In my 30s I found that I could easily lose any extra pounds by simply abstaining from excess.

In my 40s I found it much harder and eventually changed my diet to a low calorie low fat diet and that worked well for a few years.

In my early 50s I found it impossible to lose all of the extra weight that I was carrying until, in Apr-03 I discovered the South Beach diet invented by an American heart specialist Dr. Agatston. With the aid of this diet, which once again requires a lifestyle change in eating patterns, my weight came down from 13st5 until in Sep-03 I was a much healthier 11st10 and felt that I would easily be able to maintain that. By the way, my then young family members hadn't a clue what 13st5 meant as they only understood kilos, so if you need help here's how to convert.

Well that was 4 years ago; it's now 2007 and I am 56 and despite mostly sticking to the South Beach diet, the excesses of summer holidays and Christmas dinners now roll on so easily and just stay there. So I've invented my own variant - the Side Plate Dinner.

Well it's now 2011 and here I am again - I'm now 60 pushing 61 and at 13st8 I'm heavier than ever. So once again I have gone back to the South Beach Diet but this time I'm combining it with the Side Plate Dinner. I think the problem is that I knew I needed to make a lifestyle change in diet but gradually let things slip adding in something here and something there and before I knew it my weight was back up again. This time I'm determined that the switch will be for life but with these exceptions: (a) once a week I might let something into my diet that would not normally fit - for example when going out to dinner with friends to somewhere that cannot cope with my diet, and (b) once a week on a Thursday I am having a zero carbohydrates day - I read that if you don't firmly choose a specific day of the week then it will never happen. So far my weight has come down from 13st8 to an encouraging 12st1 and I expect to get it back to the 11st10 that I had achieved before. The challenge being that it is now just before Christmas and we know what an eating and sweets festival Christmas is.

The Side Plate Dinner

I'm still in my everyday eating following what I learned in the South Beach diet. However, like most people I know, when I'm relaxing in sunnier climes on holiday then breakfast and dinner become focal points of the day and a major source of pleasure and all thought of diet goes out of the window and the pounds roll on. Similarly around Christmas time there are many opportunities to dine in enormous excess as we all celebrate and the winter fat rolls in. Business trips where customers are treated to entertaining dinners out make a fair contribution too.

The result was that my 11st10 achieved in 2003 using the South Beach diet gradually stretched to a "normal" weight for me of 12st10 which remained stable for some time until eventually, due to the aforementioned excesses, it spiralled up to 13st7 and night time heartburn returned necessitating a dose of liquid Gaviscon every night before going to bed.

I bought a running machine. However, I've never got on with running, it causes my throat to swell and my ankles to swell and so eventually I passed it on to someone in the family where hopefully it now gives some benefit.

I bought a lateral thigh trainer to achieve a better warm-up cycle prior to doing my Bullworker routine. However, my legs were worn out before my heart and lungs had started to do anything - I could exercise as fast as the thing would go and my pulse rate would not go up. My daughter now has the lateral thigh trainer in her flat.

I bought a rowing machine and used that for warm-up before my Bullworker routine and that worked quite nicely. I felt quite strong and fit again, and my shape was improving - waist line was ok but stomach still far too big. However, all this made no difference whatsoever to my weight. Eventually the rowing machine also went to a new home.

These days I'm semi-retired so there are more opportunities for exercise but still I don't do enough - I walk to school with my granddaughter, and when I remember then I do some Pilates exercises to keep my back in good shape, my trusty Bullworker is worn out so I now use the modern Bullworker replacement - the Steel Bow - but only occasionally instead of every day, and I try and play badminton with my brother once a week although with our combined aches and pains we tend to give up before the hour we paid for is finished.

Finally, I asked Cheryl to ensure that every meal I have will fit on a side plate - and no stacking up allowed.

This had an instant effect: I lost 6lbs in a week - down from 13st7 to 13st1. Like a yoyo - I went for a weekend break with friends partying till all hours, not too heavy on meals - meals indoors followed the side plate rule, but meals in pubs and cafes were relatively huge - back came the 6lbs back to 13st7.

In less than another week I have lost 5lbs (to 13st2) and then 4 lbs (to 12st12) so I'm almost back to my stable 12st10.

I'm going to see whether I can comfortably get to below 12st7 and I'll report back.

Everyone says I must be starving. Well I'm not: I have a healthy hunger as lunchtime and dinner time approach - I'm definitely ready to eat - there's not much on the plate so I take it slowly and savour it and make it last as long as everyone else's full dinner plates - and afterwards I feel satisfied with no feeling of having been short changed. If I get really hungry in the mid-afternoon then I eat an apple.

