You had intended to go to the gym three times a week, but lately you’re more likely to be found on the couch, catching the latest episode of
Mad Men. Now, you’re breaking a sweat – for the first time in weeks – at the prospect of wrestling into a slinky cocktail number for the season’s holiday parties. Forget about starving yourself on a diet (or cancelling invitations); if you start an exercise regimen and a sensible eating plan now, you’ll experience changes in as little as 10 days, says celebrity fitness trainer Gunnar Peterson, whose clients include Jennifer Lopez and Penélope Cruz. “Stick with it and people will see the difference in your body within three or four weeks.” What’s the fastest way to fake a fit figure? Concentrate on your upper body, says Jennifer Cohen, a Toronto- and Los Angeles-based fitness trainer and author of
No Gym Required: Unleash Your Inner Rockstar. “Most dresses are sleeveless or strapless, so if you show off great shoulders and arms, they will give you the overall appearance of being in shape,” she says. Whether you blitz your body from top to toe or just focus on the areas that your dress will reveal, here’s how to get in show-off shape.

“Push-ups are the number one exercise for toning your upper body,” says Cohen. Position your hands on the floor – or on a bench, if you’re a beginner – directly below your shoulders. Extend your legs out behind you, balancing on your toes. Keeping your back straight and abs tight, lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Hover for a moment, then push yourself back up to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps.


To tighten your abs, lie on a bench or stability ball (“You can even use an ottoman,” says Peterson) and, keeping your feet on the floor, slowly lift your body until you’re at a 30- to 45-degree angle. Pause for a moment, then lower it back down. For added difficulty, hold a weight plate and extend it overhead as you lift up. Don’t have one? Use a water bottle, says Peterson. Do two to five sets of eight to 20 reps. “I call this the butt blaster,” says Cohen. With your right leg, step up on a chair. (It should be high enough that your right thigh is parallel to the floor when your right foot is on the chair.) Keeping your weight on your right foot and your hips facing forward, slowly straighten your right leg so that you’re standing on the chair before lowering your left leg to the floor. Do 15 reps on each leg.

Image courtesy of Marcio Madeira from the Lanvin collection


Strong core muscles can improve your posture, helping you carry yourself more confidently, says Peterson. Get in push-up position, resting on your hands or forearms and balancing on your toes. Tighten your abs and hold for 15 to 60 seconds, depending on your ability. Repeat two to four times.


Target your calves, thighs and quads with walking lunges, says Cohen. Step forward with your left leg, bending both knees at a 90-degree angle and making sure that your left knee stays above your left ankle. Pause, then bring your right foot forward to return to the starting position. Take the next step with your right leg. Do two sets of 15 lunges, alternating legs while ensuring your knee doesn’t go past your toes.


Get your heart rate pumping by doing your strength-training moves in a circuit, says Peterson. Complete one set of each exercise before moving on to the next and repeat. For extra fat-burning potential, add 30 minutes of cardio three times a week.

“Dieting has a way of making us feel that if we fail to be perfect, we should just binge,” says Julie Daniluk, a nutritionist in Toronto. Prevent cravings by avoiding high-glycemic-index carbs, such as cereal and toast, and choosing lighter breakfast fare, such as fruit salad, muesli and yogourt. Daniluk also says that treats can be part of your diet – even if you’re trying to shed pounds. “When you want dessert, eat it with something high in fibre – like an apple – which will make you feel satisfied and reduce hunger. The result? Reduced food intake that will translate into a smaller waistline.”

Image courtesy of Marcio Madeira from the Lanvin collection