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World's best diet?

On average people try five diets over the course of their lives. Within three months, however, they've returned to their pre-diet weight. But, like love sick fools, that still doesn't stop us from thinking that the latest diet book will be "The One".

Having read many diet books over the years, and tried a few along the way, I can safely say that there is no one book that will suit everyone. In other words, there's no one-size-fits-all diet, no magic formula.

We all have different metabolisms, and our lifestyles, food sensitivities and allergies, and tendency to exercise all have a role to play. Which explains why a Rosemary Conley low-fat diet might work beautifully for one person, but that person's sister is more suited to an Atkins-style regime and their mum needs the Sugar Busters. It's all trial and error and there may be tears along the way.

I had lost interest in dieting and stuck to my own healthy-ish regime until I heard of Metabolic Balance. A fully qualified nutritional therapist, Louise Smyth has brought the Metabolic Balance system to Ireland from Germany. She is a shining example of the programme. She says that once she started on the programme, it wasn't long before she returned to the weight she was at age 20 (8 stone 12 pounds) despite having two children and being in her mid-30s. And she has seen long-lasting results in her clients, too.

"The system appealed to me because it is based in scientific knowledge," she says. "It gets your insulin back in control and stops cravings and regulates weight healthily and naturally.

"It brings people back to that effortless time in your 20s when you have that great feeling in your skin and weight comes off easily," she says.

Optimum

So what makes it different? Plenty, it seems. Each diet participant gets a completely individual plan devised to bring them into optimum metabolic and hormonal balance. Hormonal imbalances can be reflected in specific areas of bulk that won't seem to shift, for example around the waist.

Everybody has the capacity to produce all the hormones and enzymes necessary for a healthy metabolism, but to support this process, and to get production back into full operation, we need to supply the body with adequate nutrients which are obtained from food. Certain foods will drain the body, and these are different from person to person, which is why the programme is completely individual.

So how does it work? To get started, I had to take a blood test which would be sent off and examined in an English laboratory. Waiting in the doctor's, my nerves kicked in and I wondered had my vanity reached new levels (or depths). After a short pin prick-type sensation, the small amount of blood needed was quickly collected.

My results were back within a few days and I went to meet with Louise to be talked through my plan. The tests revealed that I have an over-active thyroid. If someone was having trouble losing weight, it could be down to an under-active thyroid and these tests will reveal that.

My plan involved one preparation day to cleanse the system, followed by a fortnight during which no alcohol is allowed and quite specifically no oils or fats. The list of foods allowed was vast, though very specific. For example, salad does not all fall into the one bracket and some leaves were allowed and others considered bad for me.

I was allowed six slices of rye bread, two with each meal, so hunger was never an issue. I could drink tea and coffee, although I had to take both black.

A typical day saw me have an omelette with vegetables such as onion and courgette alongside my two pieces of toast for breakfast. Lunch was fish and vegetables and salad alongside the rye bread, and dinner was tofu or cheese or pulses with vegetables with yet more rye bread.

Snacks

Two litres of water a day are essential and you need to leave five hours between each meal with no little snacks between meals, all in an effort to regulate your insulin.

Should you specifically be doing the plan for weight loss, rather than wanting more energy, then weighing your food is essential.

Luckily for the couch potatoes, exercise is not permitted during the first two weeks, which was music to my ears. So as I found some nice DVDs and got comfy on the couch, "This is the diet of the supermodel" became my mantra.

I quickly became rather bored of my mantra. Initially I weighed everything, but then it became more of a guessing game as there are limits to how long I can spend preparing a meal.

After five days I was sleeping better than I do normally and enjoying the results, but then a friend's going-away bash was booked in and I fell off the wagon entirely.

I gorged on steak, mash and cheesecake and quaffed glasses of prosecco at her party. The programme allows one cheat meal a week but this was a day of destruction. Absolute carnage.

I didn't feel hungry at all on this plan, but it requires huge discipline and the ability to forward plan -- neither of which I have in abundance at the moment.

It was one of the most balanced diet plans I've ever tried, though, and I'll give it another shot. For those who are serious about change, this could well be the answer.

In next Tuesday's Herald find out how Holly deals with her thyroid problem. Metabolic Balance system costs €350. Call Louise on 087 687 6599 for a free 15-minute phone consultation www.thefoodclinic.ie and lulu@thefoodclinic.ie