Kebabs, burgers, lager and crisps: for the average red-blooded lad, the road to weight loss is paved with unacceptable sacrifices. The Junk Food diet could change all that. Roger Dobson reports

Andy Goff knew he had to start dieting when he started getting Christmas cards from his local takeaways. Favourite-customer discounts were also pushed his way, and one Chinese restaurant even developed a special, very large beef curry in his honour.

At 21 stone and still counting, Andy made the decision that he had to lose weight. He tried six diets but failed each time, ending up hungrier and larger. He came to the conclusion - like many before him - that conventional diets didn't work. All of them were based around the idea that in order to lose weight, he had to stop eating and drinking a lot of things that he liked. What he wanted, he decided, was a diet that allowed him to keep eating curries and burgers and drinking lager, but also caused him to lose weight.

What he came up with was the lad's diet, a junk-food regime, on which he can have a curry and six or so pints of lager, and round off the evening with a kebab, and wake up thinner. In fact, after five months on the junk-food diet, he has lost a whopping five stone, and is looking to lose another two in the next couple of months.

So successful has it all been that a DVD of the junk-food diet is being launched this month so that others can, like Andy, eat more, drink more and still lose weight. The DVD is described as being dedicated to showing lads "how to change their cholesterol-filled ways, yet still enjoy their kebabs, burgers and beers".

The number of people who are obese or overweight is at a record level in the UK. More than half the population are overweight, and up to one in five of us is obese. According to a government report on obesity, 17 per cent of men are clinically obese, compared to 20 per cent of women, but 61 per cent of men are overweight, compared to 57 per cent of women. For the first time, the number of overweight men in Britain now exceeds the number of overweight women.

Men are at risk from two factors. They are involved in less and less physical work, while at the same time the amount of energy in the modern diet is going up. The result is that we now consume more calories, but we have fewer ways of getting rid of them. "Forty years ago the average man would walk the equivalent of a marathon a week. Today's man hardly does a thing," says the obesity expert Dr Ian Campbell, who launched Fatmanslim, a weight-loss programme specifically for men.

One of the problems with dealing with weight loss in men is that they rarely seek help. Men are also reluctant to diet, seeing dieting as largely a female activity. It's also claimed that diets are more female-oriented, with the types of food permitted and the lifestyle considerations tailored more to women than men.

The new junk-food diet changes all that.

"Despite its name, it is an extremely healthy weight-loss programme, but mixed with a good helping of all your favourite vices, including curries, fry-ups and crisps, all washed down with a couple of pints at the local. Forget Atkins, this really works," says James Nicholas of Elliott & Horne, the co-developers of the diet and the DVD along with Springboard.

"It is based on Andy's experiences of wanting to lose weight. We got in a few experts on nutrition and exercise and we had help from McDonald's and Sainsbury's. It's based on the idea that you can do all the things you want, but you do it in a healthy way. Not a lot of people know that a burger and chips often contains less fat than a supermarket sandwich.

"Introducing variety to the diet is also important. For example, you can still have your burger and chips, but add some peas. Add, rather than take away. Andy's now eaten things that he had never tasted before.

"There is exercise involved, too, but you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn and slog your guts out. It's a case of keeping active, but making it fun. Play basketball for an hour and then go to the bar as a reward, or go for a cycle ride along country routes and stop at a few pubs. When you are on the phone stand up, and if you want to go to the loo at work, go to the one on the next floor. It's all exercise - even fidgeting burns up calories."

Andy, a 41-year old researcher and ex-builder, is dismissive of the half a dozen different diets he tried without success before developing his own. "None of them worked for me, because I didn't want to miss out on the things I liked, the curries, pints of lager, and chips. So I compiled my own diet, concentrating on cutting down on the fat, but still eating the foods that I enjoyed. I think the secret of dieting is to find a regime that you are happy with. If you don't, you give up quickly. I am a single guy and I didn't want to give up the things I like.

"I still have a kebab after the pub, but I don't eat peanuts or crisps when I'm drinking my lager. I have Twiglets instead, because they contain less fat. The beer itself is not fattening - it's what you have with it. But I have cut down on some things. I did cut out chocolate and fizzy drinks during the day, and now I will eat a slice of ham rather than a packet of crisps. I don't have sauces with the burgers, and I will maybe have chicken kebab now, instead of lamb.

"I do like a drink, and I didn't want to miss out on that either. So I'll maybe have six or so pints a night at the weekend - not a huge amount - and a kebab afterwards. I don't feel I'm missing out - if anything, I seem to eat more - but at the same time I have lost five stone."

Although the junk-food diet will inevitably attract criticism, some of its elements are supported by research. Harvard University, for example, has found that over a nine-year period, total alcohol consumption was not linked to an increase in waist size. Watching television and giving up smoking accounted for the biggest increases in girth. There is also evidence to suggest that restrictive diets don't work in the long term because they simply create a greater desire for the forbidden food.

Dr Toni Steer of the human nutrition unit of the Medical Research Council says that Andy's diet is working simply because he has found a way of reducing his calorie intake.

"He may previously have been on diets on which he was cutting out whole food groups or denying himself specific foods, and I can understand why he failed," says Dr Steer.

"People do trip up on these restrictive diets. The nutritionist view is that people need to look at their own individual lifestyles. They need to embark on something that they can adopt for the rest of their lives. If you deny yourself particular foods, all you do is crave them. Our view is that there are no good and no bad foods - it is simply a case of getting the balance right."


* Timing: never start dieting around birthdays, holidays, stag nights, weddings, or the initial stages of the World Cup when England are still likely to be involved.

* Variety: add peas or sweetcorn to your burger and chips to introduce some healthy variety, and cut down big portions. Remember that a sandwich can contain more calories than a burger.

* Water: drink as much of it as you can to give a feeling of fullness. Drink chilled water because, it's claimed, the body uses more calories warming it up. Some people prefer fizzy water because they find it more filling.

* Sauces: cut down on these, because they may have a high calorie content. Try a low-fat yoghurt dip instead.

* Drinking: don't eat fatty snacks with your beer. Check labels and switch to something low fat.

* Mopping: use sheets of kitchen towel to soak up some of the fat on foods such as pizzas or burgers before you eat them.

* Exercise: reward yourself after an hour playing basketball or badminton, a session in the swimming pool or the gym, or a day spent cycling, with a trip to the pub.

* Scales: don't rely totally on the scales, because dieting can move fat around. The fitting of clothes can be a better guide to weight loss.