them and I’m probably missing out on something delicious!"
Hot, Healthy, Happy: The 21-Day Diet to Eat, Drink and Think Your Way to Self-Love and Skinny Jeans, Dr Christy Fergusson
Feedback: “There’s no arguing that Dr Christy Fergusson knows her onions. A doctor of psychology, chartered psychologist, nutritional therapist and clinical hypnotherapist, Dr Christy is more than qualified to advise on health, diet and wellbeing matters. Having suffered health issues herself and set out to establish the root causes of her illnesses, her personal story is very relatable, and it’s reassuring to know that she was once partial to cookie dough ice cream and self-pitying binges. No longer, however; while Dr Christy is keen to emphasise that she still loves a glass of wine and slice of cake as much as the next person, she has devised a ‘hot, healthy, happy’ vitality plan, a lifestyle informed by her extensive scientific knowledge, functional medicine tests and reams of research. She breaks this down very effectively and makes complicated biological processes and scientific studies comprehensible and easy to understand, although anecdotes involving shoes, handbags, shopping, ‘hot’ boys and nightclubs came across as a little patronising. A note on tone; Dr Christy is something of a cheerleader. As the book is aimed at teenage girls and younger women I will forgive her, but phrases such as ‘inter-freakin’connected!’, the ‘Power Prayers’ included in each daily plan and addressing the reader as ‘starshine’ became quite grating after a chapter or two.
“Despite the happy clappy emphasis, American spelling and ‘action plan’ bullet points in the shape of hearts and suns, the message behind Dr Christy’s missives are both wise and enlightening. While I’m not a fan of the attention attributed to fitting into ‘skinny jeans’ in the book’s title, throughout the guide she sheds a lot of light on how the brain and body work, concentrating on both mental and physical health (references to losing weight are often thrown in as a motivational aside). From hormonal issues to digestive problems to low-moods, she takes symptoms back to square one, providing the reader with succinct facts and achievable, realistic solutions. In almost every chapter she advises on how to better educate yourself on the topics at hand, and her advice regarding further testing and medical follow-ups is both sensible and comforting. There’s nothing negative, alarmist or dictatorial about Dr Christy’s approach - instead she’s consistently upbeat and does her utmost to instil the reader with confidence.
“When chapters progress into the kitchen Dr Christy really comes into her own - her recipes are practical, straightforward and delicious. Deprivation is not on the menu and she considers everything from your weekly shop to likes and dislikes and potential pitfalls (‘don’t beat yourself up for flirting with forbidden foods when the mood takes you. Your body will survive. It can cope’). She acknowledges that adjusting to this new lifestyle can be taxing on both your bank balance and pleasure centres, but her reasoning that new ingredients will last for ages and insistence that desserts are allowed instils hope and optimism. Dr Christy isn’t restrictive or schoolteacher-y, which will come as a relief to the teenage target audience. She simply holds your hand throughout and encourages you to make beneficial, achievable changes without battling with hunger, calories or the number on the scales (in fact, she actively promotes throwing these away). Cheesy mantras may abound, but behind the jazz hands there’s good sense galore and a feast of resources.”
Super Healthy Snacks and Treats, Jenna Zoe
Feedback: "I’m really not great or experimental in the kitchen and I even struggle on how to season a simple stir fry to make it tasty. However, since I got my hands on Jenna Zoe’s book, cooking has become a whole lot easier. I’ve learnt about food and nutrition, and my food actually tastes pretty good. Super Healthy Snacks and Treats is an expertly put together recipe book on how to enjoy snacks and sweet treats without any of the hidden nasties that we get when we buy processed, ready made versions.
"Divided into six chapters of Breakfast, Power Snacks, Savoury Nibbles, Dips and Dippers, Sweet Bites and Cookies and Bakes, it is full of exciting recipes that are clear and concise, giving expert advice on how to substitute the bad stuff to make better nutritional choices. Ranging from mouth-watering peanut butter cups to imaginative dips and healthy alternatives including kale chips and cookies, it has something for everyone. I love it more because it's genuine and real, written by someone who wanted to eat clean without skimping out on the flavour or missing out on the treats. Covered with beautifully photographed examples of the finished recipe this book is enticing, inspiring and engaging - to be honest, an absolute must-have for any kitchen."
