Tips for a trim tummy Sunday Star Times keeping weight off

Australian personal trainer James Duigan has a client list that includes Elle ‘The Body’ Macpherson. He puts Kate Mead through her paces.

It’s bright and early in the morning and I’m about to meet celebrity personal trainer James Duigan for what will be an interactive interview of sorts. Despite arriving from the UK late last night, Duigan, with gorgeous wife Christiane – who is also the cover girl of his book – looks as fresh as a daisy.

We head to his hotel’s poolside for what will be my hour of power – I’ll be trying out the exercises Duigan recommends in Clean & Lean: Flat Tummy Fast!, his second book about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight. While Duigan gets me started on a series of push- ups and lunges, I grill him on health habits. He says the biggest excuse people make for not committing to a good diet and exercise programme – and one of my personal favourites – is lack of time. Duigan’s heard it all before and suggests small steps.

“I think that the best thing anyone could do would be to cut out wheat and sugar for two weeks, just to see what their body does and how they feel. I think that’s the best first step.” He asks about my typical daily diet and finds fault immediately. My “healthy” fruit toast is in fact laden with sugar and the wheat he suggests I should cut from my diet. My nutrition needs some TLC but I’m sure I could also do with some exercise pointers.

“In terms of exercise, [you should be doing] movements that use a lot of muscles, that burn a lot of fat, get the body moving,” says Duigan. “If you’re ever at the gym for longer than an hour you’re wasting your time because you shouldn’t be able to do what you’re doing for longer than an hour. And really, you can do amazing things for your body with 20 minutes in the morning and 20 in the evening.”

I’m struggling with even two minutes when we get into the burpees exercise – best described as a moving push-up combined with leap-frog and jumps. I’d also describe it as my nightmare. Duigan pushes me to do 15 repetitions, but by 10 my legs seem to have other ideas and I can barely extend them. “You can do hundreds and hundreds of bicep curls,” says Duigan, “but really, if you do a couple of sets of burpees, as you can imagine, you’re burning a hell of a lot of fat and not wasting any time at all. You’re targeting a lot of muscles and your body is sort of working as a whole.”

Duigan, whose celebrity clients include model Elle Macpherson, says the biggest mistake people make when trying to lose weight is following a diet focused on low-fat foods. “I see so many people trying their best and it’s just not working because they don’t understand that it’s not fat that makes you fat, it’s sugar and it’s carbohydrates. You need a healthy balanced diet with fish and chicken and meat and vegetables and berries and nuts and things like that. [Low-fat diets] just don’t work – it’s not sustainable. You need to look at how you can keep yourself happy and healthy throughout your life.”

Duigan suggests having the occasional “cheat” meal, so you can eat a piece of cake or a brownie and actually help your weight loss.

“Feed your soul because you can’t live your whole life in denial. And it helps the fat-burning process, it can boost your metabolism and get you leaner the next day. The key is to keep it to one meal.”

Another factor for a healthy lifestyle is reducing stress. “Stress plays a huge part in tummy fat. Often you’re better cutting out a running session and adding a yoga [session], or an extra hour in bed. I think another important thing to remember is that any sort of transformation in your body happens in your head first.

“There’s always a million reasons not to do something, you just need to find one reason to do it and then don’t let anything get in your way.”

Eat your way to a flatter stomach

Don’t overcook your food as you’ll kill off or reduce the nutrient content. Try to make sure around 50% of the food on your plate is raw. If you can stomach it, eat all your vegetables raw.

Don’t buy cheap meat – organic meat is more expensive, but it also contains less toxic junk such as antibiotics. If you can afford only one organic thing make sure it’s meat.

Don’t eat foods that weaken your abdominal wall, as this will make it slack and lead to a protruding stomach. Foods that can weaken your abdominal wall often contain gluten. Gluten-intolerance, a common condition, inflames the bowel which makes it look bigger, especially just below the belly button. Foods containing gluten include bread, pasta and bagels (unless otherwise stated), most breakfast cereals, muffins, pastries and baked goods, pizza bases, pie crusts, biscuits, cakes, alcohol made from grains (such as beer, whisky, bourbon and liqueurs), ketchup, processed meats, margarine, oats, salad dressings, soups (apart from homemade ones), soy sauce and most Chinese sauces and sweets that contain grain (stabilisers made from gluten).

Avoid sugar, in all its forms, as it fattens your mid-section.

Make sure you eat enough fibre. A lack of fibre will lead to inflammation in the bowel. Eat plenty of vegetables (ideally raw) and drink at least two litres of still, room temperature water every day.

* Edited extract from Clean & Lean: Flat Tummy Fast! by James Duigan. Published by Kyle Cathie and distributed in NZ by New Holland, RRP $39.99 6.0