For the first time since probably my teens I have reached the middle of October without having to think about going on that last ditch 'it's only eight weeks to Christmas and I must lose at least eight pounds so I can do up the zip on that little black number'.

We've all done it, haven't we? And it's not just that little black number really. If we want to be truthful it's taking off eight pounds in the next eight weeks so we can stuff ourselves silly over the festive period and gain eight pounds in three days.

Sometimes we leave it until three weeks before Christmas and go on really silly diets - like the Sherry and Shell Walnut diet (You get so drunk on the sherry you haven't the strength to crack the walnuts), or more likely the very popular Mars Bar diet (you eat six lettuce leaves for both main meals and eight Mars Bars in the privacy of your bedroom).

This year I don't have to do that because since last January I have managed to lose a lot of weight and keep it off.

This sounds like boasting and I only mention it here because numerous people have wondered aloud why I haven't written about it seeing as I usually write endlessly about the minutiae of my life. Well they didn't quite put it that way but I get the picture.

There are two reasons. One is that I am somewhat superstitious and have the feeling that no sooner do I boastfully claim to having lost several stones then the missing poundage will somehow leap out from behind a large object and jump straight back on my hips. Rather like saying 'I've never broken a bone in my life' seconds before being mown down by a steam roller.

Secondly, I am always somewhat reluctant to put into print anything which remotely resembles medical advice - these days you never know who will sue you . I mean a friend of ours in America e-mailed us a bit from a paper which told of a woman who successfully sued a giant corporation because they had not put 'do not swallow' on a packet of suppositories. So you can't be too careful.

Nowadays I rarely, for instance, recommend restaurants to people, having been caught out once too often. One couple I once counted as fairly good friends now don't speak to me because they went to a restaurant I had said was lovely and it wasn't. How was I to know that in the intervening eight months the ownership had changed from delightful couple whose cuisine was both generous and delicious to a tetchy ex-army catering corps Major who didn't believe in messed about food and who counted the peas.

Diets are slightly different but I don't want anyone complaining that they have put on ten pounds because I said so.

I try not to tell people when I'm dieting because if you do you become vulnerable to those who normally wouldn't make personal remarks. Suddenly it's open season and everyone thinks they can bandy the words 'fat', 'big thighs', 'cellulite' and 'spare tyre' around without you becoming even slightly hurt.

'They always say the most difficult place to reduce is where the fat is packed solid', said someone helpfully, staring rather too pointedly at my rear quarters. Now how many people would say that to someone who wasn't dieting?' And to the nice person who said she didn't diet because the first place that usually went was the bosom and nobody wants sagging breasts do they? - I say no they don't, no I haven't, and I wouldn't' tell you if I had.

I've probably written before about people who try hard to crack your diet for you. My mother was a terror for this. A whippet like seven and a half stone, she usually went into maternal overdrive if she so much as sniffed I was trying yet another diet, and would arrive with Danish pastries and boxes of chocolate cakes like food parcels to the starving.

And this was the person who used to tell me that I shouldn't wear trousers because 'you've got your father's bottom'.

I know, more than most people, how hard it is to diet. People who don't have to diet don't know this.

They say ' the only way to lose weight is to eat less' as if this is somehow a huge revelation. But they're usually people who can eat ten packets of salt and vinegar crisps, a bar of Cadbury's fruit and nut and a whole pork pie just for a snack between breakfast and elevenses and not put on an ounce.

They don't know that carbohydrates target some people like hunters after wild boar, lining up their hips and thighs for another direct hit.

Oh yes, so to the diet. It's called the Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution and it's in paperback. It involves a non-carbohydrate diet (initially) which is to say you can eat meat, fish, eggs, some hard cheese, bacon, butter (but can't find anything to put it on) green salad, oil and poultry and game.

You can drink tea and coffee but no milk (cream is allowed). You have to follow it to the letter or you won't only not lose, you will gain.

It's not easy to explain, so you have to buy the book. A lot of people disapprove of it, but it works for me.

And by the way Dr Atkins, you now owe me a pretty penny in commission.