Four slimmers lost 24st

Gina Priestman before and after her 'side plate' diet.

There's a fad diet du jour to suit everyone, writes Deirdre Reynolds, and these four success stories below have shed the weight – but did they go about it in the right way?

Drip-feeding, fasting and even tapeworms – these are just some of the drastic measures fat fighters around the globe are predicted to resort to in 2013.

With New Year's resolutions fast turning to regrets, experts here have warned slimmers not to jeopardise their health in a last-ditch effort to lose weight.

The KEN (Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition) diet, where dieters ingest a protein-rich solution through a tube, 5:2 diet – eating 500 calories two days a week – and tapeworm tablets that develop into parasites in the stomach are just some of the trends already courting controversy this year.

But there is a better way to win the battle of the bulge in 2013.

"Fad diets have been around forever," says nutrition consultant and chef Lynda McFarland of Athlone Nutrition Clinic.

"There'll be another three this time next year.

"I'm often shocked by the lengths people will go to to lose weight," she adds.

"But you have to take responsibility for your own health year-round rather than relying on fad diets in January.

"There's no substitute for getting into the kitchen and cooking good food from scratch."

Here, four of Ireland's biggest losers reveal how they reached their goal weight – while Cork-based health and fitness instructor Carrie Skinner gives her verdict. See www.carrieskinnerfitness.com

'I switched to side plates'

Name: Gina Priestman Byrne

Age: 33

From: Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow

Occupation: Owner of The Paint Pot hardware store, Templeogue

Start weight: 16st 10lb

Current weight: 10st 10lb

Total weight loss: 6st

Gina says: "For as long as I can remember, I've been overweight. For years, I used the excuse: 'I've got a slow metabolism'. Deep down, though, I knew that's all it was – an excuse.

"Becoming a mum made me realise that something had to change. How can you tell the kids to eat their breakfast when Mummy's skipping it? I didn't want Aaron (10) and Aimee (6) to inherit my bad habits.

"My biggest problem was portion size. So about a year ago, I started using side plates instead of dinner plates, making sure that the fridge was always full of fresh fruit and vegetables and eating more regularly.

"Fad diets don't work. For me, losing weight – and keeping it off – has become a way of life. If I'm meeting a friend for coffee and a scone, for instance, now I skip the scone.

"As a working mum, it's not always possible to get out for a walk in the evening. Instead, I try to keep active during the day by climbing the stairs or jogging on the spot.

"Whenever I see my wedding photo, I still cringe. My biggest regret is that I was too big to wear the wedding dress I really wanted.

"My husband Declan is loving the new me. After splashing out on a whole new wardrobe, though, I don't think he's too happy about the bank balance!"

Expert view: "There's no big secret to losing weight: eat better and move more. Gina realised there's no short-term solution and had the greatest motivation of all to do something about it – her kids.

"Losing weight the old-fashioned way isn't easy. You're not going to drop a dress-size in two weeks like you would on some weight-loss programmes.

"But you are going to reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in the long run."

'I went under hypnosis'

Name: Keith Devlin

 

Age: 25

From: Drimnagh, Dublin 12

 

Occupation: Luas ticket inspector

 

Start weight: 19st 13lb

 

Current weight: 14st 11lb

 

Total weight loss: 5st 2lb

 

Keith says: "This time last year, I stood on the scales and was one pound short of 'zero' – the needle had almost come full circle! That's when I said to myself: 'This ends now'.

 

"At 6'1", as a teenager, I always just saw myself as a 'big lad'. Even when I developed asthma and was going through three inhalers a month, I ignored the doctor's warnings.

 

"Then after being laid-off by my previous employer last year, I resolved to make losing weight my full-time job. I went online to search for diets and spotted a deal for "gastric band hypnotherapy" for €150 at The D4 Clinic.

 

"Basically, it makes you think that you've had a gastric band fitted so that you choose the right foods and eat less.

 

"Before going for hypnotherapy, I didn't really believe in anything like that. But I definitely think that losing weight is all in the mind.

