Aspects of Michael

tage sensation, and now host of his own TV show, Michael Ball tells us how he stays in shape (Top Santé, July 1992)

Five years ago while appearing in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love , Michael Ball decided to lose weight. "I had to appear on stage every night in boxer shorts," he says. "It soon became apparent that bits of me were wobbling out of time to the music. It was too embarassing - I had to do something about it."

Now 30, Michael experienced the emotional anguish of growing up as a fat child and an even larger teenager. "All adolescents feel unhappy about the way they look, but being overweight is particularly traumatic. What's more, I don't think that feeling of dissatisfaction ever leaves you. Even now, when I look in the mirror I see a fat person staring back."

Coy about exactly how much he weighs - "if I told you I'd only be lying" - Michael struggles every day to stay in shape. "My problem is that I love food: good food, bad food, it doesn't really matter." He has just finished a major tour and admits that life on the road is particularly conductive to piling on the pounds. "You get on the coach at midnight, and what is there to do for the next seven hours except eat?"

But it has been an altogether different story since Michael came back to London to record T he Michael Ball Show for ITV, as well as a new album. Twice a week he's put through his paces by his personal trainer, Luke Gray, who has devised a programme which helps Michael develop his all-important aerobic capacity.

"As a performer, I need to be able to come straight out of a really tiring dance routine and go immediately into a heavy ballad. To do that without gasping, it's very important for me to work on my breath control." Michael thinks the great thing about having a personal trainer is that it allows you to vary your programme according to your needs. "When I'm doing TV, we concentrate on making me look good; when I'm preparing for a tour we work on my strength and stamina. If I'm feeling run down we go for a gentle aproach."

Although Michael declares he hates his training sessions with a vengeance, he is professional enough to recognise that they are part and parcel of his work. "I grit my teeth and tell myself that, ultimatively, this is what I get paid for." Competitive sports,  however are another matter. "I adore playing squash and I would love to become really good at tennis."

Robust constitution
It's an ambition Michael is all the more likely to fulfil now that he has quit smoking. "I was one of the first boys in my class to nip behind the bicycle sheds for a cigarette and the habit stuck, unfortunately." Having tried hypnosis and aversion therapy and failed to give up the evel weed, Michael found that patches were the answer. "The night before I wore my first patch I went out with some friends and smoked myself silly. The idea was to make myself feel really sick. It must have worked - I haven't had a cigarette since October." Unlike a lot of ex-smokers, Michael doesn't adopt a holier than thou approach. "I don't allow smoking backstage or on the coach. But when people come to my house I don't make them go into the garden to light up if they smoke."

The lucky owner of a robust constitution, Michael's only serious illness was glandular fever, which put him out of the original cast of Les Miserables. One reason for his good health might be a commitment to complementary medicine, with its distinctly presentive approach. "The great thing about aromatherapy and massage is that they make you feel so wonderful. I'm convinced that the more relaxed you feel, the less likely you are to become ill." Michael feels particularly strongly about chiropracic - a means of curing problems through manipulative of the spine. "It saved my back after I'd damaged it in a parachute jump. I'd tried everything to straghten it out and nothing else worked." Not that he's hostile to orthodoxe medicine. "There's a place for both approaches. I wish people from both sides could co-operate."

Face facts
Thres's a limit to the time he can devote to caring for himself and because stamina and health come first, he will patiently put up with a rigorous work-out, but he's much more casual abot skin and hair.

"I always take my stage make-up off because I'd frighten people if I didn't, and I clenase tone and moisturise when I can be bothered." regular trips to the steamroom not only improve Michael's vocal cords but deeep-cean his skin. "It's a brilliant way of getting rid of any last traves of stale stage make-up."

He's been letting his short, naturally curly locks grow past his collar. "In The Pirates of Penzance, I had shoulder-length hair which was dyed black and I really loved that romantic look." But whether it's short and sharp or long and flowing, Michael has strong ideas about how he doesn't want his crowning glory to look. "I hate anything that appears coiffed or contrived."

Although his many female fans would doubtless disagree, Michael is adament that he is not always on top form. "I'm someone who changes almost from hour to hour. I can leave the house feeling I look OK and by lunchtime all I can see in the mirror is Charles Laughton."

Reaching 30 has made Michael more relaxed and he is coming to terms with  his body. "Now I find it much easier to accept how I look. If I put on a couple of pounds I don't  starve myself as I used to. I know from experience that going on a crash diet is the quickest way to put on weight.

"These days, I think happiness is more important than worrying about appearance."

written by Katie Hayward

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