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Mission Impossible 2

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Ben Dirs | 14:42 UK time, Tuesday, 26 April 2011

In the first of a series of blogs, Ben Dirs outlined how and why he set upon the path to fitness. In the second, he describes his early struggles with his new regime.

The most baffling thing about my quest for fitness so far has been the bafflement of others. My friends and colleagues do not need to say anything, their faces say it all: "But why?" And then it hit me, halfway through a particularly brutal stint on the rowing machine: it is all a matter of identity.

Take away the booze and fags and who am I? They have been my props for nigh-on 20 years, since the night we pilfered a six-pack of out-of-date lager from my dad's garage, a handful of cigarettes from my mum's handbag and headed for the woods. Just about every friend I have made since, every woman I have been out with, this has been a major part of the deal, this is how I have been defined: he comes with fags and booze.

But to think in such a way is delusional, egotistical and more than a little bit sad. Surely it is possible the Dirs down the pub with a lager in one hand and a gasper in the other is not the best Dirs there could be? And maybe it is not too late to define myself in other, less self-destructive, ways? To borrow from Alan Partridge, getting in some kind of nick is not necessarily the same as becoming a narcissistic sports pimp.

Even so, there are times during the first week of my programme where I feel like I am having a Partridge-style meltdown: up at 6am for a bike ride, salmon and a mountain of spinach for breakfast, fish oil and multi-vitamin pills, followed by a few tugs on my electronic cigarette. Clean the pots and pans, knock out some abdominal crunches, and prepare to do it all over again. Ad infinitum.

Chuck work into the mix and things get complicated, hence the rota on my bedroom wall outlining exactly what I should be eating where and when: sausage and eggs for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch at my desk, Thai soup in Westfield shopping centre at 3, mushroom omelette and a forest of broccoli at 6 in the BBC canteen. No bread, no pasta, no potatoes, no rice, no fun.

But there is hard science behind it, as Matt Lovell, nutritionist to England's elite rugby players, Tottenham Hotspur's high-flying stars - and me - explains.

Drinking beer was a big part of my lifeDrinking beer was a big part of my life

"The diet I've put you on will reduce the amount of insulin the body produces," says Lovell. "Excess insulin is produced when we consume too much carbohydrate and our blood sugar level increases. The problem with excess insulin is that it converts excess carbohydrate and other foods to fat.

"But it's the energy-dense carbohydrates you need to avoid. You can eat as much fibrous carbohydrate as you can stomach."

And that means shed-loads of broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and spinach, mixed and matched with chicken, oily fish, nuts, seeds and dozens and dozens of eggs. As Lovell himself is happy to point out, it really isn't rocket science.

He adds: "You wouldn't cut carbs out of a top athlete's diet, but what you're doing is specific to your needs, which is to alter your body composition. It's not geared up to maximum performance. A top rower, for example, might consume as much as 7,000 calories a day, depending on the total hours of training."

In case you were wondering, 7,000 calories is roughly 35 chicken breasts, or 83 eggs.

While Lovell is a mine of tasty recipe ideas, time constraints and the need to maintain a social life mean I am heading for a big falling out with a couple of food items. Mushrooms and I used to get on like a house on fire but now we've got a major beef.

Sticking to the plan requires putting on blinkers - visual, aural and olfactory - so that you are constantly kidding your brain that you did not see that person piling into a pizza, you did not hear that person talking about ordering in a Chinese and you certainly did not smell that cigarette. One Sunday evening I perch on the edge of a table sipping on soup while 15 of my mates steam into a curry. A chicken vindaloo once a week, sans rice, is not actually a problem, but it was far too close to my bed time.

Exercise-wise, things get off to an inauspicious start. A two-inch adjustment of the saddle on my bike, pretty much on a whim, results in a readjustment of my spine and me having to postpone the programme for a week. My back, when flexed, sounds like a sentence uttered in an ancient African click language. Luckily, I have a physio on speed-dial.

Mark Thomas, an old school-mate formerly employed by London Wasps and Essex CCC, likens my body to a rusty gate and then to an onion, "revealing layer upon layer of problems". "What's up?" I ask after he has prodded, poked and manipulated me for what seems like an eternity. "Pretty much everything," he replies.