If it continues like that then I reckon I can keep this up indefinitely so let's see what happens and where things plateau out.

Well here I am in 2011 and as mentioned at the top I ended up back at 13st8 and once again doing the South Beach diet this time combined with the Side Plate dinners and I reckon I will again achieve the 11st10 target. I've come down to 12st1 and the weight is still gradually though very slowly now coming down some every week.

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet bears some resemblance to the Atkins diet but there are essential differences which I believe make it much healthier and easier to follow.

Basically the body needs energy and it can get it from two sources: primarily the body obtains it from carbohydrates because it is the easiest and quickest way, but can also get it from fats. By having a diet that starts with zero carbs and then re-introduces so-called good carbs the body is forced into getting most of its energy from fats and it would seem that it starts by using up its own fats first.

Good carbs are those that the body has to do plenty of work in order to absorb them, whereas bad carbs are those which the body can near enough instantly metabolise into blood sugars (these include white bread, white rice, potatoes and most root vegetables, and of course anything with sugar in it).

I also read somewhere that the liver processes fats and helps rid the body of unwanted fats that we eat but when drinking alcohol because the alcohol is considered by the body to be a toxin then the liver stops processing fats and goes about quickly getting rid of the alcohol. Well I guess I'm not giving up my red wine, but I am drinking less of it and ensuring that for at least 50% of the days I don't drink any alcohol at all.

The South Beach diet has 3 phases...

bulletPhase 1: 1-2 weeks duration, zero carbohydrate, high protein, no alcohol, no processed foods such as bread, pasta and no rice, no potatoes and no fruit. Plenty of green vegetables, salads, meat, fish, eggs, nuts. Purges the body of the desire for carbohydrates and reduces hunger.
bulletPhase 2: lasts until your target weight is achieved, low-medium carbohydrate, fruit, red wine, and the rest pretty much as above.
bulletPhase 3: maintenance - continues indefinitely, if required then more carbohydrates can be added back in whilst you notice which ones have an adverse impact upon your weight - take those out again.

In this diet there is no counting or measuring. You learn what you can eat and it is then up to you to eat enough to ensure that you are not hungry. There is a book on the diet (available from Amazon) that contains many varied and interesting recipes. The diet also includes mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.

The basis is that so-called "easy" carbohydrates trigger the body to rapidly assimilate the carbohydrates into blood sugar which then triggers a rapid generation of insulin by the pancreas to process all of that blood sugar. The sugars are soon dealt with yet the body is all geared up for serious action leaving you feeling hungry and craving more carbohydrates.

The trick is to avoid these easy carbohydrates or, if you can't avoid them, then slow down the body's assimilation process by eating the carbs with something else. For example: a baked potato would cause such a rush, but by eating it with sour cream the cream will slug the body's ability to process the potato and so result in a steady release of energy over a period of time rather than a rush.

The sugar rush from easy carbs can also seriously increase the risk in obese people of developing diet-related diabetes due to overloading the pancreas to the point where it simply gives up.

The worst carbohydrates are:-

bulletMaltose - found in beer - hence the beer belly - you really need to give this up, though in the maintenance phase the odd half every now and then won't hurt
bulletSucrose - sugar - avoid things with sugar in. Though be careful about so-called low fat products because often they have added sugar; a good example is mayonnaise where the ordinary mayonnaise is much better for you.
bulletFructose - found in fruit. Many fruits have lots of fibre in them and can be eaten after phase 1. Some fruits are too high in fructose and have insufficient fibre to slow the absorption and so should be avoided - like bananas and pineapples.

Dr. Agatston, the author of the South Beach diet, says that for a diet to work the person should not be hungry and should not be bored and both of those objectives have been met.

Unlike the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet does not promote eating high levels of fat, or virtually cutting out all carbs.

I have found the biggest drawback is when in the office since I shouldn't eat sandwiches - no white bread is allowed at all you see. However, it's swings and roundabouts - now I take a proper lunch break and go out for a meal - typically steak, chicken or fish but without any potatoes - just ask for extra vegetables or more salad. I eat a lot of salads too but make them more interesting with the addition of broad beans, butter beans, nuts, cheese etc.

I've found I can eat really well, enjoy my red wine and lose weight reliably whilst doing so.

