There's one exercise that requires such proximity to my personal trainer's chest that it should give my mother cause for concern ...
I had always liked my neighbour Brian. Good-looking, tanned, muscular - just a glimpse of him in his swimming trunks around the pool is enough to make me melt like an ice-cream on a hot day.

But more than just having a fabulous physique, he also possesses qualities not often found around here: charm and intelligence.

Of course, that's not the reason I go to see him each week. Honest!

Admitting to having a personal trainer (for that is what he is) to those back home is rather like confessing to buying an expensive designer dress. It requires justification. I find myself telling my mother that he's not that expensive, really, and it's not indulgent because everyone around here has one. "When in Rome ..." I tell her.

But in truth, fighting the flab has never been so much fun. Not only do I get to marvel at Brian's pecs close to - there's even one exercise that requires such proximity to his chest that it really should give my mother cause for concern - but I also enjoy our conversations together. Sometimes we chat so much that it's possible to forget the torture of the treadmill altogether.

We talk about everything, about the absurdities of Hollywood, the ridiculous nature of celebrity worship. I really liked Brian because he was so down to earth.

But then he was on TV.

He was in a show about celebrity personal trainers, with him training a so-called star who used to be on The Brady Bunch.

He was thrilled to be invited on the show. The publicity meant that hundreds of other flab-fighters phone to book into his small gym, including several celebrities, and he is now talking about expanding.

He wouldn't say who the celebrities were, but on my last visit he was keen to impart his philosophy on the subject: "Of course it's great we get the `big' people, but we need to make sure we don't forget the `little' people too," he said, looking straight at me.

I'm always hoping to lose weight, of course. But I don't think that was what he meant.

They say that America has no class system. Not true. It has its `big' people and its `little' people. And no matter how liberal-minded people appear to be, you've got to have money and celebrity status to be the former.