Lose 4lb a week on a luxe bootcamp
I'm not really a bootcamp sort of girl - all that barking of orders doesn't sound like much of a holiday to me. But a 'luxury' camp in the south of France serving gourmet food? Now that's more my kind of thing. The only question is - how can you possibly shape up in a place like that? Camp Biche's founding principles centre on the French paradox: how to stay slim and healthy while enjoying a culture of fine food. The answer is that food isn't the enemy - you can eat a gourmet five-course dinner every day (and we do), as long as you exercise.
So our daily plan involves an early morning exercise class followed by a long walk in the countryside, lunch and a further exercise class. Then yoga and a long massage. On day one, at 7.15am, we start with an abdominal and weights class led by the camp's owner, Libby. But there's no military-style counting the reps, instead we chant a mantra and move on each syllable. 'The universe is perfect exactly as it is right now, my body is perfect exactly as it is right now,' we chant and quickly clock up 300 reps.
After a quick breakfast we're off on a 12km hike. The first hour is spent in a compulsory meditative silence, and after that it's a great chance to get to know the other three women on the course. After a light lunch of soup, salad and fruit, we do some gentle hatha yoga, followed by a weights class and a massage. I'm totally exhausted by dinner time and try not to fall asleep in my cheese, but note, happily, that we do get cheese. And wine - and duck breast, and cake. Admittedly, the portions are rather smaller than I would normally choose - this must be how they do it.
Day three, half-way through the week, is supposed to be the worst according to Libby, but I wake up feeling bright-eyed and full of energy. The yoga class in the afternoon is relaxing and during the weights class, I manage 16 full push-ups - a personal triumph. Dinner is absolutely delicious, and I even have crème brulée for pudding. This boot camp lark is easy! But then the slump hits me, and the next day I'm feeling desperately tired, hungry and emotional. I just make it through the yoga class in the afternoon before having to take a pre-dinner nap in my antique French bed. I'm pretty grumpy, too. I don't even care about losing weight any more; I just want to go home.
Even worse, I weigh myself and - misery upon misery - find I've gained 2lb! Libby suggests that I'm not drinking enough water, so the next day I gulp it down during our morning walk. After that something strange happens - it's like I've shifted into another gear - and I power through the walk, picking up speed and endorphins. I feel really good.
The next day I'm feeling stronger, fitter and much happier - it seems the mantras must be working. My skin looks smoother and I even have a glow about me. And, best of all, I'm 4lb lighter than when I arrived! I slip into my jeans on the last day and find I can tighten my belt two notches - all that and I've been eating gateau all week. Camp Biche has revealed that most prized of French secrets - you really can have your cake and eat it.
A week at Camp Biche, Lauzerte, near Toulouse, France (020 7617 7253, www.campbiche.com), costs €3,500 (about £2,865) excluding flights, which start at £44 return to Toulouse with easyJet (www.easyjet.com).
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