If you thought being a movie star was all about diamonds and pearls, champagne soirées every week, and dodging the unrelenting paparazzi, you have another think coming. Actresses work hard for their fame and fortune, and not just in front of the camera. Behind the screens, it takes hours of training at the gym and dedication to diets to fit every role—and the regimens must change to suit the role!

Here’s a round-up of what four female leads with very different requirements needed to do for that shapely figure (just don’t try this at home without supervision).

Vidya Balan’s curvy look

The brief: Vidya Balan, who had been facing criticism for her flab, wanted to tone her body while retaining her curves.

The plan: Since the motto was not to attain a size-zero figure, the exercise routine did not involve going to a gym or using equipment, says Vilayat Hussain, a personal trainer who has worked with Balan for the last six months. Instead, he recommended calisthenics, a form of exercise consisting of a variety of simple movements that are intended to increase body strength and flexibility using one’s body weight for resistance.

(left to right) Calisthenic curves: For Vidya Balan’s curvaceous but toned look, her trainer recommended exercises that use body weight for resistance. Athletics-inspired: Rani Mukherjee’s sporting role called for eating every 2 hours, plus extra cardio and weights. Confined shape-up: Floor-based exercises were prescribed to help Shamita Shetty stay fit during the Bigg Boss season. Beach body: Interval cardio training ensured Lara Dutta’s bikini-friendly belly.

Stay-fit tips: Make exercise an enjoyable part of your daily life. An average person can do 30 minutes a day. But the first step in the right direction would be to get a trainer. For those who don’t want to hire a personal trainer, at least consult one, have a programme charted out and then follow it up on a regular basis with the trainer.

Don’t confuse an instructor with a trainer. “The guy who shows you how to use a machine in a gym is not a qualified trainer," he adds. And don’t forget to ask for the trainer’s credentials.

Rani Mukherjee’s slimmer specs

The brief: Improving Rani Mukherjee’s thighs, abdomen and arms to get her in great shape for Dil Bole Hadippa!

The plan: Satyajit Chaurasia, a personal trainer who had earlier worked with Aamir Khan for Ghajini and has worked with Mukherjee for the last five years, made her follow the usual cardio and weight training (the treadmill, dumb-bells, lunges, crunches and squats), but this time for a longer period. The regime involved exercising an hour and a half to 2 hours, five days a week. The routine was divided into 15 minutes of cardio exercises, such as working out on a treadmill or cycling, and 15 minutes of weight training. The best way to deal with a flabby stomach in Mukherjee’s case, according to Chaurasia, was to alternate between crunches and leg raises (front and side), doing each 25 times.

Chaurasia laid stress on eating right, instructing Mukherjee to eat every 2 hours. “This," he says, “is better for your metabolism and keeps your energy levels constant." Mukherjee’s diet involved eating lots of fruits, salads and egg whites. She was asked to avoid red meat and deep-fried foods. “However, I allow her to indulge herself twice a week. A diet isn’t a punishment. You need to be able to eat food you like," says Chaurasia.

Stay-fit tip: Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes—whatever simple exercises one can manage at home or in a park.

Lara Dutta’s bootylicious belly

The brief: Since Lara Dutta had to flaunt a bikini in many scenes for her latest movie Blue, the goal was to get a flat abdomen.

The plan: Zarine Watson, who runs the Watson’s Fitness Centre in Khar, Mumbai, has been training Dutta for three years, but for Blue she focused on interval cardio training, which means alternating high-intensity workouts with low-intensity recovery periods. The best exercise for a well-sculpted abdomen is the core-strengthening exercise of crunches, says Watson, who has trained Hrithik Roshan, John Abraham and Bipasha Basu. Squats (to train the muscles of the thighs, hips and butt), lunges (for leg muscles) and adductions (moving your outstretched limbs back to your body, close to the midline) helped in forming a compound workout regimen.

Stay-fit tip: Simple dietary changes should be incorporated. No simple starches such as rice and potatoes, aerated drinks, deep-fried foods and fatty foods (butter, cream and the like) while you are trying to get into shape. A strict rule: Do not starve yourself.

