At university, a girlfriend once told me I had the body of an out-of-shape circus strongman. Relationship and physique-wise, things went rapidly downhill from there. A couple of years later, while lounging by the pool in Tenerife, a girl I was attempting to woo told me I reminded her of a darts player. "Oh yeh, which one?" I enquired. "No-one in particular," she replied, "you just remind me of a darts player."
Sad to reflect my Salad Days were over almost half a lifetime ago, figuratively and literally, and that the cruel barbs of females were not the Pavlovian, lettuce-conditioning shocks you might have expected.
That I finally decided to take action was partly down to my BBC colleague Tom Fordyce, who told me of a man who works wonders with the minds and bodies of England's elite rugby players - and many more of Britain's top athletes besides.
This man, said Fordyce in hushed tones, can tailor athletes to specific sports, specific events and specific positions, all through the prescription of the correct foods and correct exercise. He can build athletes up and, like some nutritional Michelangelo, he can chisel them down. "What's more," said Fordyce, "he reckons he could do things with you."
While this sounded intriguing, it still took what I will euphemistically call a 'minor trauma' (oh, go on then, I'll give you a clue: DEPMUD TOG I... ) before I asked for this guru's help: there is, as anyone who has suffered a 'minor trauma' will tell you, only so much leaning over the balcony, chain smoking and staring wistfully into the middle distance a man can do.
Enter Matt Lovell, top sports nutritionist, a man many of Britain's elite athletes would give their lucrative footwear endorsement to work with and someone who reckoned he could get me ship-shape in a month. Before he met me, that is...
Employed by the Rugby Football Union, London Irish and Tottenham Hotspur, I think it unlikely he has seen the like of me before. Not unless Jonathan Woodgate spent most of his time injured down the Seven Sisters branch of Tennessee Fried Chicken. As a supportive friend said when I told him of my plans: "He's a nutritionist, pal, not a miracle worker."
There will be those reading this and crying “vanity project!” And, to a certain extent, they would be right. Fact is, I would rather look like a middleweight boxer than a darts player. Let’s not get too cocky, a super-middleweight will do.
But the real aim of this series of blogs is hopefully to prove that miracles do happen and that the principles that go into making our elite athletes elite apply to us, too.
Jonny Wilkinson, fuelled by nutritionist Matt Lovell, kicks the winning goal at the 2003 World Cup
These are the same principles that boiled England hooker Steve Thompson down from a high of 22st to a fighting weight of 17st 8lb. "The game is getting faster," he explained, "and I had to get lighter. I have never been as fit as I am now." And principles which Jonny Wilkinson, who has worked with Lovell since before England's World Cup triumph in 2003, says allowed him to reach his "true potential".
"How you look after your body and yourself goes a long way towards defining who you are and what you are about," adds Wilkinson, who holds Lovell in such high regard he wrote the foreword to his book.
Wilkinson is all about kicking last-gasp goals to win World Cups, so I guess you could say Lovell, the man who fuelled him to such heights, is a World Cup winner as well.
When I drop Lovell an email, he seems genuinely excited - as a vintage car enthusiast might be excited at the prospect of doing up a Ford Capri that has been rusting away in a barn for 25 years. He pings me over an exhaustive questionnaire, which includes the poser: "Do you have a fear of impending doom?" I didn't, but after answering 369 questions relating to my health, I suddenly do.
We meet in Lovell's London office, surrounded by bottles of potions and pills. "We work with lots of the athletes who will be competing at the 2012 Olympics," he tells me, "and the time that separates first and last in the 100m can be measured in hundredths of a second. Every single thing they do, every single day, matters.
Dirs doing his best impersonation of the man who lost everything - except his beer gut
"But one of the most rewarding things about my job is working with people like you. You don't really exercise, you smoke and your diet is poor. It's about turning you round, giving you a new lease of life, getting you back on the rails."
Surprisingly, getting me back on the rails does not involve a crane but it does involve a surprising amount of food. Four meals a day, every day. No carbohydrates - which means bread and pasta are out - but mountains of greens, "just like grandma told you".
It also involves an awful lot of exercise, two or three times a day. "Lifting something, getting out of breath, just making sure you get a sweat on," says Lovell, blissfully unaware that I haven't lifted anything since circa 1999, when I was a furniture removal man in Sydney and Stan, the Maori man-mountain who owned the van, would develop sudden migraines when it was time to unload.
Then there is the organisation and planning - and I'm not big on organisation and planning either. This is a man who once turned up for a flight out of Auckland 12 hours early, only to fall asleep at the most inopportune moment and miss the plane.
Lovell furnishes me with meal ideas and exercise regimes, before loading me up with supplements - fish oil capsules, vegetarian tablets, magnesium and zinc pills - and sending me back onto the big, bad, fast food-infested streets of London.
I indulge in one last fry-up, before the clearing of the decks begins.
Lovell tells me to expect withdrawal systems during my week-long preparation. They begin to kick in almost before the last triangle of fried bread has passed my lips.
What magnificent fried bread; what magnificent chips. If I were still allowed to do such a thing, I would put a fag out in the middle of my egg for the picture-perfect ending.
When I get home, I realise I've forgotten to ask the $64,000 question: any chance of a six-pack? "That will take six weeks, I'm afraid," Lovell texts back. Six weeks it is then. I've been well and truly sucked in.
Sucked in so far, all you can see are my toenails. Chipped and mangled toenails, with a yellowish hue. Not in six weeks, though. In six weeks, they will be sturdy toenails, white toenails, the colour toenails are probably supposed to be.
It is not going to be easy. My brain has been married to an abusive body for far too long. Or is it the other way round? But rest assured, you can always rely on your friends for help. "You never know," I text a mate, "it could take years off me." "What, can he make your hair grow back as well?"
Ben Dirs will be writing a series of blogs over the coming weeks, hopefully charting his rise from fat man to fit man.