CORSICAN diet diva Valérie Orsoni offers Gallic charm and practical advice both in person and in her latest book, writes Gaby Soutar
I’m slightly worried about diet coach Valérie Orsoni, author of Le Boot Camp Diet. She’s postponed our lunchtime interview, which is due to take place at a city centre tapas bar, three times.
To be fair, she’s got a pretty decent excuse. Orsoni, 44, has had to visit the Royal Infirmary’s Accident and Emergency department, as she’s suffering from chikungunya, which she recently contracted on holiday in Tahiti. This non-infectious disease is spread by mosquito bites and leaves victims with painful joints and other flu-like symptoms. I almost insist that she cancels the interview.
But, no, this Corsican diet diva, who also recovered from a brain tumour back in 2002, is as determined as they come. I expect her to be a wreck – limping and pale, maybe even in a wheelchair. Au contraire.
She rocks up, slightly croaky-voiced, but swathed in cobalt blue cashmere, with skin the colour of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, hair as shiny as a Barbie’s, and pale green eyes sparkling like freshly buffed marbles.
In fluent Spanish, she orders boquerones, green tea and red mullet.
I wish I’d gone for the same (though, sadly, I got to the restaurant first and have already ordered hot chocolate, which comes with a slab of tablet, oops, I hide it under a napkin).
She’s certainly the ideal poster girl for her 16th book, which has been launched on the back of her other tomes, including the bestselling Le Method Orsoni, Le Personal Coach and the original Le Boot Camp, as well as an online diet and lifestyle resource (www.lebootcamp.com) which has over 1.2 million subscribers worldwide.
According to the internet, she even has celebrity clients including Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Aniston, although, she’s very discreet and won’t confirm anything.
“I’m not allowed to say names, I respect their lives, mainly because I don’t just do fitness and nutrition, I also do a lot of mental motivation and stress management,” she explains. “As much as they like saying who their trainers are, they’re not so keen on me naming them when it comes to more personal things.”
I’ll take that as a yes.
So what is the secret to her success? As far as I can tell, it’s the book’s big sisterly writing style, which is blended with a genuine scientific edge, thanks to Le Board of Boffins.
“I use nice fun words but it’s very serious and sound,” San Francisco-based Orsoni says. “I have a scientific board with prominent professors, so every time I see something that’s of interest I share it with them and we confirm that it’s not just some crazy thing.”
Indeed, unlike many diet books, it doesn’t all seem to be puff. It’s densely informative and covers why you should exercise on an empty stomach, how to maintain the correct body PH, and how to slot fitness into your busy day (see 25th hour exercises, which include the unladylike sounding Bathroom Squats and Iron Butt).
In brief, the diet itself is split into four phases: Detox (to cleanse your body), Attack (to lose weight), Booster (to speed up the process) and Maintenance (to ensure you never regain lost weight).
According to Orsoni, nothing in the plan is that restrictive or difficult.
“It’s not hard, you can have chocolate almost every day,” she says. “The Booster phase is more strict, but it’s not crazily depriving.”
Although there is a bit of a backlash against the idea of detox, Orsoni is a firm advocate of the idea of purging the body of “poisons”.
“With the food we eat and all the pollutants in the world, our bodies aren’t equipped to deal with that amount of toxins,” she says. “ I don’t agree with doctors who say it’s not necessary, it’s usually old doctors who say that, ones who haven’t kept in touch with new discoveries, though I don’t condone crazy detox cures when it’s very expensive and you have to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
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Thankfully, Le Boot Camp Diet’s detox regime seems reasonable, easy and sensible. It’s just a case of cutting potentially less healthy things out of your life for 14 days, rather than solely drinking kale juice and doing coffee enemas until you keel over.
One avoids red meat, cow dairy, eggs, rich sauces, sugar, heavy foods, yeast and alcohol, drinks lots of lemon juice in water, follows a series of set exercises, minimises stress and cooks recipes including rocket and broccoli soup or avocado and salmon tortilla.
I am guessing that Orsoni is way beyond the Detox and well into the Maintenance phase. In her late teens, she was 70 pounds heavier than she is today (I’d guess she’s now about eight stone, at just over five foot tall).
“When I was 18 or 19 years old I started piling on the pounds,” says Orsoni. “My parents divorced when I was 14, so I was compensating by eating cakes and very rich food. I was a teenage girl, but guys didn’t look at me because I was fat. My dad was overweight too, so at one point we talked, went to the library, started studying and saw what was happening in the nutrition market. At the time, it was the beginning of studies at Harvard and Sydney University, covering things like the glycaemic index. It was a revolution, so we started educating ourselves.”
The author’s dad, Edmond, is a chef, hence the book’s imaginative focus on food. “I dream about recipes, then I try to make them,” Orsoni Jr says.
Probably the most significant one in the book, as far as she is concerned, is for sobacha, which appears to be a bit of a miracle drink, from Japan. It’s made from an infusion of magnesium and amino acid-rich buckwheat. Orsoni drinks this every day, as you should too if you’re following her diet.
So what does this author – who, when she was overweight, tried more than 40 diets, including the infamous cabbage soup regimen – think of other contemporary weight loss plans?
For example, the 5:2, which has a rather broad demographic of celebrity fans including Gwyneth Paltrow, Alex Salmond and Philip Schofield.
“Not good, anything where you have a period of time when you eat OK and another period when you binge, it’s not very healthy. It’s actually very toxic, but people like it because it’s easy. My book takes for granted that we’re smart women and need to be empowered with knowledge.”
French Women Don’t Get Fat? “That’s not a diet, that’s more of a lifestyle plan.”
Atkins and Dukan? “Restrictive, not good for you.”
Weight Watchers? “I don’t like it because you have to count points but it’s not dangerous.”
The Scottish diet in general? “From what I have seen, it’s pretty rich, but if you’re active, there’s nothing wrong with fish and chips once in a while. I’m going to try haggis tonight.” Very diplomatic.
As far as Le Boot Camp Diet goes, I wonder if there’s anyone who can’t be reached.
“Let me tell you something, the only people for whom it won’t work are the eight per cent who’ve done 25 diets before and are in a state of mind that it has to happen overnight,” she says. “I have tons of techniques to help, but sometimes there are un-coachable people. My 92 per cent success rate is high.”
I wonder if it’s possible for people to maintain their momentum after the early 2015 dieting enthusiasm wears off. After all, it’s usually around this time that New Year gym subscribers start to thin out.
“My hope is that when they join they’ll be in a honeymoon state of mind but after two weeks they’ll still be in love,” she says.
Ah, the French – so romantic.
• Le Boot Camp Diet: Eat Well, Lose Weight Now, Keep it Off Forever by Valérie Orsoni is out now, £9.99, Quadrille.