Shamita Shetty’s maintenance mantra

The brief: Since Shamita Shetty was going to spend time in the Bigg Boss house (she has just exited the reality show), she needed a maintenance plan that would help her stay fit .

The plan: Floor exercises such as crunches, lunges and reverse lunges formed part of the routine. “When you are in a situation where you can’t access a gym or for some reason can’t follow your normal exercise routine, it helps to do some basic floor exercises, like a few sets of crunches and lunges. This can hold you good for about 25 days," says her personal trainer Sherin Poojari, who also trains sister Shilpa, industrialist Raj Kundra and actor Celina Jaitley. “But after that if you are serious about your body you need to get back to your routine."

According to Poojari, Shetty is genetically blessed and has a good metabolism rate that prevents her from accumulating fat. Yet he admits that like most women her problem areas are her waistline, biceps and thighs. Though Poojari follows the usual routine of crunches, bicep curls and leg curls to tackle these areas, he says that one key factor plays an important role for women’s fitness—antioxidants. Antioxidants are nutrients that clean up the harmful byproducts oxidation creates in the body. When you exercise, oxidation levels increase, requiring you to increase your capability to clean up its byproducts as well. Carrots, tomatoes, oranges, nuts, etc., are good sources of antioxidants.

Stay-fit tip:“Most trainers," says Poojari, “pay attention to their clients’ protein and carb intakes, but these are macronutrients. With women it’s important to pay attention to the micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre first. Only after this can you move to cutting down on carbs."



Dietary guidelines

The last time Indians got government-backed dietary guidelines was in 1998, when they were drawn up by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. However, new guidelines, drafted this April at a summit on nutrition organized by the department of science and technology, were announced on 13 November. Key changes include a way to calculate calorific needs, sample healthy regional diets, recommendations on lower carbohydrate and salt intake (more water, different kinds of fat and sweeteners), guidelines on eating out, portion sizes and meal times, and one that does not “discourage" small quantities of alcohol. The full document will be published early next year. Staff writer

Pain and health policies

In October, independent rights organization Human Rights Watch published ‘Unbearable Pain: India’s Obligation to Ensure Palliative Care’. In it, senior researcher Diederik Lohman reports on the pain of millions of Indians suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic renal problems and other life-threatening disorders. The World Health Organisation regards palliative care as vital in such cases, but the report finds there is hardly any government-aided palliative care in most states, nor is pain treatment medication readily available (only 13 states follow the model rule on use of morphine by recognized medical institutions). The report advises the government to focus more on palliative care, training health workers for it and incorporating it into health policies. Permitting citizens to suffer this pain, it points out, violates the right to health. Benita Sen

Run in the sun

A run in the sun may support your diet better than a workout in a climate-controlled gym, according to an Australian study published in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’. Researchers found that participants ate less immediately after working out in hot conditions—about 36 degrees Celsius—than in a more moderate (25 degrees Celsius) environment. On average, men ate around 300 calories more when they worked out in moderate temperatures. Researcher Kym Guelfi of the University of Western Australia’s School of Sports Science adds that future studies should look at whether warm-weather exercisers just make up for the smaller meals with larger ones later in the day. Reuters

Food-borne diseases

Some food-borne illnesses can leave you with more than just stomach flu. They can have long-term consequences, especially for young people, says a report released on Thursday. Researchers at the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention in Pennsylvania studied the five most common food-borne diseases in the US and the health consequences of pathogens such as campylobacter infection, E. coli O157:H7, ‘Listeria monocytogenes’, salmonella and ‘toxoplasma gondii’. They found these can cause life-long complications, including kidney failure, paralysis, seizures, hearing or visual impairment and mental retardation. Diarrhoea and vomiting are the most common symptoms of food-borne illness, but they can cause serious health problems in 2-3% of cases, says the US Food and Drug Administration. For example, salmonella can cause reactive arthritis. Reuters