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Wednesday 21 November 2018

The beauty and fitness books that changed my life

Glamour School, a beauty book dating from 1957, still has very relevant guidance and know-how today

Ladies, let me introduce you to two icons of my teen years. These two books fed my obsession with beauty, and later fitness, and I still use some of their tips.
I found Glamour School at a summer fete, when I was about 12. Some of the content was a little dated even then - the book came out in 1957 -  such as hair dressing tips about perms, clips and setting lotion.

But there's plenty of content that's still bang up to date, and the book must have been way ahead of its time because it talks about safe tanning. At that time, the fake tanner hadn't been invented, but the book recommends wearing make-up to simulate a tan. "Choose a brown tinted cream with an oil base that does not wash away in water. But remember to blot yourself dry or it will come off in streaks on the towel."

Home-made face packs and beer hair washes

I remember trying some of the DIY beauty treatments in the book, and you still see them being recommended to this day:

  • To "wash" a fine dry complexion, after removing make-up, sponge milk over the face and neck. Allow the residue to dry on the skin and it acts as a refining mask. Sponge off with warm water.
  • To soften and revitalise dry skin, steam heat a spoonful of honey over a saucepan of hot water; add a few drops of lemon juice and spread mixture over face and neck. Leave for 10 to 20 minutes and rinse off.
  • Two rounds of cucumber make a cooling compress for tired eyes.
You can still buy this book second-hand on Amazon.com for around $54.

Lifting weights enters the consciousness, early 1980s

Front cover of the book by Randi Blaun The  Incredibly Lazy Person's Guide to a Better Body

The Incredibly Lazy Person's Guide to a Better Body, by Randi Blaun, was first published in the UK in 1983. I was a trainee journalist at the time and had a small column reviewing books. I was sent this paperback to review. I can honestly say, it changed my life.  Weight lifting was seen as something freakish then, indulged in by men with gigantic biceps like former Mr Universe Arnold Schwarzennegar. This book featured exercises aimed at women involving light dumb bells and leg weights.

The exercises are performed in thousands of gyms every day, but back in the early 80s, this was pioneering stuff.  I remember horrifying my dad with my purchase of some dumb bells - he thought I was going to turn into a muscled monstrosity.

And this book started my life long interest in lifting weights.  Now, in my 50s, weight resistance is even more important as it helps keeps bones healthy and strong.

My next job at a local radio station saw me covering the opening of a municipal gym in Exeter, one of the first in the country.  They liked my piece so much they gave me free membership.  I was one of the few women to use the facility.

So thanks Randi Blaun - I loved weight lifting from the get-go and still do. Plus the tips on healthy eating are very sensible

This book is fantastic if you want your best-ever skin

I've bought many health, fitness and beauty books since, but the only other book to really resonate with me was Dr Nicholas Perricone's Programme (2002).

This was billed as a rapid weight loss diet, but I rate it for the amazing transformation it gives to skin (apparently endorsed by the fabulous Kim Cattrall). If I want my skin to look really good, I eat the Perricone way for four days. His wrinkle-free diet advice involves eating foods which are less inflammatory to the skin; drinking lots of water and exercising. A typical two day diet:

Porridge  (oatmeal) with blueberries plus a small piece of salmon and a teaspoon of almonds
Omelette made with three egg whites and one yolk, a sliced tomato and a handful of blueberries

Finely cubed salmon fillet or canned salmon, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and dill, with a few Romaine lettuce leaves and half a cup of lentil soup
120g steamed salmon with a Caesar salad (no croutons) and half an apple.

2 slices turkey breast; half a cup of strawberries
Hard-boiled egg; half a cup of strawberries; three almonds

120g grilled halibut;  tossed Greeek salad with romaine lettuce, 3 black olives, 30g feta cheese, half a cucumber, four cherry tomatoes, lemon juice and a little oregano.
Grilled chicken breast with roasted or sauteed mushrooms and courgettes; a romaine lettuce salad (sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and a little grated Parmesan cheese, dressed with olive oil)

Bedtime snacks
2 slices of turkey breast and 3 olives;  one pear
a little cottage cheese, half a cup of strawberries and four macadamia nuts.

What are the books that changed your life? Any tips you are still relying on? Do share in the comments below.


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  1. For me it was Colour Me Beautiful book which i found on a random business trip when I had five minutes to waste. Fascinating topic Gail. Thanks for sharing


  2. Oh my gosh Gail, I wish I'd kept my books I used to get my beauty tips from. The makeup would look pretty different than todays I should think! Fun post xx Maria

  3. Oh yes those books! There I sat on the couch, my hair in mayonaise! Of raw eggs! Haha, awfull!


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