As there is so much talk about the miracle that is intermittent fasting at the moment, thought it was worth reposting something I wrote about it back in September. Hey always first with the news here. Well, first or second, always in the first 5,000…

I just have the one problem with detoxing. Everyone who raves about it to me is… now it’s rude to say fat, isn’t it? Shall we settle on big boned but with a lovely smile instead? When they tell me how brilliant their last detox retreat was and how much weight they lost, there’s always an awkward moment. I get this pained expression, like a safety pin has come undone in my knickers, as I wonder what to say next because what I really want to say is “How come you’re still fat then?”

The latest medical findings appear to back up my exhaustive research into the subject (ie chatting to the three fat people I know and some idle gossip about a friend of a friend I’ve never actually met). The fashion now is for intermittent fasting instead: effectively, giving your body a day off so it can remember what digestion felt like before Krispy Kreme doughnuts were invented. A one-day fast encourages our systems to switch from growth to repair mode, providing a probably much-needed healing time out. Dr Jeffrey Morrison, author of Cleanse Your Body Clear Your Mind says: “It’s sort of like taking your Saturday off and just focussing on purging your closet.” Is it just me or does that sound like code for some sort of sexual deviancy?

Based on this new science, the lovely company Radiance Cleanse (Alexandra Burke, above, is a fan of theirs) has recently launched Radiance Rest Days. For 24 hours, you drink only six juices made from top quality organic fruit and vegetables including spinach, carrot, apples and lemons, spliced with proteins and salts, that are delivered to your door first thing, with some fantastically supportive notes.

I followed the company advice to the letter. The drinks tasted delicious and oozed health but there wasn’t an awful lot of them, which made it weird that I didn’t feel hungry until about 7pm by which time I was able to give up, park myself in front of the telly and watch Mad Men. The next day I felt like Julie Andrews in her heyday, all squeaky clean and ready to climb every mountain. Genuinely, cynical old sceptical old me was extremely surprised by just how good I felt. The only downside is cost. Considering that they make the juices fresh the evening before your cleanse and courier them to you in a freezer bag in time for breakfast, the cost (£90) is extremely reasonable but considering that £90 is £90 and can buy a lot of things – very possibly your body weight in Krispy Kreme doughnuts (unless you are big boned with a lovely smile in which case it’s probably just a thigh’s worth), it’s expensive.

Nevertheless, I definitely intend to do it again. Apparently, doctors think once every six weeks is a good idea. Of course, the side of me who thinks I’ll start baking my own bread and learning Spanish argues I should make my own juices but who knows if I’d include the correct composition of beneficial proteins to get me through the day. Besides, I haven’t even got the discipline to floss every morning let alone stick to a cleanse unless I’d fork out some money for one. Whatever, here’s a Radiance Cleanse green juice recipe to inspire you.


1 cucumber 

Half a fennel bulb

1 lime

2 Cox or Braeburn apples

A handful of mint

Blitz, drink and then you may very well find yourself spontaneously bursting into a round of Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens….

Posted in Nutrition | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tabata: how to shed body fat in four minutes

There’s a lot of talk of miracles at this time of year. Virgin births? I went to a Catholic convent school, we had one of those every other week. Here’s a real miracle, I have lost almost half my body fat in five months, just by doing four minutes of exercise, five times a week.

Got your attention? Thought so. My body fat had been at 29% for years, no amount of gym work, careful eating, crying or  blaming my husband would reduce it (30% is when you become a porker) so I asked celebrity personal trainer Dan Roberts, below, for some tips. He suggested Tabata intervals first thing in the morning, before eating, to speed up my metabolism.

Tabata training works like this: you do 20 seconds of intense activity, followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of four minutes (ie eight rounds). You can do any form of exercise – skipping, running on the spot, squat jumps, split squats or eating cream cakes (one of these is a trick suggestion, see if you can spot which one. Oh well done). The important thing is that you have to work as hard as you can, not like all those people at my gym who could practically have a fag in their mouth they move on the cross trainer so slowly. Believe me, done properly, 20 seconds feels like an eternity. I’ve been religiously doing my round of Tabata, Monday to Friday since August. I knew I felt firmer, especially around the middle, but the hard proof arrived just in time for Christmas. I had a Tanita body fat reading at Verdura in Sicily, above. It is down to 17%. Now that’s what I call a miracle.

