What do Kirsty Gallacher, Naomi Campbell, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden, Claudia Schiffer, Jennifer Connelly, Kate Beckinsale and J-Lo have in common?
The answer is that they are all in their 40s and yet they all have the bodies of a slender teenager.
They’ve created a club known as the 18 to 40 — 40 from the neck up, and a coltish teenager everywhere else.
Admittedly, they all had a head start. The likes of Campbell and Schiffer are just cut from different cloth to the rest of us. They’ve got the eyes, hair, cheekbones, proportions — aka your basic nightmare, as a very funny woman once said.
But looking at these lithe bodies, pinched-in waists, toned thighs and tight behinds it’s clear there is something more than good genetics at play here.
Myleene Klass, 40: The former Hear’say singer, pianist and model hasn’t always been a size 8. She was once a size 16, weighing 11-and-a-half stone, and confessed she had to undo her jeans when she performed at the Brit awards. She does not recognise the word diet, though: ‘I won’t use that word. I won’t even call a Diet Coke by its name — in my house it’s known as a DC,’ she said. Last year, Myleene launched her own 12-Week Home Workout Plan, which includes boxing and cardio work
Queen of press-ups – Kirsty Gallacher, 43: Sky Sports presenter Kirsty can bang out 50 press-ups on demand, so it’s no surprise she’s enviably toned. She claims exercise is her therapy, and credits hitting the gym with helping her through her divorce in 2015. ‘The exercise wasn’t to do with what I looked like, it was to do with how I felt,’ she said. The mother-of-two focuses on resistance training, she rarely eats any bread or dairy, and favours a diet that is high in protein
First lady of fads – Gwyneth Paltrow, 46: Gwynnie’s name and body have been associated with just about every diet and fitness plan ever invented. She’s said she’ll try anything, from ‘juice cleanses which left her hallucinating after ten days’ to mixing a bizarre concoction known as Moon Dust into her morning smoothie. Gwyneth does 45 minutes of cardio five days a week with celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson. She also does 45 minutes of toning work. If she has a premiere or big event coming up, she ups her workouts to two hours a day, six days a week
Amanda Holden, 47: Pictured on the beach during a recent post-Christmas holiday to Bahrain, Amanda Holden could easily have passed for an 18-year-old — from the neck down. While her dogged pursuit of eternal youth has taken her down some extreme routes with her face — she has admitted to having Botox in the past — her body would have anyone fooled. Again, this is no accident, Amanda runs daily, has employed some of the best A-list personal trainers and is a devoted gym bunny and vegetarian
Once upon a time, women aspired to be a pretty good example of women their age: to look 40 but a terrific 40. No one would set their bar so high that the tautness of flesh, buoyancy of buttocks and athletic thighs of their youth would still be present as they headed for the menopause.
After all, that would involve fighting nature — an unstoppable force. The physical assets of a teenager are all designed to scream ‘fecundity’ to attract a mate and keep the human race going.
Nature doesn’t like to be fooled, and plays safe by giving women middle-aged spread to mark them as past their sell-by date, reproductively speaking.
It certainly isn’t fooled by plastic surgery. On the beach, a 40-year-old woman with breast implants, a tummy tuck and bottom lift will always manage to look like . . . well . . . a 40-year-old woman with breast implants, a tummy tuck and a bottom lift.
Boxing clever – Naomi Campbell, 48: The original supermodel has stayed super slim for more than 20 years with a vegetarian diet and is a big fan of ‘juice cleanses’ where she’ll drink nothing but fruit and vegetable juices throughout the day. Three times a year she likes to do a detox, comprising drinking a cocktail of maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and water. She works out daily, doing boxing and Pilates, and has run the Moscow Marathon
Blame it on the boogie – Alesha Dixon, 40: It’s hard to believe singer Alesha turned 40 last year. She swears her youthful face is down to great genes rather than cosmetic trickery. A pescatarian since 2013, she’s recently become more or less vegan. ‘Now we know that fish can contain plastics and microbeads, it’s no longer necessarily the healthier choice,’ she has said. She works out three times a week with a personal trainer, including doing body conditioning, yoga and cardio. But she says that what really keeps her so trim is boogying around the kitchen with her professional dancer husband, Azuka Ononye, and daughter Azura, five
Going the extra mile – Jennifer Connelly, 48: The Beautiful Mind actress, who has three children, puts her slim, toned legs down to having been a runner since her teens. She runs up to ten miles, four days a week, and says: ‘All I need is a pair of sneakers, and I can go. It’s very meditative for me and it gets my blood flowing.’ She also practises yoga. As for diet, she says it’s ‘mostly whole foods — vegetables, beans, grains, fish, nuts and fruit’
So this look comes as a result of serious hard work and dedication.
