As I’ve tweeted before, my ultimate body icon is Gwen Stefani. What I admire about her is that she’s honest about the fact that her incredible physique is down to hard work.

A real inspiration, especially for women who’ve had children – Stefani is a mother of two AND has those abs – WOW! I was lucky enough to steal 10 minutes with her trainer, Mike Heatlie who besides being a world leading personal trainer holds three degrees, including two Masters degrees in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise and Strength and Conditioning. He owns a private Personal Training Studio in Edinburgh.

Are there any real secrets to celebrity bodies such as Gwen’s or is it just down to hard work?

Everyone always seeks the magic pill, that special something that maybe one person or “celebrities” may be doing to lose weight/fat and get into great shape that everyone else isn’t doing. This is why people buy billions of dollars of weight-loss supplements and go on crazy unsustainable diets for a few days/weeks.

The bottom line is that to lose body fat and develop lean muscle tissue to the extent that you look fit and lean takes a lot of hard work, which is why very few of the population look this way, most people are overweight or obese. Does that mean we’re screwed? No it doesn’t. There are plenty of things we can do in terms of dieting and exercise to create a lean figure and feel wonderful about ourselves provided we’re willing to demonstrate a degree of discipline and dedication.

To answer your question directly, the vast majority of celebrities such as Gwen Stefani work their ass off to get in that type of condition. Gwen is the most hard-working client I’ve ever trained, and the results show it. If people saw the work she puts in to look as good as she does then people may say, “well that’s not for me, that’s too much hard work”. Other celebrities such as Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman, Hilary Swank, Lady Gaga etc. all developed their physiques through sheer hard work. Of course they have Personal Trainers to help them but they have to put the work in themselves and diet properly.

How much change in shape can be seen with a focused training regime. Once a pear always a pear?

Dramatic changes can be seen in the vast majority of people who can dedicate themselves to training and dieting but if you have a certain distribution of fat storage in your lower body, or you have a genetic predisposition whereby you do not burn off fat as effectively as another, or you are born with just more fat cells, then this can be problematic. Lower body fat is sometimes referred to as stubborn fat and is a source of real frustration for people, especially women, who diet and train hard but just can’t seem to make too many dents in the fat stored in their hips and legs.

There are more fat cells in the lower body and they seem to react differently to certain hormones than fat cells in other parts of the body. Fat cells, like muscle cells, have receptors known as adrenoreceptors that allow access to adrenaline and noradrenaline.

How many hours do you recommend people train for each week for a. fitness and b. form?

Well the issue is not necessarily time, it’s quality, or intensity. One could train 10 hours per week through low-intensity cycling or three hours per week in a Personal Training session at a much higher intensity and they would do better with the latter.

As an average guide 3-6 hours per week is good enough for both.

I’ve been looking into Intermittent fasting. Is it something you recommend?

Yes I’ve used Intermittent fasting (IF) on many occasions, notably when people need to lose those last 5-10 lbs or to try and stimulate stubborn fat loss. I find that carb/calorie cycling works just as well.

People tend to want black or white, is this good or bad for me? IF works extremely well for some, not so for others, the same with any dieting protocol, you have to do what works best for you. I have one client who fasts every Wednesday, just drinks water, green tea, some amino acids, and that’s it, and that works very well for her. There are many protocols for IF and each individual can use the one that works best for them.

One of the problems I see, or challenges let’s say, is people dealing with low blood sugar levels whilst fasting. We crave carbohydrates more than any other nutrient and when fasting people can crash and make matters worse through splurging on too many carbs, fats and sugars when they feel blood sugar levels dropping too low. I’ve experienced this myself. Two days before a photoshoot I ate two pizzas and a chocolate milkshake! It didn’t affect me as my body was crying out for carbs, but this can make dieting a miserable business hence the yo-yo effect with most dieters.

One of the problems for IF is that the research on it, that is very positive, comes mostly from animal studies, after all who on earth wants to sign up for a study where you don’t eat any food!

I would say that people have to find what works best for them. Grazing or IF both work extremely well as they share, like most diets, a common variable: calorie restriction leading to a negative energy balance especially if exercise is frequent. As with all diets though, the protocol needs to be sustainable so it can be implemented into a lifestyle. Many studies may show a greater weight loss from one diet over another after say 6 or 8 weeks, but what are the results 12-24 months down the road? Many studies don’t follow-up in that manner.

Amanda Hamilton

North Berwick’s Amanda Hamilton is one of the UK’s most popular nutritionists and health gurus, contributing regularly to TV, press, online and public sector. She also runs her own online healthy diet system and healthy holiday company. She’s a member of Whitekirk Leisure Club and will be contributing a weekly post with tips on health and nutrition.