Evidently, embarking on a rigorous regime without a physio on board is like going into battle without a shield. Thomas advises me to pop into a bike shop and get it properly fitted, to get advice from a gym instructor on how to properly use the weight machines and to book in for a massage, while also teaching me various stretches to keep the tweaks and niggles at bay. After an hour in Thomas's company, I can touch my toes for the first time in a couple of decades.

Lovell had been non-prescriptive when it came to training, other than to say I should be getting a sweat on twice a day. A couple of broken fingers sustained while skiing ruled out boxing classes, bad knees ruled out running, so it was a case of cycling, rowing intervals and weights, with abdominal exercises thrown in - don't forget that six-pack, which remains my ultimate aim.

For the first week of intensive exercise, my body feels like a condemned building, about to cave in at any moment. I make bets with myself while on the bike. What will go first? A hamstring? A calf? Some muscle I am not even aware of? And the irony is, the fitter I feel, the less able I am to get about on foot, limping as I am like a clapped-out nag.

The world of exercise is alien and bemusing. Why does the gym play old skool house and garage from the 1990s when, this being the BBC, most of the punters would presumably rather work out to The Smiths or The Fall instead? And why do grown men in SUVs allow themselves to get so very angry about a man on a bike using the same road as them?

One day, a schoolgirl tries to push me off as I cycle down the A127, a jape that would no doubt have had hilarious consequences had she managed to pull it off. Meanwhile, I am heartened when treated to a rare sighting of the classic, indigenous 'V' sign, saddened when flicked with the now prevalent middle finger, a symbol of so-called broken Britain.

There is a poignant moment in my local supermarket. The bloke behind the counter had this gag, where he would shout out "10 or 20?" as I walked through the door, alluding to the number of cigarettes I was popping in for. Only this time I had to say no. Sorry bloke behind the counter, but I will not have you defining me any longer. I know, I know, that's 50 quid a week up the swanny - unless you sell protein shakes?

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about - or on the sofa - at 


  • Comment number 1.

    But what's happening to your body apart from the aches- lost much weight yet?

    Are you getting dizzy spells on the low carb diet? Feeling tired a lot of the time?

  • Comment number 2.

    Apart from the ache's and pains what's happening to your body- losing weight yet?

    Are you getting dizzy spells on the low carb diet? Feeling tired much of the time?

  • Comment number 3.

    How often each day are you training Ben? What is your calorie intake per day? Keep it up fella, you'll be amazed with the results.

  • Comment number 4.

    The one thing that surprises me here is multi-vitamin supplements, I was pretty sure these were scientifically debunked as having any real benefit?

  • Comment number 5.

    Best of luck Ben, looks like you are following some of the basics of the '4 Hour Body' by Tim Ferriss in terms of diet and exercise, something I am about to embark upon myself! I will be following your blog with interest, keep it up and be an inspiration to us all!

  • Comment number 6.

    Good luck to you mate; I've started on the fitness road many times only to be knocked off it by any given social event. You clearly haven't got kids to be able to fit in what sounds like a pretty hectic schedule - my other excuse for the middle aged spread spreading further. Let us know how you get on when a day at the races ensues or the first summer BBQ kicks in! Anyway, must dash, Marlboro calling!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Is Matt Lovell a dietitian or a nutritionist?

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Ben,

    interesting blog again... i am on a similar quest to get myself in better shape for the summer....

    as I (i am sure others will be in a simliar boat) dont have a clue on what to eat and when, is it possbile to post a picture/link on your blog and/or twitter showing your diet and fitness programme?

    Cheers & good luck

  • Comment number 9.

    Ben - this is about the most interesting "Blog" or thread that I have seen on the BBC sports website - Insulin imbalance does seem to be the "killer"? - I'm guessing it causes sugar rushes etc which give me the feeling I have no control over my body.

    I liked the "Onion" analogy - depressing though it is - and I have noted the elements of the Diet - (no real carbs (potatoes rice etc!)) -

    I feel I have to do something similar though so far seem to have just made myself ill - though that is probably progress - sadly though in terms of exercise my aims will be much more modest - sweat 14 times a week ? I struggle to manage three ---- onwards ...............

