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Balancing act: How can we portray the right message to our kids about health and fitness?

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Being fit and fabulous is one thing but, in pursuing health and happiness, we need to be sure we are sending the right messages to our kids. Trisha Hughes reports.

Exercise is that one singular word that fills me with a kind of dread. It means potentially putting on Lycra and exposing my body to the world, which is something I have no wish to do, especially so soon after my Christmas binge. But if you look around DB Plaza, the fit women of DB have no qualms about doing exactly that. I watch them in a kind of awe as they get off the buses, water bottles in one hand and phones in the other with not the least bit of trepidation. As they walk confidently through the plaza on their way to the gym, their other half is strapping on his helmet and heading off to the bike trails.

As I watch, I often wonder what it is that makes the gym (or yoga studio) so enticing to these fit and fabulous DBers. Is it the thought of a quarter-pounder combo without the consequences at the end of the session that makes it so appealing? Or is it the alluring promise of those endorphins ready to rage mysteriously through their bodies at the end of a punishing one-hour workout?

Celebrity diets and the gym 

I was raised in a country where women are obsessed with their bodies. Australia is one of those countries where nearly everyone knows how to swim and they spend every available weekend soaking up the sun on a beach in their skimpy bikinis. And of course, women watch other women and they make judgments, and for a while people’s opinions were a vital part of my life. But oh boy, was I wrong. I’ve come to realise that generally speaking, people’s thoughts don’t matter after all. It’s freed me up for a ‘who cares!’ adventurous approach to life.

Inspired as I am by the DB ladies around me, for whom fitness and well being seem to go hand in hand, you will know by now that I am no exercise bunny. And although we are roughly the same age, I am  certainly no Madonna. She’s been working out for 40 years, she’s been married twice, and has four children and a gruelling career. Goodness, the woman should be exhausted! She should be lying on the couch at night watching movies and eating ice cream with her fingers. Instead, she’s off to the gym and out there night after night, tour after tour, singing and dancing with the unbridled enthusiasm of an 18-year-old schoolgirl. I can only admire her stamina and energy.

By contrast, I picture myself slumped over a treadmill, sweaty and dispirited after only a few minutes in the gym. A fretful voice in my head whispers: ‘There has to be some other way!’

So if I was deleting exercise from my 2017 agenda what I needed was a diet. The thought made me stop and open up my new calorie-counting phone App and ask it how many calories there are in one glass of red wine. I knew I’d get a quick and simple answer like I did with the boiled egg question. The App then asked me was it red wine or red wine jus? Regular? Cooking? Sparkling? Or just red wine? After a lengthy think I pressed regular. It then asked Sip? Large glass? Extra large glass? Or Other? Playing it safe, I opted for other.

By then, I thought I’d just tweet Madonna because she would  certainly know what course of action to take when it came to calorie counting and exercise. Or even Joanna Lumley, actress, champagne swiller, owner of the world’s most seductive voice and newcomer to the world of diet crazy celebrities.

And then, even while my fingers hovered over the keyboard to access my Twitter page, I stopped to think… do we place too much emphasis on the current celebrity preoccupation with telling us what to eat? The thought made me pause and wonder if we put too much faith in celebrity diets and, by extension, in the all-pervasive ‘name and shame’ culture popularised by shows like The Biggest Loser. I’m no doctor or psychologist but finger-wagging rarely works.

Everything in moderation 

Are these messages perhaps the wrong ones for our children? When 12-year-old kids are undergoing gastric banding surgery, as revealed in the UK last month, and their obesity rate is still climbing, surely we should be thinking whether these anorexic looking people are the ones who should be influencing us. Our obesity crisis will not be solved by a clutch of privileged people who eat small amounts of food and crave nothing, because for most of us food is perennially fascinating, not least delicious.

If in doubt, you only have to watch a Jamie Oliver show to know that extensive dieting is bad for you, not to mention the long-term damage it does to your skin. It’s nutrition that is the solution to the problem.

But with so many people offering different ideas on nutrition, who is right and who is wrong? There’s no doubt about it, diets are confusing. We have low-fat, low-carb, low- calorie, detox, low glycemic and high-glycemic. Some people insist on the low-calorie option, while others insist that eating less more often will build up metabolism and is the way to go.

Again, the way DB mums take all this in their stride simply takes my breath away. These women, many of whom are half my age, seem to instinctively know what to feed their kids and how to inspire them into an active lifestyle.

Those magic words ‘everything in moderation’ are clearly a touchstone too. It warms my heart to see the same kids I see snacking on pre-cut crudities in the plaza, being treated to a Happy Meal at MacDonalds every once in a while.

So here is what I’ve figured out. Life can be tragically short and yet, it’s in our hands to fill it with heaps of happiness. I know that to be miserable about self-image is easy and that self-absorption is an utter waste of time. I’ve learnt that no matter how rich or poor you are, how many shoes you have (that number is called ‘never enough’), and how much exercise you do in the messy business of life, the greatest possessions and achievements a person can ever have, are friends and family – people who love us just as we are, with or without the donut at the top of our jeans.

With all this in mind, I am lacing my feet into trainers ready to hike over to the Trappist Monastery with some gorgeous DB mums of my acquaintance. Should I collapse in a bush, I know they will be kind enough to haul me out and revive me. Low-cal red is fine.


  • “Be active every day, keep moving and think about your diet! Eat a healthy breakfast, focus on fruits and vegetables, protein and heart-healthy fats. Try to avoid processed sugar.” – Katia Kucher, d.BeFit, www.dbefit.com
  • “Being active does not have to be hard work. Find a class, studio, trainer or group that you like and enjoy, then sticking with it will be that much easier.” – Claire Dickson, Movement Improvement, www.thebeat.com.hk
  • “Why not dance your way to fitness? Alternating your favourite dance moves with yoga and cardio exercises provides a fun, high- intensity training workout.” – Ivailo Tonchev, The Beat Dance and Fitness Studio, www.thebeat.com.hk
  • “Try High Intensity Interval Training! It’s more effective than traditional cardio as it increases both your aerobic and anaerobic capacities – truly challenging all the body’s energy systems.” Cindy Reid, The HIT Room, www.thehitroom.com.hk


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