IT IS a truth universally acknowledged that French women don’t get fat. Nor, if you believe the relevant literature, do they age, wrinkle, have facelifts, leave the house without perfume, drink too much or ever, ever sleep alone.
Exercise is clearly superfluous to such a lifestyle. French women, it would seem, are born stick-thin. They don’t join gyms, waste energy working out or indeed dream of working up a sweat – simply because they don’t need to.
So it comes as something of a surprise to find myself doing star jumps in a Parisian park with none other than a French woman. Valérie Orsoni is technically Corsican, but she’s about as Gallic as they come: petite, immaculately made-up, with glossy mahogany hair and an insouciant, fiery expression. She could be anywhere between 25 and 40 (I later learn she’s 44) and is wearing an exercise outfit comprising a low-cut pink T-shirt, matching trainers and a lacy silk number that’s less Nike, more Victoria’s Secret.
Orsoni is a celebrity fitness trainer, whose A-list clients include Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Kim Kardashian, and creator of LeBootCamp, a diet and lifestyle regime with more than 1.2 million followers in 38 countries worldwide.
Having cemented her reputation pretty much everywhere else, she’s decided to take on a nation of obese, lazy Brits – and this month launches her LeBootCamp book and accompanying website over there. With a diet that embraces red wine and chocolate, and a fitness technique based on finding the “25th hour” in every day, her methods are unconventional – but she insists they will revolutionise how we look, think and behave in 2015.
“My approach is all about yummy nutrition,” declares Orsoni, as we meet, pre-workout, in a cafe on the Rue de Rivoli. “I don’t just want to nourish the body; I want to nourish my taste buds – and yours. I’ve tried 42 diets over the years – high protein, low protein, no sugar, fasting – and none of them worked until now. I’m not a guru, but I’ve developed something that will, I guarantee, be the last diet you ever go on.”
Her teaching is based on four phases of weight loss: detox, attack, booster and maintenance, each of which is separated into principles of nutrition and fitness.
Uniquely for a diet, there are no forbidden foods; indeed, the LeBootCamp manual is full of mouthwatering photographs of recipes that are a world away from cardboard-grey “health foods”. Orsoni is a devotee of buckwheat, a cereal-like grain that she conjures into everything from crème brûlées to pancakes.
Combined with her nutritional regime is a strict but practical approach to exercise. “I realise that people lead busy lives and are trying to fit dieting, along with everything else, into their rare free moments,” she explains. “I hate the way other diets talk about ‘cheat days’ and ‘earning points’ – it’s so patronising. People need a grown-up approach to losing weight.”
This, she says, comes in the form of “25th-hour” exercises, designed to fit seamlessly into an otherwise hectic day. Among them are the hip-tilt (“The Brazilian”), which can be done while brushing your teeth; the glute squeeze (“Iron Butt”) for quiet moments at the desk; and the chest toner (“Hindu Prayer”), which Orsoni does after her shower.
Lunges, tricep dips and hip flexes are all part of Orsoni’s LeBootCamp regime. Silly names aside, there’s a lot of sense to her thesis.
“Why spend an hour and a half travelling to and from the gym when you could be using that time to tone up?”
Underpinning it all is the notion of motivation – Orsoni relies on the power of social networking (LeBootCamp has 60000 fans on Facebook) to bring her community together and help them retain self-control. As well as diet and exercise, she promotes philosophy, meditation and breathing exercises.
“Stress,” she says, sternly, “can make you fat. You must keep everything in perspective.”
An exercise regime you can do in full make-up and a diet that embraces red wine certainly has its appeal – and Orsoni is the perfect postergirl. Refreshingly, she, too, has off days – and says so should we all.
“If you’ve got a party, or a bar mitzvah, or a big dinner to go to, enjoy yourself. Eat that second helping! Relax! My best advice is not to let this become an obsession. Real life is not a red carpet.”
– Sarah Rainey