After an especially tough year, unhealthy weight gain has never been more of a problem. Rather than telling us to simply cut the calories or exclude certain food groups, the best of the new diet books address lifestyle issues from anxiety and overwork, to how to save money by batch cooking, to eating more mindfully, as well as cultivating good gut bacteria.
Burnout’s a B*tch! by Rosie Millen (Mitchell Beazley, £20)
Who: In 2014 Millen, AKA Miss Nutritionist, developed Adrenal Fatigue and now specialises in helping others to recover from burnout through diet and lifestyle.
The Promise: You can too, but you’re going to have to change not just what you eat. Are you happy, are you sleeping, have you got FOMO? Do you attend too many long meetings, are you bad at saying no or delegating? This 6 week plan can change it all.
Recipes: A bit worthy, from protein smoothies and matcha balls to prawn and cashew stir-fry, but the emphasis is on eating to conquer burnout rather than lose weight.
Personal Style: Move over, Deliciously Ella, you’ve got competition.
Be the Fittest: Your Ultimate 12-Week Guide to Training Smart, Eating Clever and Learning to Listen to Your Body by Tyrone Brennand (Quadrille, £15):
Who: Fitness trainer to the stars – David Gandy, Tim Peake, Nathalie Emmanuel among them – had a rough start in life, but helped by the Prince’s Trust, set up his own fitness regime business in 2014 and has since worked for Reebok and Grenade. This is his first book.
The Promise: A 12-week guide to ‘training smart, eating clever and learning to listen to your body’ includes clean foods, Ty’s special yoga and HIIT exercise combo, and lots of motivational chat.
Recipes: A regime of high protein simple meals and snacks, with no fancy ingredients, such as Steamed Hake with Green Lentil Dhal and Kale, Pearl Barley Risotto with Roast Pumpkin, and Baked, Spiced Apple Chips.
Personal style: An iteration of Joe Wicks with shorter hair and tattoos.
The Meal Prep King: Save Time, Lose Weight, Eat The Meals You Love by John Clark (Michael Joseph, £20)
Who: Clark had already lost more than 9st when he met partner Deniz, who was overweight and insecure, but tried his regime for herself. Over a year she dropped over 6st and they created an insta account that now has 240,000 followers.
The Promise: Prepare a week’s worth of 400 calorie, low-cost meals a week in advance, box them up and either freeze or store. Bingo!
Recipes: Apart from trans fats, nothing is forbidden, from Double Chocolate Protein Doughnuts and Cheese Scones to Korean Style Beef noodles.
Personal style: You could imagine them on Strictly.
Two Chubbycubs Fast and Filling Food: 100 delicious Slimming Recipes by James Anderson and Paul Anderson (Yellow Kite, £20)
Who: This is the second book from the gay married couple who admit to having yo-yoed for years. ‘Paul is the shorter and more compact one of our relationship – he’s like a portable heater to my sprawling bushfire.’ says James.
The Promise: 500 calories or under recipes can be batched-cooked or frozen, but it’s really the witty, pun-laden banter that sets this book apart.
Recipes: Varies from Blueberry Porridge to Cheesy Chips with Homemade Ranch Sauce to Full Harvest Shepherds Pie.
Personal Style: A bit like the Hairy Bikers, but balder.
The Pegan Diet by Mark Hyman (Yellow Kite, £14.99)
Who: The Head of Strategy and Innovation at the Cleveland Centre for Functional Medicine, Hyman believes sugar and refined carbs are the biggest bogeymen.
The Promise: It started as a joke between friends, but it turns out that protein-rich foods like beans and grains (vegan) or animal and plant-derived (paleo) are best. Combining the two – hence pegan – is the dream.
Recipes: None. This is about creating good habits, limiting alcohol, refined carbs and sugar, eating in time-restricted periods, making 50% of what we eat green veg, intermittently fasting, building a healthier gut microbiome.
