- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

ON THE EDGE column for Nov. 14, 2008:

Do you want a body like Gwyneth Paltrow‘s? How about Jennifer Aniston’s? Or Kelly Ripa‘s?

Magazines offer plenty of advice for women who want to look like their favorite toned and taut celebrities. Tips straight from the stars are available for less than the cost of that mocha latte you shouldn’t be drinking. How to work out, when to work out, what to eat, when to eat - women’s magazines will tell you everything you need to know.

Except how those celebrities really do it.

We all know it’s not easy to look like an A-list actress. What many people don’t know - and magazines don’t tell you - is that it’s actually a full-time job.

Magazines sell millions of copies a month by making it look as if the average woman, with a little work, can at least approach that ideal.

They’re selling an impossible-to-achieve fantasy.

In the past few months, details of stars’ real regimes have been leaked. It turns out they’re nothing like the workouts published in magazines.

Miss Ripa - and her seriously toned arms - is on the cover of the November issue of Shape, for example. Inside, readers get a peek into how the co-host of “Live With Regis and Kelly” got that body. A headline promises “6 moves that keep Kelly in amazing shape.”

Miss Ripa does a lot more than six strength moves to keep in shape, though. She spends hours a day working out, as any regular viewer of her show knows. She takes an intense, hourlong toning class at least four times a week at hot New York gym Physique 57 and runs at least three to five miles most days. That’s in addition to the private classes she sometimes has with the gym’s owner.

Clearly, you won’t look as ripped as Miss Ripa if all you do are those simple six moves.

Madonna’s divorce battle has given us a rare glimpse into a superstar’s everyday life - and it’s intensely focused on keeping up that superstar body.

Numerous newspapers have reported that one big reason her marriage to director Guy Ritchie broke down is the amount of time she spends in the workout room. She apparently exercises up to four hours a day, six days a week, doing a mix of running, swimming, Pilates and strength training. She had little time left, her ex’s people told reporters, to spend with her husband and children.

What real woman - with job and family responsibilities and no cash to spend on private gyms and trainers - has four hours to devote to exercise?

Even Madonna, whose body has made her millions of dollars, feels the strain of such a schedule.

Madonna’s trainer, Tracy Anderson, also works with Gwyneth Paltrow. The American actress has been turning heads lately: She lost the weight she gained while pregnant with her second child and started stepping out in more chic and form-fitting fashions.

Perhaps that’s why we’ve hardly seen the Oscar winner on-screen the past two years - she has spent a lot of time getting that body.

A Vogue cover story this year stated that Miss Paltrow exercises for 1 1/2 to two hours a day, but that seems a conservative estimate. Celebrity chef Mario Batali, who made a television documentary with the actress, told Us Weekly this year, “I think she works out three hours a day - which is one of the keys to success.”

So much for the claim made in a feel-good story in the New York Daily News that her trainer thinks that working out for 30 minutes a day, six days a week is “perfect.” Miss Anderson claimed in the piece that it’s how Madonna “manages her body,” and the Daily News said you just had to “follow these simple tips to the body of your dreams.”

In reality, you can’t expect to look like Madonna or Miss Paltrow, even if you buy Miss Anderson’s new dance aerobics DVD - it’s just 45 minutes long. She doesn’t make herself available for personal workouts conducted through video, as she does for Miss Paltrow, either.

These long, intense workouts don’t seem to be the exception. Britney Spears got her body back this year with a serious plan that has her exercising three times a day, five days a week - plus 1,000 crunches daily. She has said she eats just 1,200 calories each day. Jennifer Aniston, whose body is envied by women half her age, spends 30 to 45 minutes doing cardio as well as weight training and two-hour yoga and Pilates sessions four to five times a week. Jennifer Lopez, meanwhile, works out up to two hours four to six days a week, according to another Us Weekly article.

It’s clear that it’s a full-time job for actresses and singers to maintain their famous bodies. It’s also easier to spend hours in the gym when the gym is in your house and the trainer’s coming to you. Yet you have to dig through the interviews to find this truth. The big headlines trumpet how easy it can be to emulate these exercisers.

While Shape suggested you could look like Kelly Ripa with just six moves, Fitness went even further earlier this year, offering Miss Ripa’s “top 3 moves.” Self magazine offered “Law & Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay’s “versatile, 24-song workout playlist” - as if just working out to the same songs might get us the same body. People offered a similar suggestion in its “Hollywood’s Hottest Bodies” issue earlier this year, which had “100 tips from the stars.” No. 5 was “Aniston does her cardio to her iPod.”

We all know that fashion mags sell fantasy - but fewer women realize that seemingly more practical how-to mags do the same thing.

Ladies, the next time a magazine promises that you can look like Kelly Ripa in just one move, remember: After she finishes filming her show at 10 a.m., Miss Ripa probably spends the rest of the day working, too. Her workplace just happens to be a gym, not a cubicle.

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