  • Comment number 10.

    "Sticking to the plan requires putting on blinkers - visual, aural and olfactory - so that you are constantly kidding your brain that you did not see that person piling into a pizza, you did not hear that person talking about ordering in a Chinese and you certainly did not smell that cigarette"

    My personal trick is to look at these actions as weaknesses in others- very judgemental i know, but I like to see these temptations as affirmations of what I'm doing right. Broke down and treated myself to half an Easter egg the other day, it felt quite sickly. 2 months ago I'd have snaffled 2 whole ones no worries- it's all in the mind!

  • Comment number 11.

    Good luck with that Ben.

    I too want to get back in shape, but the combination of 2 children under the age of 6, no knees, (and occasionally hips), and a growing malaise have left me un-exercised for a good few years now.

    Luckily for me, I'm not a drinker (any more), have never smoked and I can eat pretty much what I want with no weight gain to worry about, it's the cardio I lack. I walk the dog for 20 minutes, and need another 20 to recover.

    I'm hoping your blog will inspire me to get back on the horse so to speak, and get fit in time for when my boys are old enough to pose a threat to me in sporting activities!

  • Comment number 12.

    Sounds like it's having the desired effect. Would like to see the breakdown of exercise and food intake if possible Ben?

  • Comment number 13.

    a 6-pack in 6 weeks? How about setting a long term target....enter the 2012 London Marathon.

    Last April I entered and was amazed that I in October I learnt that I had been accepted. I play football in centre mid twice at weekends so already have a reasonable fitness level, but that gave me 6 months to get in great shape. Diet and training became a priority and since then have lost just under 2 stone and feel and look a whole lot better....completed the London Marathon in just over 4 hours and have applied to do it all over again!

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Ben,

    I was interested in doing something like this. Would you be able to pass on your training regime and diet plan?

    Cheers and good luck.

  • Comment number 15.

    "But it's the energy-dense carbohydrates you need to avoid. You can eat as much fibrous carbohydrate as you can stomach."

    And that means shed-loads of broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and spinach, mixed and matched with chicken, oily fish, nuts, seeds and dozens and dozens of eggs. As Lovell himself is happy to point out, it really isn't rocket science.

    Absolutely spot on. Drop the starchy food - potatoes, pasta, rice and bread and eat vegetables and you will lose any excess weight, regardless of how much you eat. I've done the same myself to address a joint problem. Everyone was telling me I would have no energy including my fitness trainer. In actual fact the opposite was true.

    Make sure you include plenty of protein in your diet though.

  • Comment number 16.

    Taking up a sport helps quite a lot with motivation, especially training with other people.

    When I started I hadn't done much exercise since primary school apart from 5 a side football once a week. After 2 years I went from 91kgs to 75kgs, that's with putting on some extra muscle too so I probably lost more then that in excess weight.

    You have to be pretty strong minded though, I hardly drink now, I actually found I can have just as much fun without alcohol.

  • Comment number 17.

    "Absolutely spot on. Drop the starchy food - potatoes, pasta, rice and bread and eat vegetables and you will lose any excess weight, regardless of how much you eat. I've done the same myself to address a joint problem. Everyone was telling me I would have no energy including my fitness trainer. In actual fact the opposite was true. "

    Which is all well and good if you are someone who is able to regularly eat vegetables most meals. Unfortunately I am not one of those people. It's not so much a case of 'eww they taste nasty' it's more a case of despising the taste to the point of gagging. As much as I would love to follow a healthy diet not all of us are able to :/

    On topic: I wish you well Ben, I hope you are able to stick to it and achieve whatever you want to achieve from it. Just remember, it's not losing it that's hard, it's keeping it off :)

  • Comment number 18.

    Good lad Ben !! I'm currently doing a simular thing. I've lost just short of 5 stone in 18 months (I was a fatty) Its bloody hard work i'm doing a 10k run in Leeds later on this year it took me 1hr and 16 mins last year i'm hoping to do it in less than 50 mins this time around. Stick at it, it will get easier. Veg, veg and more veg. I used to hate the stuff now I cant get enough of carrots. A bag a sliced carrots per day at my desk. Keep it up mucka!!