Personal style: Likes to wear a white doctor’s coat on TV.
Feel Great, Lose Weight by Dr Ranjan Chatterjee (Penguin Life, £16.99)
Who: The dishy Rishi lookalike has been a practising GP for two decades, written several diet books and delivers the extremely popular Feel Better, Live More podcast.
The Promise: Fad diets and intense workouts don’t work and one size certainly doesn’t fit all. But if you can build a ‘tool box’ of techniques, you can and will be in charge of your own weight loss and maintenance programme.
Recipes: The focus here is holistic and covers mindfulness, breathing techniques, gratitude lists, de-stressing, keeping a sleep journal and more, accompanied by gorgeously aspirational lifestyle pictures.
Personal style: Bare foot, stone-washed jeans and a soft grey tee.
The Plant-Based Power Plan by TJ Waterfall (Penguin Life, £14.99)
Who: Sports nutritionist, social influencer and founder of Meat Free Fitness, Waterfall first became a vegetarian in 2014 and a vegan a year later. He now works with elite athletes from rugby players to runners, to help them reach peak performance.
The Promise: A science-based argument to assert that a vegan diet if properly adhered to, can make you fitter, enhance athletic performance, help you lose weight and is healthier than the alternatives.
Recipes: A science book above all, but the 30, unillustrated recipes include Tofu Scramble, Lentil Tabbouleh and Squash and Black Bean Burritos.
Personal Style: Cool married hipster from Balham and a frequent jogger on Clapham Common
The Fitness Chef: Still Tasty: 100 Lower-Calorie Versions of Your Favourite Meals by Graeme Tomlinson (Ebury, £16.99)
Who: The Fitness Chef, AKA Graeme Tomlinson is a Scottish fitness coach and personal trainer with well over 800,000 Instagram followers, who love his trademark simple graphics.
The Promise: Eat junk food and still lose weight. Tomlinson doesn’t believe in quick fixes, crash diets, demonised foods or the concept of failure. Really, you just need to eat fewer calories than you burn to lose weight.
Recipes: Lasagne, The Big Fry Up, Mac n’ Cheese, Pizza, and more, but with less butter, oil, and other high cal foods slathered all over everything. And do include the fruit and veg.
Personal style: Clean-cut super fittie with the air of a drill sergeant
Eat Better Forever: 7 Simple Ways to Transform Your Diet by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, £26)
Who: Best known for his River Cottage books and TV programmes based on his organic smallholding in Dorset, celebrity writer FW now lives in Devon and continues to preach the sustainability message as well as writing, growing, cooking and running courses.
The Promise: Go whole, go varied, go with your gut, reduce refined sugar, factor in fat, think about your drink and eat (and don’t eat) mindfully are the seven cornerstones to staying slim for life.
Recipes: Lots of unreconstructed dishes like Grated Root and Fruit Salad, but also Duck & Braised Red Cabbage, and a Curried Beany Cullen Skink.
Personal Style: Scruffy, lovable, posh eco-bohemian has a new slim-line look.
Happy Food for Life: Health, Food and Happiness by Henrik Ennart and Niklas Ekstedt (Bloomsbury Absolute, £22)
Who: Ennart is a science journalist at Svenska Dagbladet and writes about food, lifestyle, environment, health and ageing; Ekstedt is a Swedish chef who cooks all raw ingredients over an open fire and appeared in 2020 as a judge in the Channel 4 series Crazy Delicious.
The Promise: The scientific evidence increasingly shows that everything starts and ends with the gut, including obesity, diabetes, gluten intolerance, food allergies, asthma, and even depression. So make yours a healthy ‘ecosystem’ to live better and longer. Fascinating, cutting-edge stuff.
Recipes: Roast Chicken Breast on the Bone with Lemon and Grilled Salad, Pasta Al Dente with Sage, Butter and Pine Nuts or Mackeral Sandwich are typical.
Personal style: Super Scandi!