Hallala! The six-week mark is finally upon me, and now to those of you attempting, or completing, the epic Men’s Health Belly Off 12-week challenge, I can at last tip my hat.

Yes, it has been a gruelling few weeks of drastic diet changes, intense workouts and very early mornings, but now that I’m midway through the task, the effects are beginning to show and it feels good.

For those of you who are not sure what I’m going on about, Men’s Health magazine introduced a cool thing a while back called Belly Off, an online portal with a one-off fee that puts your weight, measurements and fitness level into its algorithm so that it can work out a professionally designed fitness plan to, well, knock your belly off.

fat to flat If you want to shed your winter weight before the beach season, the Men’s Health Belly Off challenge might be your best bet PHOTO: screengrab

Although I am quite fit and already healthy, I have had a stubborn little bump I simply couldn’t shake. Too many winter stews, not enough time working out, and an intense study load meant that the strides I made in last year’s summer blitz have been lost in the battle of the bulge. When I saw the advert for Belly Off, I knew I had to give it a shot.

My problem was that despite hours in the gym and a committed eating regime largely devoid of complex carbohydrates, lactose and indigestible sugars, I still wasn’t happy with my progress. I needed something professional, not something pieced together from blogs, an occasional personal trainer and advice from healthy friends.

What I got from Belly Off was a diet plan based on my goals – to build muscle, lose 4kg and increase my fitness. Belly Off created a weekly shopping list based on my requirements – a major help considering my busy schedule – and a four-day training programme that combines cardio, weights and endurance training.

With a serious amount of dedication, I am now halfway to my goals – 2kg lighter, a less sweaty morning run and guns for days. My bump is a shadow of what it was six weeks ago and my overall health is picking up as mornings feel less arduous, and I have heaps more energy during the day and deep, restful sleep at night.

Doing the challenge meant making some small changes, like an extra 20 minutes of running (on top of my normal 30 minutes) every second day; less red meat, but more fish and chicken; more vegetarian dishes; much more weight training; and – a first for me – protein shakes daily.

specialised programME Using your health statistics, the algorithm tailors an eating plan and exercise regime just for you PHOTO: screengrab

Of course, there are a few things that could make the process easier. Most of all, I would really love it if the developers turned the website into an app – it would streamline the whole process significantly.

There have also been some glitches that need to be worked out when it comes to the shopping list clashing with the meal plan. It would also be nice to include leftovers into the meal plan – if you make chicken breasts at night, it would be more time efficient to use them the next day in a different recipe.

It looks like the programme gets significantly more hectic this week and I’m sure it’s going to be rugged.

For those of you doing the Belly Off challenge, I wish you luck. I think we’re going to need it.