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Andy Leeks did 10 diets in 50 days and found one that really worked

  • Andy Leeks, at 16 stone, was 3 stone overweight for his height (5 ft 11in)
  • Failed to shift the pounds that had crept on in the last three years
  • Tried 10 diets including 5:2, a juice fast, Atkins and the cabbage soup diet
  • In total he lost 30½ lb and his waist went from 38-40 inches to 34-36 inches 

Andy Leeks For The Daily Mail



The final straw for me was when people at work started calling me ‘Big Man’ – I had to do something about my weight. I’m sure it was meant affectionately, but I was mortified as I’d never considered myself as ‘big’.

But the truth was last year, I tipped the scales at 16 stone – at least three stone overweight for my height (I’m 5 ft 11in).

I’d tried and failed to shift the pounds that had crept on in the last three years. I desperately wanted to lose the weight for good, so why was I unable to see a diet through to the finish?

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Andy Leeks, 16 stone, was 3 stone overweight for his height (5 ft 11in) In total he lost 30½ lb and his waist went from 38-40 inches to 34-36 inches

Andy Leeks, at 16 stone, was 3 stone overweight for his height (5 ft 11in), in total he lost 30½ lb and his waist went from 38-40 inches to 34-36 inches

The answer was surprisingly simple: Boredom. I’d start a new diet with loads of enthusiasm, only to abandon my best-laid plans when the novelty wore off – usually once I’d learned all there was to learn about the plan and any weight loss started to slow.

Which is why I came up with the idea of trying out ten different diets in 50 days. Would it be possible to lose weight by changing diets regularly – without losing interest?

I’ve always had a short attention span and this seemed an interesting challenge. Fifty days seemed like a nice round number, and would mean I had to stick to each diet for only five days.

My first step was a full health screening with my GP. I explained my plans and that I wanted to see the before and after health results – to my surprise she agreed and said she’d be interested to see what happened, not just for my weight but for my overall health.

My starting blood pressure was 136/81 and my overall cholesterol reading was 4 – both within the healthy ranges, but with definite room for improvement.

The GP did warn me that if I did lose weight, I might not be able to keep it off because people who lose weight rapidly – typical of more extreme diets – tend to put it straight back on. Nonetheless, I wanted to see if it was possible – and whether it would get round the tedium of dieting.

Andy wondered if it be possible to lose weight by changing diet regularly – without losing interest

I picked diets I hadn’t previously tried. The ten diets in order were: the 5:2 diet; the Special K diet, where two out of three meals are replaced by Special K cereal or snack bars; following NHS guidance for a healthy diet; a juice fast; the high-fat, low-carb Atkins diet; a raw food diet; the baby food diet (replacing two out of three meals a day with tiny jars of baby food, in order to cut calories); calorie counting using a mobile phone app; the grapefruit diet, which involves having either grapefruit or grapefruit juice before or after each meal, supposedly to boost fat-burning; and the cabbage soup diet.

I started with the 5:2. The idea is to restrict calories drastically for two days and eat normally for the rest of the week – three days in my case.

On both fasting days, I ate tomato soup for lunch, one slice of toast (with crusts cut off to shave off some calories) with a small helping of beans for dinner and an apple.

I was worried I’d overdo it on the non-fasting days, as you can eat whatever you like. But, surprisingly, I found myself craving things like nuts and fruits rather than bacon sandwiches.

I lost 5 lb in the five days – though I realised afterwards I’d been following the female version of the diet and eating 500 calories on fast days, rather than the 600 recommended for men. I could have had those crusts after all…

I also lost 5 lb on diet two – the Special K diet, but it was much more boring. I couldn’t wait to move on to the next diet and there’s no way I could have stuck to it for more than five days.

But at least swapping meals for low-calorie cereal was easy. The juice diet – diet four – by comparison, was a nightmare to follow. All the juices had to be made fresh and took ages to prepare.

There would have been no way I could have lugged the required 3kg of fruit and veg into the office every day – fortunately my very understanding boss let me work from home that week.