No woman, however blessed, gets a stomach like Gallacher’s in her 40s unless she is prepared to make it her day job. Myleene Klass’s hip-to-waist ratio actually beggars belief. And Geri Halliwell looks about 12.
There is not an ounce of back-fat, not a hint of a mum-tum, not a shadow of orange peel between them.
Any woman will tell you that getting rid of subcutaneous fat in your 40s is almost impossible. If you are going into the menopause, your body will be reluctant to let go of the fat around your middle.
This is because fat is a manufacturing plant for oestrogen which will help protect your bones from osteoporosis. It’s a very clever system, designed to protect you, but, combined with see-sawing hormones, slower metabolism and stress with high cortisol levels, it means that fat sits like an aggressive squatter around your belly, thighs and upper arms.
A ban on booze and sugar – Naomie Harris, 42: The former Bond girl works hard to ward off the ravages of time. A lot of effort goes into her body: alcohol, caffeine and sugar do not pass her lips, and she practises ‘gyrotonic’ — a mix of yoga, Pilates and tai chi, plus a lot of swimming. Her biggest indulgence is breakfast, though: ‘I don’t see any difference between breakfast and lunch. I’ve had shepherd’s pie in the morning. Or sometimes fried fish and vegetables’
Fitness fanatic Mel muscles in on the gym – Melanie Sykes, 48: The mother of two works out four times a week — a mixture of weight training, barre classes, spinning, boxing and Pilates, which has left her seriously muscly. She practises reformer Pilates — a more gruelling variety using a resistance machine. She also follows a strict diet, eschewing sugar, dairy, gluten, alcohol and caffeine. She does allow herself ‘off days’ for birthdays
Torture on the treadmill – Kate Beckinsale, 45: A big fan of a selfie — preferably in her underwear — the actress and mother of one is always keen to show the world the results of the hard work she puts in maintaining her body. A life-long vegetarian, she claims never to have drunk an entire glass of wine in her life: ‘I feel its effects very quickly, so I’ve never actually had an entire glass of anything alcoholic,’ she said. Daily gym sessions are also required, which Kate does every morning. And the more brutal the better: ‘I do circuit training interspersed with crazy things on a non-motorised treadmill it is powered by the user’s motion]. That part is torture. But the thing I like about circuit training is that you’re never doing one thing for very long. You get to the point where you almost can’t bear it, then it changes to something else’
The only way to get rid of it is to whittle your fat ratio levels down to those of a professional athlete — that’s between 14 and 20 per cent. The healthy level for a woman in her 40s, not hoping for an Olympic gold any time soon, is around 26 to 31 per cent. So you get a picture of how hard these women are working to get these bodies.
Where you or I might come home at the end of a long day’s work to a nice glass of wine and a chicken Kiev, they are most likely on their second session at the gym. Where we might perk up our afternoon cuppa with a bourbon biscuit, they’ll be lucky to have a mug of matcha and a protein ball.
It requires a single-minded dedication to defy nature with such an iron fist. It certainly can’t be done without armies of help, from personal trainers and nutritionists to beauty therapists and surgeons.
But in truth, it can’t be much fun spending so much time obsessing about your upper arms — and feeling so hungry. So should we mind when we look in our mirrors and compare our very ordinary, saggy bodies with such perfection?
Of course not. For most women, their jobs do not depend on looking Instagram perfect. This lot, by contrast, make their livings from it.
But still, I’d rather have a flat white than a flat tummy any day of the week.