Banish the festive season bulge

Celebrity fitness trainer Tracy Anderson is well aware that at the moment most of us are more likely to be sitting around talking about getting fitter rather than actually doing anything about it.

Celebrity fitness trainer Tracy Anderson is well aware that at the moment most of us are more likely to be sitting around talking about getting fitter rather than actually doing anything about it.

By Gabrielle Fagan

"People waste so much time making themselves feel miserable by moaning and worrying about their bodies instead of getting up and doing something about improving them and boosting their fitness," she says.

The 34-year-old petite former ballerina, who in her teens battled with her weight and endured punishing but unproductive gym sessions, saw the light some years ago and formulated her own highly successful fitness methods.

Now she exudes energy, has an enviable figure and has a starry track record.

She's remodelled some of Hollywood including Madonna - she's travelled with the singer on her world tours for several years - and currently works with celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakira, Courtney Cox and Kate Hudson.

Her latest DVD, The Tracy Anderson Method: Total Cardio Workout, has just been released.

"I tell celebrities as well as private clients that the start of the year is totally the best time to get into new, healthy routines that within a few weeks will easily start to become habits," she says, banishing my feeble excuses about the cold weather and feeling tired that I'm using to enable me to stay under the duvet and a couch potato until the spring.

"Delaying and making excuses only makes it harder and more difficult for people to set to, as the impetus starts to wane and prevaricating can make you feel you've failed before you've even begun," she says.

"You've got to say to yourself 'today is the day I put my health first because it's important to me and I will start exercising and start to love my body.'"

She developed her method for fitness after realising that her own weight would prevent her from becoming a professional ballerina.

After ditching ballet school, she married Eric Anderson, then a basketballer player, got pregnant and piled on 25kg.

But while she was at home with their son, Sam, now 12, she determined to discover why she constantly failed the more she tried to diet and lose pounds.

Eventually, her workout methods transformed her body.

"My shape and weight's stayed steady for 12 years," she says.

She opened her own fitness centre trialling her system on hundreds of women, and in 2004 she went to Los Angeles and began working for stars and trained Gwyneth Paltrow on the set of the film Iron Man and also began working with Madonna.

"I believe it's possible for every woman to get a good body shape. My mission is to show that it can be done without enduring denial diets or pointless gym sessions," she says.

"People look at celebrities and think 'oh, they must have something I haven't got if they have those bodies'. I certainly don't think people should compare themselves to celebrities which can be de-motivating."

"After all, they have to devote time to honing and toning their bodies because their image is constantly under scrutiny. What they do have is the determination to improve but it's possible for every person to have or develop that."

She describes Gwyneth Paltrow as "such fun and works harder at her health and fitness than anyone else I know."

"She often gets up at 6am so she can fit in her daily workout, as well as follow her career and be an involved mom to her kids."

Tracy no longer works with Madonna because she says the star's travelling schedule meant long absences from her son but she credits her with a "most amazing work ethic."

She says: "The easiest person to work with is Courteney Cox - she is such a lovely person who is really kind and although she could be demanding as such a high profile star she is absolutely not and is incredibly thoughtful and genuine."

Tracy says it is her "mission" to show ordinary people that there's no need to succumb to ageing and pay the price with sagging 'batwings', poor skin tone, and loss of shape.

Her DVD features choreographed dance moves set to music, which aim to burn calories and create a longer leaner figure and is ideal for beginners. The method focuses on helping to strengthen the smaller muscle groups to enable those muscles to pull in the larger muscles.

This leads, she claims, to a lean figure and creates a balance between weight loss and a healthy body.

"Training your body - you need to do an hour a day six days a week - has so many rewards in keeping you feeling and looking younger. Ask yourself 'why shouldn't I be seen as beautiful?' and the answer is 'there's no reason why you can't'," says Tracy.

:: Information: The Tracy Anderson Method: Total Cardio Workout DVD, 19.99, is available from Tesco, Asda & HMV, and Amazon .

Tracy's top tips

:: Weigh yourself so you are clear and realistic about how much weight, if any, you need to lose.

:: Train for one-hour a day, six days a week. "Do thirty minutes of cardio training such as dancing, jogging or aerobics, and thirty minutes of muscular structure such as weights and stretches," she says.

:: Don't just switch off while you're working out, she says, as her research of those who actually 'perform' movements and completely focus on them get results above those who just go through the motions.