  • Comment number 19.

    Well Done Ben. I've been on a Paleo Diet(v.low carbs) for a while now, although recently its was explained sugar(nooooo), yes sugar has to also go. Its been 5 days with zero sugar and a shift has finally happened. 1kg lost finally. I had a lovely chat with a pre-competition bodybuilder and he got me straight on a few things. I put in some extra runs as well.
    I really picked up on your identity comments. I read recently about one's reputation. It goes beyond the basics. Like are you a quiter? I've heard the talk for years - yet you still haven't delivered.
    Identity is very much designing a new you.
    Picking up on obsession. I used to be super-super lean. My ex-wife over the first 10 years banged on about me being obsessed. So I backed off eventually. What happened? She eventually went off me because I'd slackened off and became off-peak condition.
    We need a bit of obsession to get the job done. People love tripping you up because then your victory highlights their lack of excuses now. If he can do it then I can't hide anymore.
    Last night was a classic. While my flatmate gorged on Chocolate gateau, I sliced up a big carrot and had that as a late night snack. It worked as well.

  • Comment number 20.

    Thanks for the hint, Wandering Badger. Also inspired by Ben and have been getting serious dizzy spells, especially getting out of a chair. Off to Google for remedies.

  • Comment number 21.

    This science explains why my watered down version isn't working. I'm marginally fitter but there's not less of me around the middle. Well, now I know why. I'll jump on board with the full plan - after the bank holiday.
    Best of British, Ben. You can do it.

  • Comment number 22.

    Think you may have to change your 'follow me on the sofa' twitter line Ben. :)
    Good effort for trying to do this, I did no exercise for many years (~15) and chose to do a charity challenge 3 years ago. Since then, I have lost several inches off my waist line, have given up a 25yr 30-a-day cigarette habit for 7months now and am still aspiring to a six-pack set of abs! My point is, as per other comments, it takes time to change your mindset and behaviours, but if you can stick at it for example for 6 days, then 6 weeks, then 6months or more, then you can do anything you like. It took me a long time to get off the cigs, but I wanted to make it stick properly first time. In the 3 years, I went down from 30 to 5 a day, to less and then I simply had to stop.
    Keep up the good work chap & keep on with the good writing too.

  • Comment number 23.

    Coverleeds, trying telling that to Don Wildman, I don't know too much about you Ben but think its great that you are trying to get in shape, it will pay off in your old age. However, this is exactly the reason I don't take a blind bit of notice at what sports journalists write or comment on with regards to sport...not taking part in sport/exercise for so long so that it becomes 'alien and bemusing' isn't exactly a ringing endorsement on someones ability to comment on sport and the lives of those who take part at the top level. Anyway good luck bro.

  • Comment number 24.

    at #7.

    Sounds like a Sports-Nutritionist. Almost 100% certain he's not a Dietitian.

  • Comment number 25.


    I congratulate you on this and am gonna add some spinach to my diet. It worked for Popeye.

    But why are you doing this? Just to get fitter, stronger, self-esteem (you cover boxing so are already cool), lose weight (just eat less).

    Sure no one wants to die young or even look old young but we are all gonna ill at some point. Better to enjoy it in moderation. I once stopped drinking for a month as a test and it was a nightmare. Everyone was (not seemed) to be having fun and I wasn't.

    I also gave up masturbation for a month for a bet. Never again.

  • Comment number 26.

    Well done for starting down this route, Ben.
    Any chance you can forward your excercise and diet regime - I find it helps to get through this kind of thing when you know some other fool is suffering as well.

  • Comment number 27.

    #7 Matt Lovell is an Australian record producer of such fine acts as Something for Kate, The Mess Hall, Tom Morgan and Shihad. (Who?)

    He also makes his own beer. Ben I think this guy might be decieving you. That said, could be fun.

  • Comment number 28.

    Good work. I think it's important people strike a balance tho, once u become 'over-programmed' into this way of life you can lose sight of reality. In the same way an overweight person might not realise or care they have a problem. Obviously this 'problem' is actually healthy, but any obsession is slightly unhealthy.

