I'm often asked whether it's better to tell friends and family that you're trying to lose weight or not to tell them.

On one hand, if you tell them, they may help you.

They may not put the dish of nuts right under your nose or offer to clear the dishes to prevent you from picking at the leftovers.

On the other hand, there are a lot of saboteurs out there. Dieters aren't very popular socially. They make people feel guilty, especially those who should be dieting but are not.

They might try to persuade you by saying: "But you don't really need to diet"

or "Don't diet tonight. Start tomorrow." Or even worse:

"Not again - you give up every time so why bother to start?"

All these things considered, is it better to admit to trying to lose weight or not?

On balance, it might be better not to.

So how should you go on?

The answer is to say exactly the sort of things that slim people say when they're out socially. Hear them in your head. Imagine a slim person at a friend's house for a meal.

She has just eaten her main course and her hostess offers her more: "No thank you -

that was absolutely delicious but I couldn't eat another thing. I'd love to take the recipe from you."

Nothing could sound more natural. Her hostess won't pressure her. End of story.

And if her hostess does try to persuade her, she'll just repeat the same thing again, kindly but firmly.

There are alternatives that will sound just as familiar when you imagine this fictitious, naturally slim person.

She might say: "I'd love some more but I must leave room for some dessert."

Those of us who are used to overeating when at a friend's house will have a completely different mind set. We're likely to take the opportunity to eat our fill and justify the second helping by thinking to ourself: "But my friend has gone to so much trouble, how can I not?"

Another common unhelpful thought process is: "I must have some more or she'll think I don't like it." So you tuck in to seconds. Then you repeat the whole procedure for dessert.

All the while, these are only justifications for having more while promising yourself you'll start that diet again tomorrow.

There is another side to the debate as to whether you should tell your nearest and dearest of your weight-loss plans. One of the benefits is that it commits you. If you make a big announcement one day and next day you're caught tucking into a huge plate of chips, you might receive critical comments.

Having made your announcement, it might keep you on the straight and narrow for a little longer.

Without the public announcement, you need to take all the responsibility. There's nothing to stop you taking a night off if no one knows and tucking in. But, at the end of the day, the responsibility has to be yours.

A good compromise might be to tell your closest family you're trying to lose weight.

But tell them exactly the rules of the game and, most importantly, tell them exactly how you want them to help you (and what you don't want them to do or say).

When you go out socially, it's probably better not to say you're on diet. Just behave as if you are a naturally slim person and you will be.

You can get support from
Dr Judy Citron and her team of DietCoaches by joining her telephone weight-loss classes, right from your own home.

"You lose weight and you're not on a diet. It's amazing."

Phone free for more information on 0800 074 0260 or visit the web site at www.thedietcoach.com