This week I received a mail shot about the virtues of "fat draining".

All you have to do, apparently, is take three capsules per day and a special ingredient will magically dissolve the fat from your neck, arms, waist, hips, thighs, buttocks, knees and ankles.

Where does it go? According to the leaflet, the fat is eliminated each time you visit the WC.

Nothing, it seems, could be simpler. There is no need to diet or exercise, just hand over the money, take the pills and, voila, your flab is history.

We don't seem to like fat much, judging by the way we refer to it. There is talk of grabbing, melting, binding, trapping, blocking, burning or blasting fat cells back into "fatland" or wherever else they come from.

Most weight-loss promotions carry the same message:

No problem, you can rapidly destroy the enemy in order to look good on the beach.

Forget the parsley and carrot juice and feel free to remain a glutton while simultaneously swallowing expensive slimming products.

We live in hope that fatbusting will work but, unfortunately, people usually put weight back on after using diet aids because they fail to change their eating or lifestyle habits.

Some fat-draining pills may even be a health risk -

not only do they prevent fats and oils but also the fatsoluble vitamins (A, D, E, K and beta carotene) from being absorbed.

Where does fat come from and what can one do about it?

Fat is the body's storage of broken-down sugar and carbohydrates.

And the only way to get rid of excess flab permanently and safely is to limit intake of sugar and carbohydrates such as potatoes, pasta and bread and to exercise consistently in order to whittle down those fat stores (consult your doctor if unfit).

Combine slow-releasing carbohydrates with proteinrich foods to achieve a more stable blood sugar balance -

this reduces the body's tendency to store fat.

Such a diet is rich in fresh vegetables, beans, lentils, wholegrains, fish and lean poultry. It is low in sugar, refined carbohydrates, fruit juices and processed foods.

Reduce stimulants such as tea, coffee, cigarettes and alcohol because they, like sugar, disturb blood sugar control which in turn affects weight.

Eat three regular meals per day and snack on fruit if you get hungry.

It is important not to get obsessive about removing all fats from your diet as we do require some sources to be optimally healthy.

Apart from providing energy, the right fats necessary for brain development, to make hormones cell membranes.

Essential fatty acids found in avocadoes, olives, raw nuts, seeds and oily fish.

Avoid saturated fats (meat and dairy) and those that are hydrogenated fried.

Rather than wasting your money on substances which may leave you with an unfit body, floppy skin and nutrient deficiencies, make commitment to build healthy habits into your life.

Forget about how many pounds you are supposed shed each week - weight should be slow but steady and in your own good time.

Martina is a qualified
nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: martina_watts