    Once someone gets their body to where they want it to be, it's far easier to maintain, due to increased muscle mass and better metabolism.

    That's not to say u should go back to ur old lifestyle. But after the 6 weeks, nothing wrong with a few beers, the odd carryout and the good carbs, everything in moderation. As long as it's mixed in with some form of cardio for the week and some crunches

  • Comment number 29.

    Zanderbruce I dont think we will have an issue in going to far "the other way" Fordyce is safe being the fit one of the BBC team (Ben if you read this its reverse psychology)

  • Comment number 30.

    Sounds good Ben - something similar that you might want to check out is A advocate for what you are doing with loads of recipe and training ideas. Basically that the idea of meat, fruit, veg and nuts is what we have evolved to eat and pasta, rice, bread etc cause us nothing but trouble with no value.

    @Wandering Badger - having done this, you actually feel like you have more energy. The balancing of insulin means you have less peaks and crashes so you have the energy to get through the day and once the cravings go - you have no idea why you didnt do this before!

  • Comment number 31.

    Sounds generally good Ben, just make sure you don't overtrain - if 'getting a sweat on twice a day' means 2 full workouts a day, that is not sustainable. If you are doing 2 full workouts a day, then I would suggest 3 rest days a week, otherwise your new regime will last months rather than years. Even if you just train hard once a day, you should still take a couple of days offm (maybe more at first until your body gets used to it's increased workload).
    Another bit of advice I would give is to maybe try yoga to help with any aches and pains. Before a second baby came along I regularly played football and basketball, as well as weight training, and had a bad back for years. Seeing a Chiropractor helped but was expensive, and I found doing yoga on an off day helped (and the class was full of women, at least half of whom were hot). Yoga can also help with your fitness if you get a good teacher who makes the sessions quite intense, otherwise it will just be a long stretching routine.

  • Comment number 32.

    Ben - I have to say i'm surprised with the whole diet. I believe it's unecessary and unhealthy. It doesn't follow EVIDENCE-BASED guidelines for either healthy eating/or sports nutrition. There is an abundance of 'unproven' and 'annecdotal' literature and websites that would probably advocate a similar dietplan. But in reality, carbohydrates are an essential part of our diet and provide us with the fuel we need to exercise and live - the key sources of which are foods such as bread/rice/pasta/potatoes. We all need this fuel to exercise - especially athletes.

    The key is creating a balance in your diet with regard to portions - as vegetable provide some but very little carbohydrate - you're more likely to get incredible flatulence and/or constipation with the amount you need to eat!

    Insulin is an anabolic hormone, that can lead to weight gain if EXCESS carbohydrate is consumed - but it is very important in converting carbohydrate to glycogen which is a key source of fuel for your body.

    The key thing you need to do to lose weight and improve body composition is eat a BALANCED DIET - but in quantities that provide less energy than you need - resulting in weight loss. The exercise will help with the body composition and muscle mass. This will result in same results, but with less side effects. Now that really isn't rocket science, and it's evidence based. I would love to see the peer-reviewed journals that Matt gets the evidence for his diet from.

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 33.

    "Mushrooms and I used to get on like a house on fire but now we've got a major beef."

    You could make a tasty stroganoff there....

  • Comment number 34.

    Good on you Ben for this, and for sharing your journey - we're rooting for you!

    I lost over 4 stone a year ago through a well-known diet club's online membership and have kept it off since. Having gone through the experience I am a little concerned that you are finding your diet plan so difficult - and I don't blame you one bit I would find avoiding carbs really hard for any length of time. It took me 15 months to lose the weight so I had to find a plan I could live with that still offered some eating pleasure in life! The program I used had no forbidden foods or drink - you just had to choose what to prioritise. It worked for me, I lost the weight, kept it off and did not have to suffer along the way. If your yearning for carbs overpowers you, you don't have to jack the whole thing in - just switch program.

    Good luck!

  • Comment number 35.

    Good blog and fun to read.By the looks of things you are inspiring a great many people. However, like everyone else I would like to know specifics. What exercise?How long and is it intensive or more recrational?


  • Comment number 36.