 

"As a Luas ticket inspector, you tend to get a bit of stick anyway – so it doesn't help if you're overweight. Whereas in the past I used to buy my XXXL clothes online, today I can walk into any shop on the high street. Meanwhile, my asthma is as good as gone. Now my next big goal is to marry my fiancée Mary!"

 

Expert view: "Losing weight is often a case of 'mind over matter'. But many people lack the motivation or confidence to make lasting changes to their lifestyle. Hypnosis can help give someone the self-belief to see it through. "However, while gastric band hypnotherapy worked very well for Keith, it's important to remember that it's not a miracle solution and always do your research."

'I swapped food for shakes'

Name: Eleanor Magan

 

Age: 24

 

From: Moynalvey, Co Meath

 

Occupation: Makeup artist

 

Start weight: 13st 13lb

 

Current weight: 9st 2lb

 

Total weight loss: 4st 11lb

 

Eleanor says: "When my brother Dermot got engaged last year, even though we were all really excited, I dreaded looking fat in the photos. Obviously, my mam Mary had the same idea as she immediately joined a slimming club.

 

"When the weight started falling off her, I began to panic. Up to now, I managed to convince myself that I was just 'curvy' because I wore the average dress size for Irish women, 14-16. After all, even Marilyn Monroe was reportedly a size 14.

 

"Whenever I saw pictures of myself and friends on nights out on Facebook, though, secretly, I knew that I was the 'fat friend'. Then, last July, I went on a food replacement diet recommended by my chemist.

 

"I had a shake in the morning, soup in the evening and lots of water until I reached my target weight. Next, I gradually reintroduced food into my diet to maintain it.

 

"The first few days were torture. So I set a really unflattering picture of myself as my laptop screensaver to keep me motivated.

 

"However, it's my mam who was my real 'thinspiration'. Between us, we've lost almost 10 stone and love going clothes shopping together.

 

"Some people think food replacement diets are dangerous. All I know is that I look and feel better than I've done in years. I'd never do anything stupid like go on a starvation diet or use slimming pills.

 

"Dermot and his fiancée Pamela are getting married in July – and now I can't wait to show off my new figure!"

 

Expert view: "I'm not convinced about the sustain-ability of food replacement diets. Expensive shakes, bars and soups don't contain anything that real food, properly cooked, doesn't.

 

"That said, Eleanor may just have needed a kickstart and has achieved great results. The most important thing is to continue to make healthy choices after you reintroduce food into your diet."

'I got a gastric band'

Name: Audrey Greene

 

Age: 31

 

From: Baltinglass, Co Wicklow

 

Occupation: Stay-at-home mum

 

Start weight: 18.5st

 

Current weight: 10.5st

 

Total weight loss: 8st

 

Audrey says: "Growing up, I was always very slim. It was only when I went out to work at 20 that the weight began to pile on. By the time I was 27, I tipped the scales at 18.5 stone.

 

"Then one day, I was having a cup of tea with my mum when I broke down. With two young kids, Charlie (6) and Timmie (4), I knew something had to be done.

 

"After doing research, I got a gastric band – a silicon ring placed around the upper part of the stomach so you eat less – at The Hospital Group in 2008.

 

"At first, the weight loss was slow, and I began to panic: 'What the hell have I done?' At €6,000, it wasn't cheap. I was under the illusion that I would wake up eight stone lighter.

 

"Now that my weight has stabilised, I couldn't be any happier. Getting a gastric band is still a bit taboo in Ireland.

 

"Until you get used to it, you still want to eat all the same things, but physically can't. It never stops you from craving chocolate!

 

"Some people have their gastric band removed once they reach their goal weight, but I plan to keep mine until the day I die. I'd rather lose a limb than my gastric band."

 

Expert view: "Getting a gastric band is a massive decision – the risks of going under anaesthesia are greater for those who are overweight.

 

"One of the good things about a gastric band is that it takes away the emotional element of eating as you physically can't comfort eat. Once the weight starts to fall off, it allows you to look at the reasons you were over-weight in the first place."

 

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