Some looked like swamp water and my five-year-old daughter Charlotte asked me to stop helping her with her homework because my ‘voice was smelly’. I bailed out a day early.

Nothing was as bad as diet six -  raw food

Nothing was as bad as diet six – raw food

I did lose 4 lb on it, but I lost the same amount following the guidance for a balanced diet on the NHS website (diet three), and it was much more enjoyable, with plenty of wholegrains, lots of vegetables and fruit, some meat and fish and not too much fat or sugar. Nothing was technically off limits, and there was no calorie counting.

I was surprised that this worked as it didn’t feel like a diet.

Counting calories using a tracker app on my phone (diet eight), the grapefruit diet (diet nine) and the baby food diet (diet seven) only shifted 1lb each. I hated the constant reminder that I was on a diet from logging everything I ate on my phone, the baby food was bland mush and I now like grapefruit a lot less than before.

I lost a little more – 1½ lb – on the Atkins regimen (diet five) of eggs, meat, butter and cheese. With no starchy foods or sugar, your body is supposed to use body fat for fuel. The downside was that I was almost instantly bored and miserable.

But nothing was as bad as diet six – the raw food diet. I was feeling really run down by this point and my throat was sore. But I persevered with the incredibly strict plan of food in its uncooked, unprocessed state – so raw fruit and veg, nuts and seeds, and not much else.

Fans claim food in this unadulterated state allows the body to function at its best, helping shed excess weight. Of course, it helps that this sort of food tends to have few calories.

By day three of the raw food plan, my throat was worse and I couldn’t taste anything (no bad thing when nothing can be cooked). I woke in the middle of the night struggling to breathe, resulting in a 5 am trip to AE.

I was diagnosed with an infection, requiring antibiotics and rest.

It seems foolish now, but I didn’t mention my diet challenge. I spent the next two days in bed eating almost nothing – I lost 3 lb, although how much of this was down to illness rather than the diet is hard to say. I left the diet I’d been dreading most till last – the Cabbage Soup diet. Every meal was low calorie cabbage soup. It was awful.

No amount of herbs and spices could mask the fact it was yet another bowl of soup made from cabbage, onions and water. And as many other cabbage soup dieters have reported, it gives you bad breath and terrible wind. I felt sorry for my poor wife, who had already put up with 45 days of my see-sawing moods.

But for the first time in years, I’d managed to stick to my plan to diet for more than a couple of weeks – and in total I lost 30½ lb. I could see my feet for the first time in years and my waist had gone from 38-40 inches to 34-36 inches.

I felt happy and healthy – although my doctor had news for me on that front. For while my blood pressure was a tiny bit lower, at 130/80, my cholesterol had gone up to 4.3, and this increase was down to a rise in so-called ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

My GP explained that extreme diets essentially shock the body; and in its confused state subtle changes can happen – not all helpful – which might explain why my LDL was slightly up.

She said people’s exact reactions will vary, and added that if I keep the weight off, she would expect an improvement in my readings.

There were other lessons too. Around the four-week mark, I stopped weighing myself every day – something I always used to do when I was on a diet, and then not at all when I fell off the wagon. Weighing myself daily meant I would often see no change or even a slight increase and it was demotivating.

This time, perhaps because of the variety of the diets, I could stick it out long enough to see other changes that are more important than the number on the scale – my double chin was receding, my skin was better, I was finding my weekly run easier.

There was only one way of eating out of the ten that I could stick to long-term – and that’s the diet set out by the NHS.

And now I know it can really work just as well as a plan with stricter, faddier rules.

It’s nearly two months since I finished my ten-diet whirl, and unlike any other time I’ve dieted, I still feel determined to stick to healthy eating.

While I wouldn’t recommend my methods to anyone, this was the first January in ages where I haven’t been tempted by the latest New Year diet – in fact, I truly believe I will never do another diet again, thank goodness!

Andy’s book Minimize Me – 10 Diets To Lose 25 lb In 50 Days is available to download on Amazon at the special offer price of 99p. 

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