    Good luck Ben. The most important thing is realize that it's going to take time, and you may not see the dramatic improvements you hope for in the short term. So you just have to be focussed and stick to it.
    I'm with commentator #32 on the diet plan. I'm a bit skeptical of these limited or no carbs diet. The key thing is moderation. Don't deny yourself occasional pleasures: pizza, curry, whatever, just always in moderation. And when you do, use this as motivation to push yourself a little harder at your next workout. But definitely finish with the fags for good though, and they really have no positive benefit.
    I'm in decent shape myself, although I hadn't exercised for about 6 months, and just started back 3 weeks ago. My blood pressure is a little high, and my doctor started me on medication to control it. The exercise will help with that as well, and hopefully I'll be able to wean myself off medication. That is my only medical issue, so it's something that I need to pay close attention to.
    So keep it up, and think long term...

  • Comment number 37.

    Sounds like you are doing GREAT - an inspiration - however remember to get enough rest and recovery time.
    When you exercise you tear muscles - as they heal they get stronger.
    You may want to get more variety into your routine - swim, bike, walk, row, step, floor exercises, weights, etc. Also the more variety makes it more interesting.
    I might start this sort of thing myself - tomorrow... keep at it.

  • Comment number 38.

    A quick word to all to explain Dirsy's lack of response so far: he's gone to Ibiza.

    I know.

    He departed insisting that his fitness race would continue uninterrupted, but some of the texts I've received from him in the last few days indicate that our brave rider may have been unseated at one of the very first fences. I'll get him to log on when he returns with a full update. In the meantime, perhaps keep your fingers crossed for him...

  • Comment number 39.

    Oh dear. Bad luck Ben.

  • Comment number 40.

    Getting fit is obviously very commendable: you feel and look better and probably live longer, but why does it all sound so tewibly self obsessed and middle class?.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'll be reading this blog for sure. A few more details would be better though.

  • Comment number 42.

    if you're quitting the booze and fags take up some cleaner stuff. a vape and mary jane go a looooong way.

  • Comment number 43.

    Hi all, and thanks for the comments, some great stuff. Sorry for not commenting earlier, just got back from Ibiza, which rather put a spanner in the works, but hey, that's life...

    Wandering Badger - No, feel full of energy to be honest, even without the carbs, to the extent I've started having trouble sleeping, presumably because of the endorphines released after exercise.

    robsunners - I'm exercising twice a day for 45 minutes-2 hours, depending on whether I go out on the bike or hit the weights or rowing machine. Calorie intake is pretty low, but that's kind of the point I guess.

    Coverleeds - Not sure supplements have been debunked, otherwise all the top sportsmen and women would presumably not be on them.

    chughesy - The basic plan is eat four times a day, about 9, 12, 3 and 6, with exercise am and again about 9ish. Lots of spinach and broccoli, but you can have sausages and eggs once a day as well; chicken, lots of fish... and more spinach and broccoli...

    G Man - Not sure Norman Mailer or AJ Liebling were big on the gym, but they could both write very well on boxing.

    zanderbruce - Yep, agreed. Believe me, I won't be training twice a day after the six weeks are up. But it's more a case of trying to get the body in some sort of nick and then maintaining it from there.

    jimmer - Of course you're right, we do need carbs in our diets long-term, but cutting them out is specifically to get me down to some sort of weight I can then maintain. As for Matt Lovell, all I can say is he's been employed by the England rugby team since 2002, so they clearly think he's doing something right.

    tootingrugbyfan - Exercise could be recreationial (ie football or rugby), but unfortunately I work weird hours so can't commit to a team. Therefore it's been intensive gym work (rowing or bike intervals), weights reps or a couple of hours on the road bike.

    gwyn williams - Not sure class has got much to do with it, I know a fair few working class people who keep themselves pretty fit.

  • Comment number 44.

    "hence the rota on my bedroom wall outlining exactly what I should be eating where and when: sausage and eggs for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch at my desk, Thai soup in Westfield shopping centre at 3, mushroom omelette and a forest of broccoli at 6 in the BBC canteen"...

    Obviously your nutritionist isn't at all worried about saturated fats from processed meats (sausages) and cholesterol (eggs)! - was the mushroom omelette fried in butter too?