:: Watch yourself exercise: "Look in the mirror and judge yourself as if you were watching someone else. It will help you improve on the moves and keep you concentrated," she suggests.

:: If you want to have a lean dancer's body rather than an over-bulked gymnast body, learn to dance, says Tracy. Dance aerobics is her favourite cardio exercise.

:: Don't compare yourself unfavourably to celebrities. "The reason my celebrity clients have to train two hours a day is because their endurance level is so strong," she says.

"Also, they have an image to protect as physical appearance is key for people who are being judged and observed by the public as part of their everyday life."

:: Stick to a sensible eating programme. "I've learnt to love nutritious food and I don't deny myself any of the key food groups," says Tracy.

"Food restriction can become a real mental game and I'm not a fan. It can be negative and stressful over focusing on food and dieting. Just try to manage your portions and allow yourself occasional treats."

:: If you need to lose weight try to avoid having too many dairy products and minimise processed foods.

Tracy says: "I eat lean proteins like fish and chicken as well as quinoa and brown rice. Every day I drink a green juice made from spinach, chard, parsley, kale, ginger and apple."

:: Drink as little alcohol as possible, she advises. "I rarely drink wine. Your metabolism will be slower for up to three days after you've had alcohol."

Stars' New Year resolutions

Lacking motivation to make resolutions? Be inspired by New Year resolutions made by celebrities and revealed for a new Start campaign, inspired by the Prince of Wales, which aims to promote sustainable living. www.startuk.org.

:: Former Blue Peter presenter Diane-Louise Jordan, who presents BBC One's Songs Of Praise, says: "I'm going to walk when popping to the shops in town. That way I reduce my carbon footprint at the same time as firming up my buttocks and getting a fabulous pair of legs."

:: TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh says: "I'm going to start cycling again and avoid using the car for local journeys. Anyway, you can get a better view into other folks' gardens from a bike!"

:: TV and radio presenter Penny Smith, who presented GMTV for 17 years says: "I'm promising to use my car less and sing more - so I'll conserve fossil fuel, while possibly destroying eardrums!"

:: Actor, comedian and impressionist Hugh Dennis says: "I'm going to be conscientious about turning lights off when I don't need them. And I promise if my name is up in lights, they will be low voltage ones."

:: Comedian Marcus Brigstocke, who presents on BBC Radio 4's The Now Show, says: "Wherever possible I'm going to eat seasonal, local food. Experience has shown it's often delicious. And I'm switching to a green mobile phone network this year."

:: Actress Carol Drinkwater, known for her role as Helen in the BBC series All Creatures Great And Small, says: "I'm going to eat more raw food, especially vegetables grown at my olive farm in Provence. It means less energy will be used for cooking and it will be extra good for my health."

:: TV property programme presenter Kirstie Allsopp, known for Location, Location, Location, says: "I'm promising to curtain all the windows in our house and draw them when it gets dark to conserve warmth and reduce our bills."

Tried & tested

The rush and stress of Christmas and a bitterly cold winter has left many people feeling run-down, tired or battling to get fit after suffering colds and flu.

Gabrielle Fagan tested a new vitamin supplement, Pharmaton Vitality Capsules, which promises to boost energy and wellbeing.

What is it?

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules claim that a unique formula of vitamins, minerals and ginseng, which the makers say has been proved after extensive trials, can relieve periods of exhaustion and improve physical performance. In addition they contain a blend of vitamins A, vitamin B group, vitamin C, D, calcium and folic acid.

What's it like?

After a generous helping of colds and with antibiotic treatment I was feeling really low and worried that my depleted immune system would make me vulnerable to every passing virus.

But within seven days of taking these rather large capsules - you only need one daily and they're easier to swallow than they look - I genuinely started to feel much livelier and my appetite improved.

You're supposed to take them for a month to feel the full effect and at the end of that time there was a considerable difference in my wellbeing, skin, hair and energy levels and sleeping patterns.

I found it most effective to take a capsule with a glass of water after food as you can feel slightly nauseous if you take it on an empty stomach.

It's fine to continue the supplement for up to 12 weeks and I'm certainly going to use it to help me survive the rest of the winter.

:: Information: Pharmaton Vitality Capsules are available in packs of 30, 60 or 100, priced from 9.18 and are stocked in chemists, superstores and health shops. Read the label and for more information go to www.pharmaton.co.uk.

Get tips on staying healthy and maintaining a balanced lifestyle in the New Year at www.lifesqueezer.co.uk.