Andy Leeks set out to lose weight by doing 10 diets in 50 days, and found the only one that really worked was the NHS weight loss plan.
The father of two came up with the pick-and-mix diet idea to see if it would help him remain motivated to keep losing weight.
"By changing my diet regularly, the idea was I'd never get bored, thereby giving myself every chance of success," says Andy, 35, from Kent.
His starting weight was 16 stone (101kg). Over the course of the 50-day experiment, he lost 30.5 pounds (nearly 14kg).
Behind Andy's search for the perfect weight loss method was the desire to put an end to 15 years of yo-yo dieting.
While he lost weight on all of the diets, he felt that the NHS weight loss plan was the only one designed as a plan for life.
"There was only one way of eating out of the 10 that I could stick to long term – and that's the weight loss plan set out by the NHS," he says.
To fit it in with his 50-day timescale, Andy applied the principles of the NHS 12-week weight loss plan, instead of following it to the letter.
The plan is designed to help you lose weight at a safe rate of 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lb) each week.
"The NHS weight loss plan is basically all the NHS's healthy eating and exercise advice distilled into one handy little structured plan," says Andy.
"It isn't so much a diet as a healthy lifestyle plan that helps you lose weight, but at the same time helps you to develop new, healthier habits."
Diet and exercise
Andy, with the advice of a nutritionist, selected 10 diets that could be easily researched on the internet and did not involve payment.
They were the:
- 5:2 diet
- Special K diet
- NHS weight loss plan
- juice fast
- Atkins diet
- raw food diet
- baby food diet
- calorie counting
- grapefruit diet
- cabbage soup diet
Andy followed each diet for five days before moving on to the next one – hoping the approach would keep him interested.
The exercise component of his weight loss journey was to run 5km during each five-day diet phase. "I ended up running 50km in total and my time improved by just under seven minutes from the first run to the last," he says.
During his five days following the NHS advice, Andy applied the weight loss plan's healthy eating principles, which include:
He says the NHS advice helped him get a better understanding of food labels, which proved useful when trying to make healthier choices at the supermarket.
Some of the meals Andy ate while on the NHS regime included:
For more healthy meal ideas, check out the Change4Life Smart Recipes app on iTunes and Google Play.
'No more guilt'
Andy says following the NHS advice had minimal impact on the rest of his family because he was eating the same food they were.
"Unlike many of the diets I tried, no foods were banned," he says. "You simply eat the same meals – healthy, balanced meals – but in smaller portions.
"If I had a craving for something sweet, I would give in to that craving, but I'd only eat a small amount. I never felt guilty about it."
Apart from the NHS advice, many of the diets he tried involved avoiding certain foods or eating the same type of food over and over.
"By restricting anything, it leads to resentment and anxiety, and makes you crave the very food you're trying to avoid," he says.
"While these diets were easy to stick to for five days, I just couldn't see myself following them for very long.
"For me it was clear that for long-term success, the NHS weight loss advice is the diet that should be followed.
"The beauty is that once you've reached your desired weight, you carry on eating this way. There's nothing to change."
A plan for life
Andy's experiment was fuelled by a desire to find a lifelong healthy eating plan to manage his weight as an alternative to crash diets.
"I was forever losing weight by dieting and then subsequently regaining it, because once I came off the diet I was back to square one," he says.
"I was still the same person with the same sweet tooth, the same appetite, but no better equipped to manage my weight."
After completing his 50-day weight loss adventure, Andy says he is now managing his weight by applying the principles of the NHS weight loss plan.
"The NHS plan equips you with the skills to keep the weight off by helping you to develop healthier habits and teaching you to make healthier choices."
He has recorded his dieting tribulations in detail in his book Minimize Me – 10 Diets to Lose 25lbs in 50 Days.
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