    Are they designed to compensate for having given up smoking?

  • Comment number 45.

    Good on you Ben. You must be pleased with all the positive comments you are getting on the blog. I didn't get chance to reply to you before that the occasional sausage is fine.

    From reading your post you've got an excellent handle on what's required to lose weight but you've also got the knowledge to maintain your weight if you really want to.

    I helped Matt edit the Four Week Fat Loss program over 2 years ago and have been through the 2 week intensive phase a few times now.

    As you say you are not going to train twice a day for ever, that's a temporary thing to give yourself a good kickstart.

    It's taken me over 2 years to convince my partner to try Matt's plan, God knows how I ever managed to get her to let me move in to her house with her then 14 year old daughter and to bear the fruit of my loins with a now 7 year old son.

    Maybe I was a bit too evangelical that can be a bit repellent I suppose. LOL


    She has started, I get up early to cook her scrambled eggs and spinach, she's still on speaking tems with mushrooms. I sort out her lunch box and snacks for her long day at work.

    as an aside we are getting into Asparagus season now so you can go for that instead of mushrooms, hopefully you dont have the gene that makes your wee smell!

    She does no exercise to speak of apart from walking around at school, certainly nothing that builds up a sweat. Anyway over about 6 weeks she has lost a stone and is maanging her energy levels better during the day and has found it realtively easy to stop having a sandwich or jacket potato at lunch. As you've said it's not rocket science!

    Some info on Matt to answer some questions

    Matt is a Clinical Nutritionist he studied for 3 years full time at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. As well as working with England Rugby, he currently works with London Irish and Spurs and has been involved with the UK Athletics Team for the past 12 months and will be until at least the 2012 Olympics.

    What are the scores on the doors have you been back to see Matt to get measured?

  • Comment number 46.'re nuts.

  • Comment number 47.

    Hi Ben, I wholeheartedly commend you on the lifestyle you have now opted to live by. Both your nutritional approach and exercise regime appear to be optimal, and will certainly provide you with the outcomes you so desire.

    I am a firm advocate of the combination of low carbohydrate diet and exercise. Stay strong and stick with it, the results will speak for themselves.

  • Comment number 48.

    Dirsy I am most impressed, though a little worried that you will get despondent months down the line........ But I will worry, I'm a Granny. Will you and Tom be involved with Blogs for this year's RWC? I guess another campervan is out of the question...........

  • Comment number 49.

    Very interesting and good luck. I'm particularly interested in the low carb / insulin management approach.

    I ran the London Marathon in 2009 and 2010. I assumed all that training would come with a free weight loss kick back but unfortunately I put on half a stone during the training, despite going well over thirty miles a week. I was permanently hungry and, of course, was piling into the carbs. All starts to make sense now.

    The two (Marathon training and low carbs) are obviously not compatible, but I am keen to give the intensive weight loss approach a go and then to manage starchy carbs intake according to training levels.

    Finally, will you be publishing any photographic evidence?

  • Comment number 50.

    Great work Ben, keep going and keep focused!

  • Comment number 51.

    #45 - just a word of caution re the term nutritionist - I know a few who are good quality and are members of the Nutrition Society, but the term nutritionist can be used by anybody as it is not a protected title. Secondly - The Institute of Optimum Nutrition - I believe there is some scepticism in the academic world as to the credibility and quality of their qualifications - unlike other well known and recognised institutions such as universities that offer Nutrition and Dietetics degrees (Dietitian being a protected title).

    Good luck though Ben, I'm sure some benefit will still come of everything, especially re the fags and booze!

  • Comment number 52.

    Ben, well done mate. I'm on a similar regime as you and have lost 8kgs since the start of the March. The commitment to the diet is sometimes tough but the results are worth the effort.

    For me the change in diet was slightly difficult in the first couple of weeks - the huge increase in veg & egg consumption caused constipation, but that passed and I'm regular again thank goodness.

    My strength has increased as has my cardio. I intend to carry on for another month with the aim of dropping another 4kgs.

    The rugby 7's season is coming up; I have a few tournaments in London which I will be refereeing so the extra fitness will be a bonus.

    Be strong and you'll achieve your goals

  • Comment number 53.