The Balance Diet, Jennifer Irvine
Feedback: “From the founder of gourmet diet food delivery service The Pure Package comes this collection of ‘quick and easy recipes to feel healthy and slim’. It’s aimed at the time-poor, health-conscious foodie, and Irvine’s simple, grounded advice and eschewing of weighing, calorie counting mantras is both to the point and refreshing. Flavour addition matches and genius leftover ideas help you make the most of both your time and what’s in the fridge and her straightforward technical advice ensures that you’re up to speed with quick, healthy cooking methods.
“My favourite recipe section was breakfast - from jazzing up yoghurt and porridge to giving French Toast a good-for-you makeover, I’d happily whip up any of Irvine’s nutritious and delicious creations. Hearty salads are meals in themselves and the comforting soups would soak up even the most savage of hangovers (it’s a bonus that ingredients are relatively easy to source). The mains section is not extensive - I’d say that some of the inventive sides might make more interesting standalone meals, but by the time you’ve reached desserts you’ll be in culinary heaven and may well forget that this is a recipe book aimed at healthy eating. From peach ‘soufflette’ to orange and ginger chocolate mousse, these puds would impress even the most discerning dinner party diner.
“At the end of the book there is a 14 day meal-planner that aims to make adhering to your saintly eating aims easier by removing choice and eliminating indecision. Here and throughout the book Irvine offers useful tips for seasonal ingredient adjustments and tailoring recipes to your tastes, meaning there’s no excuse to resort to ready meals or fast food post-work. The Balance Diet isn’t revolutionary or particularly exotic - in essence it does what it says on the tin, allowing you to achieve a balanced diet with very little time or effort expended (thus improving your work-life balance in the mix). The photography is appealing and aspirational and the ethos is simple - no lifestyle tips or anecdotes, just nourishing, fresh and easy-to-prepare meals.”
What Are You Hungry For, Deepak Chopra
Feedback: “I’m a big believer that it takes a multi-faceted approach in order to achieve long-term weight loss, and that’s why this book really struck a chord with me. Written by renowned wellbeing expert Deepak Chopra, he uses both his medical background and experience in the field of Ayurveda to highlight the importance of mindfulness, staying present, meditation and most importantly, awareness while eating to see off those extra pounds for good. I was sceptical at first, thinking that this was going to be another stereotypical self-help book that wouldn’t actually provide concrete, practical advice that I could use day-to-day. However, it proved to be a real eye-opener and I became engrossed with the author’s useful insights and expert tips for incorporating a more food-conscious way of thinking into the way we eat our meals and prepare our food.
“What I found to be particularly refreshing was Chopra’s emphasis on adopting a healthy diet to ensure more ‘joyful living’ and his belief of not being too hard on yourself should you make a mistake – an element that I think is missing from a lot of diet books out there at the moment. “Changing your diet is a marathon, not a sprint,” he says, “Don’t get into the bad habit of blaming yourself for slipping up or backsliding – in fact, rid your vocabulary of these words.”
“The only aspects that I would question are firstly, the practicality of some of Chopra’s meal preparation suggestions. He recommends eliminating anything that’s frozen, leftover, unnatural, microwaved or canned. In theory, this would be great, but whether this translates to today’s demands and our increasingly busy lifestyles, I’m not too sure. Secondly, as an avid meat-lover, I would have preferred a few more recommendations for incorporating a more varied and healthier range of livestock into my diet too (other than chicken and fish). But perhaps that’s my inner cavewoman talking.
“With the first part of the book written for your kitchen, the second for your mind and the third for your stomach (a section containing a range of delicious recipes to prepare at home - I’ve got my eye on the Unbelievable Double Chocolate Cake), it covers all bases to help you address any issues that you may have had with food in the past and embark upon a new chapter for the New Year, without a crash diet in sight. A brilliant read for both body and mind and a must-have for anyone hoping to change their relationship with food.”
The Beauty Detox Foods by Kimberly Snyder
Feedback: "With rave reviews and glowing testimonials from everyone from Drew Barrymore, Olivia Wilde, Channing Tatum and Josh Duhamel to Oprah's beloved Dr Oz, this New York Times Bestseller is definitely one of my favourite health, beauty and nutrition books. Written by Kimberly Snyder, the go-to nutritionist for countless Hollywood stars, it's an incredibly insightful, intelligent and honest read that fully explains how and why you should be eating for optimum health. Backed up with oodles of research, boasting lots of great recipes and a fantastic breakdown of what Kimberly deems to be her top 50 beauty foods and why, this book is a must for anyone who wants to learn how to truly be healthy, from the inside out.”