MATHS wizard Carol Vorderman won't be doing any calorie-counting as she works off the Christmas excesses - because some serious detoxing should do the trick.

The Countdown presenter, who has published a revised edition of her book Detox For Life to coincide with National Detox Awareness Week, which starts today, keeps her svelte size ten figure by cutting out a variety of foods over a short period of time.

The 28-day detox programme recommended in her book cuts out alcohol, caffeine, meat, cheese and fish, among other things. But not forever.

The TV star stresses: ''People think I'm on this detox programme all the time but I'm absolutely not. I do it for two to three weeks twice a year. And I've only ever stuck to it about 90 per cent.''

However, she claims that once people have been on the detox programme, they won't really feel like eating all the fattening foods that previously helped pile on the pounds.

Detoxing has transformed the TV star from mumsy mathematician to sex siren in a few short years, and she figured out long ago that she didn't need to go on a faddy diet to do it.

The 42-year-old mother-of-two, who used to be a size 14, laughs at the notion that she's become a sex symbol, but she is much happier with how she looks now than how she was a few years ago.

''I love nice clothes and I like to dress up. After I'd had the children I felt I had turned into a frump. I was constantly tired, looking after children and a business and a full-time job and everything was too much.

''I cut my own hair for two-and-a-half years because I didn't have time to go to the hairdresser - and that was when I was on screen. But I was always reluctant to turn work down.''

Last summer, she decided to review the punishing work schedule which has filled her life for so long and cut down on her workload, although she still has a string of TV commitments for 2003.

She also moved from Maidenhead to a luxury flat overlooking the Thames in central London, where she now lives with her partner, newspaper executive Des Kelly and her two children, Katie, ten, and five-year-old Cameron, from her ten-year marriage to Paddy King. Carol's mother, Jean, who lived with the family in Maidenhead, has moved into a flat in the same development.

While her sizzling dresses have caused a stir at TV parties and other events - and one lads' magazine even asked her to pose naked, an offer she declined - the weight loss has also attracted some adverse publicity.

''People started to ask me how I'd managed to lose so much weight. Some thought I'd been drinking magical green slime for three months and not eaten a thing. Some thought I'd become bulimic. A couple of dieticians had a go at me because they thought I was starving myself, which wasn't true because I eat more food now, not less.''

She put the video and best-selling book together to explain it all. ''And before you think I've turned into one of those boring Stepford Wives women who seem to find time to iron their knickers, I haven't. I can't spend hours cultivating the perfect courgette risotto. I know that you and I have a thousand things to do in a day.''

The TV presenter, who will be working on a new series of Better Homes as well as fronting Pride Of Britain and making other one-off appearances this year, certainly has a spring in her step these days.

As well as a happy personal life, she has been reunited with her father, Anton, who walked out on her and the rest of his family when she was a baby. Until a year ago, Carol had refused to meet him. But eventually she relented and allowed her older sister to arrange a meeting.

''It has been very nice to see him a few times and we are in contact now. It isn't just a father and daughter thing. Other people were involved and it would have been ridiculous if I'd carried on refusing to see him.''

Carol, one of the highest-paid women in British television, has remained loyal to Countdown, where she has been for 20 years, and will continue.

And her New Year's resolution? ''To have a happy year, enjoy life and do some fun things with the kids.''

Work, for once, is not at the top of her agenda.

l Carol Vorderman's Detox For Life (Virgin, £10.99)