    I think regardless of the niceties of the diet, the fact that you've given up booze and fags and are exercising for up to 2 hours' a day will inevitably do you no end of good. Yes if you wanted to be performing at 100% in a competitive sporting environment then the exact specifications of the diet would be vital - but as you say this guy works with the England Rugby team, so you'd assume he knows a bit about getting athletes to perform at high levels.

    Really hope it goes well for you Ben - I'm currently getting myself back into shape after 14 months off due to having chemotherapy, having been a very keen sportsman beforehand. I'd put on almost 2 stone and it felt like my body had forgotten how to exercise - so I feel your pain! Good luck mate.

  • Comment number 54.

    Well done Ben - though not to your extremes, I decided to lose my considerable extra a few years back. Lost just over three stone in three months as well as seven inches from my waist, and it wasn't a 'diet and exercise plan' it was through changing the way I lived.

    Didn't even have the ability to do any exercise at first due to a back problem, just went for walks daily and added excercise as I went -even then never anything I couldn't do in my room.

    Healthy eating + walking 3-6 miles a day + press-ups + sit-ups + dorsal raises + squats = cured.

    Still on a gradual, sustainable downward curve now, two years later. I eat unhealthy stuff and drink, but I have far more healthy days than unhealthy and that's the trick for me.

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi Ben

    Your first blog on this inspired me to look into what Matt Lovell was saying. I´m now 3 days into the same diet and yes, it´s a hassle, but it´s worth it. I´m not doing it seven days a week though, it´s impossible. One day here or there with a muffin or sausage sarnie won´t hurt if the rest of the week is disciplined.

    I´ve been exercising about a month since I quit the fags and I stopped drinking about 8 months ago. I used to feel defined by the bad stuff as well and now I couldn´t be happier. Stick with it and your mindset will change. Good luck and I´m looking forward to part 3!

  • Comment number 56.

    Hi Ben,
    I find the diet you are following frightening, could you get more information on it?

    You seem to be replacing starch with fat, no rice, wheat or other but lots of nuts (not salted I hope) eggs, oily fish and other fat based energy.
    No mention of fruit, beans and lentils etc.
    Have you increased your intake of non-alcoholic beverages?

    Also I think you should verify the explaination Lovell gave you about insulin. An excess of insulin would reduce your blood sugar pushing you towards hypo- rather than hyper-glycemie.

    Are you under going a monitoring for example for: cholesterel levels, cardiaque stress tests and others?
    Not something you need to do each week but could be interesting once a month.

    You have changed so much in your life style that nothing scientific could be taken from this but it is interesting all the same. I wish you luck.

  • Comment number 57.

    Come on Dirs, another week has passed and we haven't yet seen Mission Impossible III - we are on the edge of our seats! How is it going? How much weight have you lost? Are you craving pies and beer? Update us (hopefully) enlightened one…

  • Comment number 58.

    I think it's gone and killed him....!!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    I'd have thought chicken vindaloo would be perfect for losing weight. At least from my experience, a moment's vindaloo on the lips doesn't even take a pit-stop on the hips on the way out.

  • Comment number 60.

    I reckon he’s locked away in a BBC khazi with a 10 pack of tabs, 6 pack of lager and a family sized pasty.

  • Comment number 61.

    I'M ALIVE! Next blog going up next week. In case anyone is interested, I've lost a stone and a half in less than five weeks!

  • Comment number 62.

    ben - unfortunately all the comments here are missing one vital point. your biggest challenge will not be getting fit as you are now. It will be when you don't have a nutritionist etc and whn you have achieved your goal of weight loss etc...
    What will you do then?Will you go back on the fags?Or will you continue to keep up the hard routine without any support? Your major challenge will be mental not physical,
    Best of luck

  • Comment number 63.

    Good work fella! 1.5 stone is impressive. How did you find it? Inspired by your good self, I am two days into the intense phase. So far so good, but my body hurts from the exercise!

  • Comment number 64.


    Whats your top 3 recipies for broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and spinach?

  • Comment number 65.

    Great... and why do we have to read about you losing weight on a sports forum? Can't you just blog about this on a personal forum and not on the bbc?!


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