ETCETERA / Home Thoughts

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MAYBE it's the onset of summer, or maybe it's the realisation that very few of my clothes fit me, or maybe it's because Vogue is full of skinny models wearing desirable little skirts . . . but suddenly I feel that something drastic has got to be done about my waist.

I've spent the last few months hoping that breastfeeding would get rid of the extra fat I accumulated during pregnancy, but the trouble with this theory is that the minute the baby starts feeding, I start eating. It's an almost Pavlovian reaction. I feel particularly anxious unless there's a regular supply of jam doughnuts, Danish pastries and Maltesers in the house to keep me going through the day. (In fact I've just been shovelling down a large plate - saucepan, actually - of spaghetti while writing this, but I can't find anything for pudding except cornflakes, which is a disappointing prospect.)

Exercise, therefore, is the only answer. I had a punishing regime of physical exertion imposed on me by my first son, who used to cry piteously unless I wheeled him for miles in his pushchair. But this baby, so far, seems to go to sleep without all that vigorous motion - which means I've been walking no further than the sweet shop around the corner.

So when my friend Elaine suggested that we go together to an exercise class at the local YMCA, it seemed like a jolly good idea. 'Bums and Tums for Mums' sounded just the thing - not too strenuous, not too scary. This, however, was not the case. The class was taught by Maria, a glamorous Latin with a body to die for. She stood in front of us - 30 mums with sagging bums and tums - her taut muscles quivering with energy, her upper lip curled in distaste. Then the music started - thumping salsa - and Maria bellowed out instructions: 'Squeeze those buttocks, swing those heeps, lift your legs . . . higher, higher, higher.'

At first I wanted to giggle, but Maria looked far too stern for that, and after five minutes of trying to squeeze and flex and so on, I was dripping with sweat. After an hour-and-a-half I was exhausted, but also curiously elated. Demi Moore may have employed a personal trainer to get her back into shape - but I had Maria, and I'd probably lost a stone after all that exercise.

But the elation, sadly, has now worn off. My jeans still don't fit, and my knee hurts, and I don't look like Demi Moore, not even a little bit. (I bet she'll be in Vanity Fair next month wearing her jeans and saying: 'Sure, I've had four children, but I'm in better shape now than I ever was.' She never eats anything except broccoli. Cow.)

Still, I'll be back at the YMCA next week, wobbling my bum and my tum about. It's either that or no chocolate, and I know which is worse.