I've found some other side effects:-

bulletI used to feel bloated after meals and that no longer happens
bulletIf I ate late then I had raging heartburn during the night and required strong medication to relieve it. Sometimes it was impossible to relieve it and I had to sleep upright in a chair. This has completely disappeared since day 1 of the diet.
bulletI have a very low hunger level now and can easily skip meals and not notice at all (provided that I drink enough water - often the body is confused when thirsty and tells you that it is hungry - try drinking water and waiting 20 mins - if you still feel hungry then you are genuinely hungry). This is handy if there is only poor food available - I just don't bother eat it. Another very valuable tip on hunger, this time from Paul McKenna (the magician) - he did a TV series on diet and one of the things he advocates is to imagine eating something in particular and see if in your imagination that is going to cure the hunger pangs - if not then it is not that thing that your body needs. If you keep doing this with different things you might have chosen to eat and none of them would satisfy then you're not really hungry - you're either thirsty or tired and need a cat nap.
bulletI used to feel listless and dizzy when on a diet - that has not happened at all with this diet. In fact I've never felt better for a long time.

There's a whole web site on the South Beach Diet. Try searching on for "South Beach Diet" - there are loads of hits.

Here's how it went the first time around...

South Beach Diet
Started: 22-Apr-03 Target Achieved:21-Aug-03 Height (Mtrs): 1.7272
BMI Target Range: 18-25
Date Phase Stones and Lbs Weight in Lbs Body Mass Index Loss since last weigh-in Days since last weigh-in Loss per day since last weigh-in Average loss per day overall Total Loss
22/04/2003 1 13 5 187 28.46 0.00 0 0.00 0.0 0
25/04/2003 1 13 2 184 28.00 3.00 3 1.00 1.0 3
28/04/2003 1 13 2 184 28.00 0.00 3 0.00 0.5 3
30/04/2003 1 13 0 182 27.70 2.00 2 1.00 0.625 5
02/05/2003 1 12 12 180 27.39 2.00 2 1.00 0.7 7
08/05/2003 1 12 12 180 27.39 0.00 6 0.00 0.438 7
15/05/2003 1 13 2 184 28.00 -4.00 7 -0.57 0.13 3
16/05/2003 1 13 0 182 27.70 2.00 1 2.00 0.208 5
19/05/2003 2 12 13 181 27.55 1.00 3 0.33 0.222 6
20/05/2003 2 12 12 180 27.39 1.00 1 1.00 0.25 7
21/05/2003 2 12 11 179 27.24 1.00 1 1.00 0.275862069 8
23/05/2003 2 12 10 178 27.09 1.00 2 0.50 0.290322581 9
27/05/2003 2 12 9 177 26.94 1.00 4 0.25 0.285714286 10
13/06/2003 2 12 8 176 26.78 1.00 17 0.06 0.211538462 11
20/06/2003 2 12 6 174 26.48 2.00 7 0.29 0.220338983 13
26/06/2003 2 12 5 173 26.33 1.00 6 0.17 0.215384615 14
29/06/2003 2 12 4 172 26.18 1.00 3 0.33 0.220588235 15
04/07/2003 2 12 5 173 26.33 -1.00 5 -0.20 0.191780822 14
06/07/2003 2 12 4 172 26.18 1.00 2 0.50 0.2 15
12/07/2003 2 12 4 172 26.18 0.00 6 0.00 0.185185185 15
18/07/2003 2 12 2 170 25.87 2.00 6 0.33 0.195402299 17
24/07/2003 2 12 1 169 25.72 1.00 6 0.17 0.193548387 18
30/07/2003 2 12 0 168 25.57 1.00 6 0.17 0.191919192 19
06/08/2003 2 11 13 167 25.41 1.00 7 0.14 0.188679245 20
15/08/2003 2 12 0 168 25.57 -1.00 9 -0.11 0.165217391 19
18/08/2003 2 11 12 166 25.26 2.00 3 0.67 0.177966102 21
21/08/2003 2 11 10 164 24.96 2.00 3 0.67 0.190082645 23
31/08/2003 3 11 13 167 25.41 -3.00 10 -0.30 0.152671756 20
03/09/2003 3 11 11 165 25.11 2.00 3 0.67 0.164179104 22
06/09/2003 3 11 10 164 24.96 1.00 3 0.33 0.167883212 23
08/09/2003 3 11 9 163 24.81 1.00 2 0.50 0.172661871 24

Metric and Imperial

My (then) young family members have been metricated - i.e. they've been educated in the metric system and don't know what (say) 13st5 means never mind what it might be in kilos.

So for them, here is the explanation...

bullet13st5 is a short hand notation for 13 stones and 5 lbs.
bulletThere are 14 lbs in a stone. 13*14 + 5 = 187lbs
bulletThere are 2.2 lbs in a kilo. 187/2.2 = 85kg

So at 13st5 I weighed 85 kilos.

Here's a site that does it (but it doesn't have stones so you'll have to do that bit first):

This variant of it does have stones:

The Fast Diet - 5:2 diet

This is documented here. Cheryl and I started this diet after seeing Michael Moseley's Horizon programme in September 2012.

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