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Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 09:39 GMT
Need a lifestyle coach?
Cherie Blair; her friend and lifestyle coach Carole Caplin
Best friends: Cherie and her "trusted support" Carole
Cherie Blair pays her friend Carole Caplin for advice on fashion, fitness and well-being. What could a lifestyle coach do for you? Gina Pickersgill, of ABCoach, explains.

I specialise in fitness, lifestyle changes, stress management and holistic weight loss. People come to me if there's something missing in their life, or there's something they want but don't quite know how to get.

Gina Pickersgill
Gina Pickersgill, "a confidante and mentor"
My role is not to become a close friend, but someone who can be trusted - a confidante and mentor, if you like.

If you came to me, I'd find out your situation and what it is you think I can help you achieve. If you don't know, I help you work out what it is that you want out of life.

It's important to listen to the inferences rather than just the surface words, to get a picture of what's going on. Sometimes people say they will be happy if, say, they could lose weight, but 99% of the time it's more than that. As they get to know me and open up, they'll admit to other issues, other problems.

I do notice that when I talk to clients, their eyes often fill up. At first I worried that I was upsetting them. But I've since found out that it can be a physiological rather than emotional thing - when someone relaxes, their spine loosens up and their body responds with this tearful look.

Spanner in works

Once I've identified what you want, I plan a strategy to take you in the right direction. This involves physical and emotional exercises to do at home. I might get you to write down 10 things you like about yourself and to focus on those.

During this time, you keep a journal of your moods so together we can see what worked and what didn't.

Cherie's needle stud from October 2001
Ear acupuncture: Cherie's stress-busting trick
I also use NLP - neuro-linguistic programming - to identify behaviour patterns. Someone with food issues may, for instance, see a cake and automatically feel they want to eat it. I suggest that they see the cake and then think 'Am I hungry?' to break that pattern.

If someone eats for solace, that spanner in the works lets them think about what they could do instead.

I also run exercise classes for those trying to get back into physical activity for health. These involve a lot of gentle movements to free up the body, and if I feel the class is ready for it, I might get them to shout 'I'm the best'.

Work-life balance

The class always ends with a long relaxation, which is when I put in my hypnosis. In sports medicine, this is called progressive relaxation. I ask people to focus on each muscle in turn, and then I use language that's reminiscent of hypnosis 'You are feeling relaxed', perhaps. Sometimes I suggest that they visualise how energised they feel, or how they'd like tomorrow's big meeting to work out.

For all the working mums like Cherie Blair out there, I recommend that you take time out for yourself twice a day - in the morning to prepare for the day ahead, and in the evening to review the day - and at the same time relax your body with whichever method works for you: a hot bath, a relaxation tape, floaty music, a chat with a friend.

Cherie in India
Working mums "take time out for yourself"
Affirmations are commonly used, but your emotions have to reflect what you're saying. There's no point chanting 'every day I'm getting better and better' if you don't believe it - your subconscious will just say 'yeah right'.

Unlike Carole Caplin, I don't give fashion tips. Instead, I do 'what not to wear inside'. I get you to focus on building confidence, so you shine and dress up your attitude. That can reflect in your appearance. One client made a breakthrough, and the next week I didn't recognise her - she looked 10 years younger as she relaxed.

At the end of it, I want you to be off and away; in control, clear about what you want, and better able to deal with stress.

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