Verdura is a gorgeous resort with a great spa, by the way, which I will be reviewing in The Sunday Times shortly. Everything was wonderful… except for the very loud, very old, very naked German in the hammam. Did his crown jewels hang low? Ladies, you know when you’re separating the yolk from the egg white? Yep, you’ve got the idea. And they were swaying just inches from my face when he boomed hello at me. I’m still traumatised.

Posted in Fitness and wellbeing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


Here’s a condensed version of an article I wrote for The Sunday Times

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT The British home of complete wellbeing, a sustainable alternative to fat farms.

WHERE IS IT  a short drive from Barnstaple (where hippies who can’t afford the air fare to Goa come to die) is Yeotown, a mishmash of old and new stone buildings tucked beside a minty sliver of river in a misty, wooded valley. The style is unpretentious country-house, elevated by classy contemporary paintings curated by one of the founders, Simon Sieff, a London art dealer. Rooms, below, have the key luxuries — princess-and-the-pea beds, high-thread-count linen and indulgent walk-in showers — but are otherwise discreetly pared back, so tired, muddy bodies don’t feel too guilty when they stagger in after a hike.

WHAT YOU’LL DO Sieff and his fellow founder, Mercedes Ngoh, above, one of Britain’s leading yoga teachers — though sci-fi fans may think the fact that she was one of Jabba the Hutt’s dancers in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is a bigger claim to fame — are adamant that Yeotown is not a boot camp. The programme is more intelligently constructed and better paced than those at mindless fat farms, and it’s designed to encourage healthy, long-term habits that are sustainable, rather than only achieving temporary weight loss. However, the first session starts at 7am, and you face a further six or so hours of blood, sweat and — sometimes — tears before the massage table. This makes warm and fuzzy-sounding words such as “retreat” appear something of a smoke screen, albeit a delicately incensed one. Yeotown makes for an extremely rewarding break, the quality of tuition is second to none and the scenery is amazing, but it’s hard work. You need to be at least reasonably fit to aspire to its idea of holistic relaxation. Days usually began with vinyasa flow yoga with Ngoh. The form is less about chanting and more about athleticism, but her communication skills and charisma got my group — mainly successful City types — through a series of energetic sequences and several twists, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1960s.

Breakfast followed in the shape of a detox smoothie. Call me old-fashioned, but I like meals I can chew. I was sceptical that a drink could fill me up sufficiently, but found that one glass sustained me through each morning’s considerable exertions. These could be anything from an energetic hike to a 20-mile cycle ride, excruciating core conditioning to exacting Pilates sessions.

The schedule showed mercy occasionally, though, with a much-appreciated change of gear to a contemplative qigong class, or restorative yoga, for which poses are so easy and held for so long that there was plenty of time to fall asleep, even to dribble, without the teacher noticing. We also had nutrition workshops and one-on-one diet consultations. Sometimes, they’d just stick pins in us, literally — our timetable included an introduction to acupuncture.

Coffee, meat and alcohol were banned, as usual. Television, too. And mobile phones were taken away each morning to ensure there were no electronic distractions. This proved peculiarly liberating, and we had the evenings to reignite our addiction. Staff had enough charm and good humour to head off any resentment of the rules. And there’s absolutely no military-style shouting.

I couldn’t have appreciated their motivational talents quite as wholeheartedly, however, without two crucial elements: the food and the spa treatments, held in the above room. Detox dishes were delicious. I rarely felt hungry, and lost 2.2lb in four days. And the healing hands of Yeotown’s therapists, Simone Crocker and Alice Sinclair, were my saviours. If I could have Alice’s incredible table Thai massage every day, I’d probably be able to out-bend the GB gymnastics team within a month.

THE BOTTOM LINE Yeotown (01271 343803, yeotown.com) has three-day, three-night fitness breaks from £1,250pp, full-board, including all activities, nutritional advice and massages. Four-night, five-day breaks start at £1,780pp.

Posted in Fitness and wellbeing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments