Sunday, 28 April 2013

Anne Diamond – A New You

Most Celebrity Fitness DVDs consist of a bunch of exercises with maybe a DVD extra at the end with a bit of healthy eating advice.

Anne Diamond’s A New You instead starts off with the food  and then tacks on a  few exercises afterwards. This was released by the Queen of TV-AM in 2003 following her appearance in Celebrity Big Brother the previous year when apparently her weight made headline news. Because tabloid editors are bastards.

Before the cardio or resistance workouts are even mentioned, we have half an hour of chatting about food. Anne’s personal fitness guru, Jason Vale, tells us what we can and can’t eat.
At the beginning of the DVD there is a weasel-worded disclaimer stating that although Vale may have specifically told you to avoid fizzy drinks while holding up a coke bottle with a sticker saying “Cola” over the label, this is in no way to be taken as us saying that there’s anything wrong with coke. Or any of the other products shown. And please don’t sue us.

From left to right, this is not diet coke, sunny delight or Tate & Lyle. As long as that's understood.

I appreciate that I’m in no position to criticise anybody else’s eating regime. My food pyramid is more of a food cube. I have no problem eating my recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables each day but I do compliment it with a passionate love of carbs and an evangelical enthusiasm for melting cheese over everything. I would melt cheese onto melted cheese if I thought the structural integrity would hold up. My idea of an interesting evening’s entertainment is to taste test Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s pretend snickers bars against genuine ones.
Hold my calls. This could take a while.

Never-the-less, I am a bit sceptical of some of Jason’s claims. White bread, he says, will only be eaten by cockroaches in emergency circumstances. “Call me picky,” he chuckles, “if it’s not good enough for cockroaches, it’s not good enough for me.”
Seriously, Jason, is that a valid scientific yardstick? What do cockroaches eat the rest of the time? And what constitutes an ‘emergency situation’ for a cockroach anyway? They always look like they’re losing their shit.
Don't panic!

He encourages to eat food in it’s a raw form as much as possible. “If you look at any animal in the wild, that’s all they eat,” he tells us. “They never cook anything.”
How the hell am I supposed to base my diet all animals ever? Cats manufacture their own vitamin C.  Rabbits eat their own shit. The Lisotrigona cacciae moth drinks human tears. I have no idea which of these to work into my current eating plan.

Party Time!

He also tells us that mice who drink diet cola become fat, that red meat will putrefy in your body and that that cow’s milk is basically glue which sticks to your bloodstream.
Everything Jason tells us seems to get contradicted immediately. Cheese is off the menu because it’s unnatural to have dairy once we’ve past breastfeeding age. Organic cheese, though, is OK. Roasted nuts should be avoided because the roasting process changes the molecular structure however roasting sweet potatoes is just fine.

All processed food is basically the devil’s work - we should aim to eat food in its natural state “as Mother Nature intended”. He then recommends that we eat live yogurt for its Acidophilus but says that the best way to get it is by taking it in tablet form. Nutritional supplements springing from the ground as they do.

After having my mind blown by Jason’s food regime (and everything I have told you is just the tip of the iceberg), we moved on to the rest of the DVD which consists of 3 workouts, some of Anne’s top tips and a Anne’s fashion advice (think Gok Wan but with less boob fondling and more relentless erosion of self-confidence. )

There are three sections – Cardio Blast, Resistance Training and Abdominal Blast – and each is only 10 minutes long.  I am lazy by nature and yet even I found myself thinking “Is that all?” about the amount of actual exercise included on this DVD. The manufacturers seemed to realise it was a bit lacking and have added a bonus workout as an extra. I am not sure why this doesn’t get included the main workout. There isn’t really any warm-up or cool-down and the workouts are a bit like Interval Training without the Interval. Or they’re all interval. I’m not entirely sure. You know how interval is, like, fast bit, not-fast bit, fast bit? This was just the fast bits. Interspersed with Anne twatting on about eating in restaurants or something.

Best Bit
During the food section, Jason dismisses the idea that organic is necessarily healthier by pointing out that you can get organic tobacco.

“You can get organic cocaine!” pipes up Anne knowledgeably. Clearly, she’s a woman who likes to ensure that her Class As are ethically sourced.
And always check for the Fair Trade sticker.

Worst Bit
Jason may hate fat people. I don’t know if this should act as hindrance to his working as a personal trainer to fat people. The Biggest Loser TV show was predicated on the idea that fat people are disgusting and ought to be humiliated into shifting some of their useless blubber.

It’s a bit weird. During the workouts, Jason shouts out things like “Remember why you’re here!” and “Don’t just stare at the telly! Work while you’re doing it!” as though he imagines that us viewers are just sitting on our roly-poly arses gaping at the screen and stuffing crisps into our mouths four at a time.
After the workouts, there is a section called “Staying Motivated” which uses visualisation techniques to try and keep us on the right path to Our New Us. Jason asks us to visualise ourselves at our current size in a swimsuit. He is really keen that we concentrate on every bulge and every fold of fat. Apparently I already disgust Jason. He is keen that I learn to disgust myself too.

I didn’t work up much of a sweat doing this. I seem to have worked up quite a bit of rage though. I’m not sure what that’s about.

Would I do this workout again?
No. Anne didn’t.

I don’t normally mention any post-workout weight gain for celebrities I review here. Well, I did for Michelle McManus and then I felt bad afterwards. It’s not my place to judge anybody on whether they are fat, thin or somewhere in between.
As the sainted Marky Mark Wahlberg said “Everybody’s beautiful, man”

However, I am making an exception for Anne because it turns out she is a serial releaser of fitness videos which just don’t work.

Anne Diamond released her first exercise video, 100% Healthy in 1997. She released her second - The Diamond Plan - in 2000. In the intervening years she had gained enough weight to stick a ‘before’ fat picture on the video box and exclaim in large letters that she had lost 4 stone.  By 2002 and her appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, she had gained it back and more. She lost 4 stone again for the release of A New You in 2003 and then piled the weight back on by the time she appeared in Celebrity Fit Club in 2006.

Perhaps some sort of EU standard could be put in place whereby celebrities aren’t allowed to say “If I can do it then so can you!” until they’ve managed to maintain their new size for a year. Keeping the weight off just until your fitness DVD hits the shops isn’t the same thing at all.

She hasn’t felt the need to release a workout DVD in a while. Her solution to her weight issues? Having a gastric band fitted. Because it turns out that sometimes there’s more to finding the New You than some Resistance Training, a spinach smoothie and a thin bloke telling you that you look shit in a bikini.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bonnie Franklin - I Hate to Exercise, I Love to Tap

At one point during one of the interminable instruction sequences which make up this workout, Bonnie Franklin shouts “You can do it! It’s as easy as walking!” Which is sort of true. It’s as dull as walking, that’s for sure.
Bonnie Franklin was a US actress who died last month of pancreatic cancer. She is best known for playing the lead character in the sitcom “One day at a time” from 1975 to 1984. I’m not sure if this show was broadcast in the UK. Looking at the DVD cover it appears to be about a bunch of women trapped inside a picture frame by a creepy Salvador Dali-esque figure.

Disappointingly, it turns out that it was about a single mom making a new life for herself and her teenage daughters and  tackling such hilarious subjects as sexual harassment and suicide.

And brownies.
I Hate to Exercise, I Love to Tap! was released in 1984 just as One day at a time was finishing and Franklin was presumably scouting around for new projects. In the introduction, she says that used to tap dance with Donald “Singin’ in the Rain” O’Connor on  The Colgate Hour when she was 9 years old so you know she’s already waaaay ahead of us.
She appears eager to bring us up to speed though and spends a lot time telling us what our options are. We can do it in soft shoes. We can do it in taps. We can do it on a board.  We can do it on carpet. We can do it alone. We can do it with our kids. We can do it with friends. We can do it every day. Or a few times a week. Bonnie is keen to stress our many options. The implication though is that failure to do the workout at all is NOT AN OPTION.
There is a grinding relentlessness to the instruction. It’s over an hour long. And it just consists of Bonnie in her odd outfit in an empty school assembly hall tap dancing while an elderly music teacher provides the piano accompaniment off-screen.
Bonnie shows us each of the core steps – including the slap, the stamp and the brush - and then once the instruction has started barely says a word to us other than the name of whatever move we’re supposed to do repeated again and again and again.
My notes for this DVD basically consist of words like “Brush hop stamp slap” repeated endlessly for pages.
After this,  I murdered my family with an axe because yolo
I don’t know if anyone ever learnt to tap dance using this video. It seems unlikely. You would probably be better off getting Ned Wayburn’s The Art of Stage Dancing and following the instructional diagrams.
The evolution of flappers
I’m sure Bonnie was a delightful lady but this DVD is a pretty joyless experience. There are only so many close-up shots of Bonnies’ feet tap-tapping on the ground anyone can be expected to take before screaming “I take it all back! I don’t hate exercise after all!” and running for the hills.
Difficulty Level
The moves aren’t tricky in any way – I can stick my hands in my pockets and stamp my feet as well as the next person. I did have a constant struggle not to slip into a boredom-induced coma. Tap dancing is supposed to be fun. Why did I feel I was being punished for something?
Only 8000 repetitions to go 
Would I do this workout again?
No. Please don’t make me. I already feel I have Franklin’s instructions on a permanent loop in my head. It’s the aural equivalent of playing Tetris for hours and still seeing the blocks when you close your eyes.
Slap, Shuffle, Sliiiiide
Best Part
Bonnie’s Outfit. I imagine she kept adding things to her ensemble until she felt she’d struck just the right tone. “Blue tights and shiny red shoes with three-quarter-length trousers and a stripy top? Hmm it’s nice. But it’s missing something.  I know! I’ll add braces! Not quite there...  I’ll finish it off by partially tucking a massive hanky into my back pocket and - voila! - we’re good to go!”
Worst Part.
Even if you followed Franklin’s instructions to the letter, rewinding, reviewing and repeating as instructed and perfected every move; you would have to accept the fact that you’ll never be close to equalling this guy.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Charlie Brooks – Before And After

Charlie Brooks is the actress who plays Janine Butcher in Eastenders and shouldn’t be confused with Charlie Brooker, the TV Columnist and Black mirror writer.

Charlie Brooks workout regime contains a warm-up session, disco, combat and high intensity workout section and a Pilates cool down. Whereas Charlie Brooker’s would no doubt consist of gruelling allegory in a dystopian alternative reality. With knob jokes.

The Charlie Brooker Workout
Brooks is joined by Dee Thresher, the go-to Fitness coach for Eastenders actors. Dee has also appeared in a fitness-guru capacity on GMTV and Daybreak and is according to the internets, currently in a relationship with TV Doctor Nice, Dr Hilary Jones. At least, she has a link to his website from hers which I believe is how declares one’s intentions these days.

Da daaa! It's Dee.

Dee has also appeared in workout DVDs for Eastenders’ Natalie Cassidy and Letitia Dean although Brooks was the first so this is evidently where Dee got the taste for it. When I say first, I mean Charlie was the first to work with this particular trainer, not first to release a workout DVD , obviously. She was preceded by Patsy Palmer, Lucy Benjamin, Zoe Lucker and Barbara Windsor.

You know what would be handy? If someone were to produce a  handy visual guide to all the actors in Eastenders who have released workout DVDs including the date of release and the years in which they were part of the Eastenders cast.

Heh. I say ‘somebody’. I mean me, obviously. It’s not like I have anything more productive to do with my life. So here you go, world premier of CLCW’s official Workout-releasing Eastenders Actors Knowledge Sheet. Or WEAKS for short. You’re welcome, World.

Please click here for the larger version. Please. Don’t make me have put this together for nothing

This workout starts with a bit of background and Charlie’s early sessions which are shot documentary-style. We see her weigh herself for the first time and then cut to footage of her working out.

Original unsuccessful version of that John Lewis advert

“Doing the workout for the first time is the fun bit” intones the voiceover lady seriously. “But will it ever work?”

Well you see, Voiceover Lady, there’s not much point in the ramping up the tension because we already know that it’s going to work. New-look slim Charlie just told us so. Plus there’s a massive spoiler on the front of the DVD box itself. The bit where it says “This works! “

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Difficulty Level
Most of the routines were needlessly complicated. Dee seemed to under the impression we were learning a dance routine even when we just doing squats and lunges.  “And now lets put it all together and go from the top!” she’d shout enthusiastically. We’re not performing  a cabaret act here, Dee.

Charlie’s face was furrowed in concentration for most of the workouts and this is a girl who had supposedly done these routines dozens of times before.

Weirdest Bit
This isn’t specific to this workout but I was reading the warning bit that pops up at the beginning telling you not to do the workout if you’ve just eaten a heavy meal or are drunk or have taken lots of drugs and stuff. There is a line in it which says “Before consulting this or any other fitness regime, consult your doctor” Do people ever do that, do you think. Make an appointment with their GP so they can say “I’ve just bought this legs, bums and tums workout at Asda. What do you reckon, doc? Is it safe?” They shift millions of these things, surely. No wonder I can never get an appointment at the doctor’s surgery in under 3 weeks.

Worst Bit
The camera seems to be squarely trained on Charlie’s crotch for the first half of the workout. I had to pause the DVD a couple of times and both times, the TV screen just showed a close-up of her pelvis. Which was disconcerting.

For the second half the camera starts zooming in, zooming out and changing angles in a concentrated effort to give the viewer motion sickness. I think the cameraman was really bored.

Oh not again.

Would I do this workout again?
No point really. I know the ending now.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Davina McCall – The Power of 3

And so Miss McCall, we meet at last.

I’ve been aware for some time that Davina McCall is widely regarded in the world of Celebrity Fitness Workout DVDs. The Daily Mail refers to her as the DVD Workout Queen and her workouts are considered to be both well put together and difficult to do.

This is, of course, why I have been putting it off. I like my workouts easy and stupid.

But we both knew, me and Davina, that this day had to come. She may not know she knew it but deep down she did. CLCW has been playing hard to get long enough and the time had come to say “Enough, Davina! I’m all yours! Show me what you’ve got!”

Bring it on
Not that I’m tackling the whole of McCall’s fitness library. I’m not a lunatic. The woman appears to have released a workout DVD every year since 2004.

This is the very first of those. The ‘Power of 3’ of the title refers to the 3 routines on the DVD, which you need to do 3 times a week. Presumably it also refers to Davina and her two personal trainers – Jackie and Mark Wren. After they’ve finished working out together they probably go off and fight crime, shouting “By the Power of 3!” before they do their special hand signal, put on their masks and capture the bad guys.

The Dynamic Trio
The three sections are Legs & Bums, Upper Body and Abdominals as well as a Warm Up and Cool Down. The husband and wife instructor team split the sessions between them so there’s no awkward bickering while they’re giving instructions. Jackie and Mark Wren seem like a nice couple. Although at one point when Davina makes a comment about her arse being too big, Mark says “It looks good from here”. Dude, your wife is just there!

Davina acknowledges that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to afford not one but two personal trainers. “So,” she tells us. “I thought I’d share Jackie and Mark with you!”

Well that’s just great. Not content with boasting about your enormous wealth, you’re now gloating about the fact that you’ve just made more money out of us by allowing us access to your privileged lifestyle. Why not just include a shot of you rolling around in piles of money, lathering your hair up with Garnier Nutrisse and laughing maniacally while you’re at it?

Go on, mock us with your chestnut locks

That said, Davina is quite entertaining. She’s clearly enjoying herself and not just because she’s showing off.  There are plenty of extras showing her mugging to the camera, getting the giggles and hanging out with the rest of the crew trying to learn how to wolf-whistle. If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to choose a celebrity to have as a gym buddy, I’d be pretty freaked out. I mean, who does that? That’s some messed up shit.

You could do worse than McCall though. She seems like fun.

Difficulty Level
The workouts are hard work. There’s a lot of squatting and thrusting and stretching and stuff. Every so often Jackie will suggest an easier version of a move, “If this is getting to much, just do the kicks” she’ll say and join you in it for 45 seconds before hectoring you to do the full kick-jump-squat-waving your arms about thing again. I felt I had to do the whole thing properly or be judged.
Davina even admits that she wants us to suffer. When Jackie suggests that we just do the knee lifts as an easier alternative, she says “That’s OK isn’t it?” to Davina. “Sort of, “grumbles Davina. “I’d rather everyone was doing it with me.”

Suffer as I do!

Best Bit
The Boxercising. Davina shares my enthusiasm for pretending to punch people.  “It makes me feel butch” she says before growling a bit and saying “Dangerous, yeah! That’s me yeah! I’m a lean, mean killing machine!” A little bit of murderous rage always helps when you’re working out, I think.

Maybe too much murderous rage.
Worst Bit.
There are two DVD extras – ‘Davina on Clothes’ and ‘Davina on Food’. In the first one, Davina introduces us to her personal dresser, Neil and then invites us to admire how great she looks while she tries on some dresses. Seriously, that’s all there is to it. There are no handy Trinny-and-Susannah-type tips for the rest of us. We are just here to gawk at the dress she wore to Elton John’s party and admire how shapely her calves are now.
Are you sure this isn't too revealing, Neil?
‘Davina on Food’ consists of Davina walking around a supermarket waffling on about food. There’s no diet plan. There’s no plan of any kind. It’s just an unedited stream of consciousness as she wanders around the food aisles. Thanks for that.

I have no idea what extras are included in any of her other workouts. Maybe there will be the opportunity to see her strolling around BHS talking about cushions or a film of her in her local launderette telling us about her favourite spin cycles.

Would I do this Workout Again?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. There are at least eight other Davina workout DVDs to get through, including ‘Body Buff’, ‘Intense’ and ‘Ultimate Target’ so one thing’s for sure, this isn’t over yet, McCall. You’ve not seen the last of me.