Atkins is not without rivals. This plan, saved from history by Charles Nevin, blends comfort eating with imaginative exercise

Atkins, Conley, Ashram, Schwarzbein, Zone, Eyton, Kenton, X-Factor, F Plan, G Plan, Baked Beans, Hay, Cabbage, Low Cholesterol, High Carbohydrate, Calories, Protein, Ketogenics, Retention, Isolation, Combination. We are, yes, talking diets. Safe? Risky? Effective? Will your breath smell? Will you end up looking like Nigel Lawson? Are you constipated? Indeed.

Indeed. You are, by definition, an Independent on Sunday reader. You have, by definition, more important things to think about than this obsession with self. Nevertheless, you recognise the benefits in efficiency for yourself and the wider community that only a balanced lifestyle regime can bring.

So, with your body in mind, to leave you free to concentrate on those more important things, we, today, after an exhaustive consultation with all the reputable figures in the field, present the diet to end diets. The Hardy Diet.

There is nothing fancy about this diet. The only frills are the little ones round the lamb cutlets. What is more, this diet is based on the universal dietetic principle that the only good dieter is a happy dieter. And the Twin Enemies of Happiness, as you know, are Unceasing Monotony and Excessive Change. That is why The Hardy Diet cleverly combines - that word! - reliable old friends with some finely judged and intriguing little surprises.

Why Hardy? Oliver Hardy has been our inspiration because, in his prime, as you can see, he made that difficult compromise between expectation and reality which is the key to satisfaction in the weight game.

Ollie had an admirably dogged approach to life, best illustrated by his unwavering loyalty to a small and, frankly, troublesome friend with an unrivalled ability to get them both into, well, messes. It was a life of excitements taken with philosophical phlegm, the same philosophical phlegm that would no doubt have greeted the death of Dr Atkins, super fit, super trim, and still working at 73, after he slipped on some ice outside his office.

Phlegm. Realism. Doggedness mixed with a touch of adventure. That is the approach you should foster, and one that will pay dividends if you follow our simple step-by-step, day-by-day week of menus and exercise. Welcome to the Hardy Diet and Fitness Regime.

Day 1

Breakfast: Egg, tomatoes (must be canned), bacon, sausage, baked beans (inorganic, please!), mushrooms, luncheon meat, fried bread, pineapple ring, a chive, ketchup, and just a dab of cream cheese. No chips!

Lunch: Repeat, without the chive. No chips!

Dinner: Repeat, with two lamb cutlets, a couple of capers, and an olive (green, please!). And chips, if you can get the olive into the pineapple ring first time from two feet with your left hand.

Exercise: Place tins of baked beans on kitchen worktop and then open over your right shoulder kneeling down with your back to the worktop. Spill any sauce and you lose a caper.

Drink: Yes.

Day 2

Breakfast: Cabbage, papaya, beansprout, chilli burros, artichoke hearts, chopped broccoli, lots of kale, cauliflower-leek purée, five pumpkin seeds, courgette nut bread. Add no-sugar-added French dressing. Contemplate plate. Sigh. Place in fridge. Take out frying pan and repeat Day 1 breakfast.

Lunch: Soya-flour meat-and-potato pie, low-fat pork scratchings, sautéd saveloy, and deep fried basil.

Dinner: Open fridge. Sigh. Close fridge. Telephone for a 12-inch deep-dish five-cheese, four-meat, double-peppers Pizza Supreme with garlic bread and mushy peas. Remove peppers and give to cat. Sorry? Good grief, no, give the peppers to the cat.

Exercise: Meet pizza delivery person on pavement.

Day 3

Breakfast: Pain au chocolat, Coco de Pop au chocolat, oeufs au chocolat, decaffeinated coffee with skimmed milk, half a banana.

Lunch: Take out large plastic container containing cabbage, papaya, beansprout, etc. Sigh. Close plastic container. Buy compost bin at hardware shop next to Burger King.

Dinner: 1, 9, 17, 21, 25, 27, 31, 36, 43, 48, 52, 55, 62, 77, 81, 92 and special fried rice. Refuse, politely, the complimentary prawn crackers.

Exercise: Construct a satellite dish out of the containers.

Day 4

Breakfast: Four days in, and you deserve a treat! Chip sandwich! But in brown bread, please. And just a drizzle of brown sauce.

Lunch: Bubble, Squeak and Chip Bake. Syllabub. Pudding au Richard avec les Measles, deux fois.

Dinner: A bit of fun! New Combining Method! All food has to be the same colour! Tonight: beige! Hint: think batter!

Exercise: Stand up when anyone comes into the room on television.

Day 5

Breakfast: Open chip sandwich with optional broccoli florets, banana leaves and saffron fromage frais.

Lunch: Another treat! Absolutely anything! Except, sorry, Mediterranean Courgette Boats, Homemade Muesli Bars, Turkey Meatloaf with Spinach, Garlic Sausage with Caraway Kraut, Crustless Quiche, Cabbage Soup with Soy Shreds, and 23 grapefruits.

Dinner: Tonight: Zoning! On no account have the mash and peas on your fork at the same time.

Exercise: It really is time you took that cabbage, papaya, beansprouts, etc out to the compost bin.

Day 6

Breakfast: Open chip sandwich with optional Manhattan-style creamed spinach, shredded zucchini and cucumber ribbons.

Lunch: Freedom Fry Omelette with Chips. But do remember that balsamic vinegar contains sugar.

Dinner: Did you know that The Little Chef offers a "Lighter Option"? Frankly, I would still go for the Smothered Chicken. (The reference is to the rich creamy cheese sauce rather than method of termination.) You can always leave the coleslaw.

Exercise: While you're at Little Chef, make certain you ask for the table furthest from the door.

Day 7

Breakfast: Open chip sandwich with optional base. And go on, then, a bit of fruit juice, if you really feel like it.

Lunch: Time for a change: how about crinkle cut?

Dinner: Low-fat kebabs should form the basis of this meal. Hold stick out of window and shake fairly vigorously.

Exercise: what, more than that? All right, take the lettuce to the compost bin.

So there you have it. Restraint, Balance, Reward. Now: Enjoy. And don't forget to send us your before-and-after photographs.

© The Hardy Diet, 2003

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