I’m saddened by the media’s absurd obsession with weight. I know there’s a growing problem of obesity in the 'developed' world, but there also seem to be a lot more people with eating disorders, or just plain unhappy with their size and shape. Having been through the whole dieting thing - transforming myself, within the space of a few years, from a painfully plump teenager to a bag of bones, I can confirm that being unnaturally thin didn’t make me any happier... In fact, controlling my eating habits made for an anti-social, miserable way of life.
I subsequently discovered a much more enjoyable way of maintaining a realistic and healthy weight: exercise. Always one to try something new, I’ve experimented with all manner of work-out classes – from Jane Fonda style high impact aerobics, to gymnastique aquatique, Bikram yoga and pole dancing (after which my legs were black and blue with bruises).
In the course of my love affair with energetic pursuits, I’ve shadow-boxed with WBA World Heavyweight Champion, David Haye, and qualified as a Body Attack aerobics instructor. A few years ago, I even joined The London School of Samba, dancing maniacally for seven hours non-stop at the Notting Hill Carnival, dressed as a giant butterfly.
The best thing about dancing is that it’s a really fun way to burn calories. The other day, my curiosity aroused by some of the strangest promotional material I’ve ever seen, (see left and below), I simply had to try out the latest craze at my local gym. The new Zumba class is a mixture of various types of dance - including salsa, samba, meringue, calypso and jive.
I’m used to jumping around, but this proved to be a much hotter form of exercise than I’d anticipated, though a lot more entertaining too – in fact, most participants found themselves grinning from ear to ear throughout the class. It’s great exercise for the waist (a tricky area to shapen up, that often gets overlooked in the gym), and is totally exhausting. I can guarantee you’ll ache all over the following day.
By the way, if your partner loves to dance, how about these curiously kitsch retro pictures of exotic dancers in harem pants from ShopCurious, as an unusual gift for Valentine’s Day? They remind me a little of the Ballets Russes costumes – like the ones designed by Leon Bakst for Michel Fokine's Schéhérazade.
This illustration, by Georges Barbier in1913 (from the V&A London), shows a member of a harem being caressed by a black slave. In the early 19th century, fashion was still heavily influenced by lavish theatrical productions, often based on Russian folklore/Oriental themes. These occasions were an opportunity to see scantily dressed women on stage, at a time when the difference between chorus girls and ballet dancers wasn’t very well defined.
Which reminds me of another enjoyably heated activity I’ve tactfully avoided mentioning …