The goal: Shedding a stone. I’m not obese, but I have that tendency, common in men my age, of looking like a python that has swallowed a goat – more Bulge-ari than Bulgari. Could I shed that middle-aged middle and tone up?
The treatment: Bodyism is the brainchild of James Duigan, who helps clients achieve “a long, lean athletic body” using exercise, diet and nutritional supplements. The first step is the Body Oracle, an assessment of why the body is hanging on to unwanted fat. Clients attend a gym session to learn their exercises, described in Duigan’s Clean & Lean Diet book, and are given a bespoke daily diet and fitness regime. Elle Macpherson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Hugh Grant are among Duigan’s admirers.
The place: The Bulgari is one of London’s most lavish hotels, within strolling distance of Harrods and Hyde Park. Its underground spa, an Italianate mix of green onyx, oak, Vicenza stone and mosaics, has 11 treatment rooms, a relaxation room, a private spa suite for two, a pool and a fitness centre equipped with Technogym apparatus.
The therapists: Michael Tanner, a New Zealander, will be my Body Oracle analyst. A keen runner, he has helped clients prepare for marathons and triathlons. Dimitri “The Assassin” Tkatchev, a dynamic Pilates specialist, will be my trainer. He previously worked as a consultant at Models 1, conditioning fashion models for the catwalk.
How it went: Dimitri took me through my 20-minute warm-up, teaching me exercises to do at home, including “the bridge” (shoulders on the ground, hips in the air) and “the plank” (rigid in a press-up position, pulling the stomach in) but also routines using the “mini band” – a rubber strap worn round the knees or ankles while in a squat position and doing stepping exercises. The gym is equipped with larger bands, anchored to the apparatus. The idea is to use your own body weight as resistance, causing lengthening of the muscle fibres rather than bunching. Dimitri proposed an eight-minute sequence of five exercises each morning, followed by a 20-minute walk. This was to be combined with three gym sessions a week lasting 20 to 40 minutes.
I went to see Michael, who used calipers to measure the fat on my cheek, navel area, ankle and even man-boob, sites that reveal lots about hormones, stre
ss and sleep patterns, apparently. The bad news: I weighed 13st 12lb. Then came the dietary advice: a 15-day detox with no alcohol, coffee or carbs, then a less extreme version thereafter. My plan proposed smoked haddock and watercress omelette for breakfast one day, wild salmon, spinach and mixed nuts the next – fine if you have a personal shopper and chef (and most Bulgari Bodyists probably do). In practice, I stuck to the principles but not the detail, eating fish for breakfast and salad for lunch.
At first, the paunch stubbornly remained. After three weeks, I still weighed 13st 3lb but when I stepped on the scales four weeks later, I was shocked: 12st 7lb, a weight loss of one-and-a-half stone in seven weeks. Easy.
The details: The Body Oracle costs £300. Sessions with a trainer are available only to Bulgari Spa members (£5,000 a year plus £2,000 joining fee) and cost from £100 an hour to £250 an hour for James Duigan himself.