Reporter's Notebook: Losing Weight the Five-Star Way

             Nick Watt dines with French nutritionist Patrick Leconte  (Image Credit: ABC News)

I went all the way to Switzerland in search of the weight-loss holy grail: a diet that allows you to drink wine and lose weight at the same time. And when I got there I discovered I'm 22 pounds overweight. That's my headline.

I always thought I was buff. I'm not. So how can I shift that holiday weight, which has been hanging around my middle since the holidays of 1997?

Well, according to the keepers of this apparently counterintuitive weight loss regimen: I can eat so much cheese for breakfast that it makes me feel sick; I can eat french fries for lunch; I can have a chunk of chocolate mid-afternoon; and I can have two glasses of red wine with dinner.

I've been on this diet eight days, and I've already lost nearly five pounds. By the time this story airs on " 20/20" Friday night, I'll probably be even skinnier. How is all this possible?

Well, I learned all these secrets on the "Slimness Goal Package" at an absurdly swanky hotel, the Beau Rivage Palace, on the bonny, bonny banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The place is money. There's gleaming marble everywhere you look. A burger on room service costs $45. A little suite will run you $1,600 a night.

While checking in I eavesdropped on a conversation a fat man with monogrammed shirt cuffs was having with the concierge. "Just have the car wait because I'm not sure which flight I'll take to London," he said with nonchalance. Bear in mind that a simple airport transfer from the hotel to Geneva Airport (40 minutes) costs $500. This guy didn't even ask the price. He didn't care.

A suave French nutritionist named Patrick Leconte is the well-groomed centerpiece of the weight loss program. His favorite phrase is: "It is no problemmm!" spoken with a delicious French shrug.

The program is based on chrono-nutrition, so it's more about when you eat than what you eat. You must eat certain food groups only at the same time of day as your body is producing the right chemicals to process them. You can eat fruit, but never for breakfast. You can eat bread, but never in the evening.

Well, I say never….  My favorite part of Monsieur Leconte's program is that twice a week you can pull what he calls a "Joker" and eat whatever the hell you like. His diet is designed to make you lose weight as well as enjoy yourself. It's a diet you can stick to, he says. It's the diet that says to the wealthy women of Europe: "You can look good on the Riviera in summer, and drink champagne."

Leconte charges about $500 per consultation. And the week-long package at the Beau Rivage comes at a basic price of $5,000.

"Is it easier for rich people to get thin?" I asked Monsieur Leconte.

"Yes," was his answer.

"Beer is my weakness," I told him. He looked like he didn't have many clients who drink a lot of beer.

"Beer? Are you Scottish?" he asked with a sneer.

There are a couple more strands to the program. There's a lot of rough-looking massage during which coffee bean extract is pummeled into cellulite. And there's a young personal trainer called Jeremy with a fashionable haircut who inflicts pleasurable pain in the spa's beautiful gym.

Leconte uncapped his fountain pen and wrote me my prescription (see below): all the food I should eat in a day and when I should eat it. "It is nice to say chocolate is no problemmmm!" he chuckled.

That evening before dinner, I ate two of the three complimentary cakes in my room before shuffling like a condemned man down to the brasserie to eat like a French king before starting my diet in the morning. I shoveled down carbs after dark. I relished my crème brulee. I even had a beer. And in the morning, I started the diet. I breakfasted like a German: seedy bread and hard cheese.

So far, so good. I'm losing weight fast. Although my wife thinks I'm irritable.

Nutritional Guidance for WATT, Nick   (23 April 2012)

Breakfast, between 6:30 and 9:30 a.m.

  • 120 g of all cheeses, except yoghurt and sour cream; or 140 g of cooked meats (ham, sausage, salami) maximum 3 times a week
  • 80 g of bread, fresh or toasted (except industrial sandwich loaf), wholemeal, farmhouse, rye bread or bran loaf in preference
  • 10-15 g of normal or salted butter; or 4 eggs + bacon, maximum 5 times a week
  • soft or gas water, tea, infusion, coffee (without milk nor sugar, lemon accepted)

Lunch, between 12 and 1:30 p.m.

  • 180 g (uncooked weight) of red meat (beef), sauce accepted; or 200 g (uncooked weight) of white meat (veal, lamb, pork), sauce accepted; or 190 g of cooked meats or beef/veal offals, maximum 3 times a week; or 4 eggs prepared as you prefer; or 280 g (uncooked weight) of fish (at dinner is better), prepared as you prefer. Cooking of all these is up to your choice.
  • 9 tablespoons MAXIMUM of starchy food or dry vegetables, like pasta, rice, soybean, lentils, french fries, chips, split peas, chickpeas. Eat hot or cold, even with butter or salad/French dressing.
  • 1 tea or infusion, or 1 coffee, some soft or gas water + 1 red wine glass if wished
  • possibility to add a fruit when weight is stabilized

Afternoon snack, between 5 and 6:30 p.m.

1. Vegetable Essential Fatty Acids:

  • 30 g of dark chocolate; or 1 small bowl of no salted plant seeds: almonds, nuts, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, sesame…

2. Some fruits and sweet derivatives:

  • some fresh fruits, equivalent in volume to a Chinese rice bowl (2 apples, or 4 apricots, 2 peaches…) EXCEPT BANANA
  • or fruit compote (180 g)
  • or 2 glasses of fruit juice, without any added sugar
  • or 3 sorbet scoops
  • or a soda glass

Dinner, one hour minimum after the afternoon snack and one hour before bedtime

  • unlimited fish or shellfishes; or 140 g MAXIMUM of chicken, turkey, duck or pork
  • 9 tablespoons MAXIMUM of green vegetables, cooked or not; or unlimited green salad (except corn salad) + salad/French dressing
  • 1 tea or infusion, or 1 coffee, some soft or gas water +  red wine glass if wished