Books about body image, working smarter, great sex and natural highs…

Description: Shape books

Shape shifting

Calories and corsets – A history of Dieting over 2000 years

By Louise Foxcroft (Profile)

Description: Calories and corsets – A history of Dieting over 2000 years

The shape of it: Did you ever make the connection between the slim profile of the 1920s slapper-style and the dearth of young men after World War I? Straightening women’s curves into a more boyish look might have been society’s compensation for the number of young men lost in battle. This and hundreds of other fascinating insights and anecdotes fill this book, in which Cambridge University professor Louise Foxcroft tries to find out what “centuries of dieting, gluttony, abstinence and artifice” tell us about ourselves.

She found plenty. “Our perception of our bodies changes over time and each period and every culture has had its own obsession with a particular body shape, with appearance, and with what is seen as beautiful or urgy,” she says. “Add to this fact that as we age our bodies change shape, and the notion of attractiveness becomes even more nuanced”

Why we like it: This book includes great facts, swept along on a gripping narrative flow, with a delivery that’s often downright hilarious. Foxcroft has a talent for finding unforgettable details as she picks apart the threads of various societies’ prefabricated ideas. She also takes a sharp look at the difference between our common aversion to fat, which is an aesthetic rather than a health or obesity issue, and how dieting has become a national neurosis in many countries. “The present glut of self-loathing, shame and pointless misery of trying and failing to be the ideal creature of our society’s desire needs rethinking,” she says.

Rated: 4 star

Fleet feet

Get running – how to get started, stay motivated and run your best

By Matt Roberts (Quadrille)

Description: Get running

The shape of it: Following on from his all round body-booster, I Will Make You Fit Fast, Matt Roberts turns his specialist focus to running. So why should you run? He offers this cheerful conviction: “Running is powerful!”

Roberts also believes running is the “single most rewarding and beneficial form of exercise there is”. Human beings are born, developed and destined to run. Leave a group of young children alone in a wide-open space and what do they start to do? Exactly.

Convincing done, Roberts takes you through everything you need to get started, and keep going. He covers self-assessment (gait, posture and other tests to find out where you need to focus your preparation) and precautions. He also deals with programmes to get you ready for 5km, 10km, half and full marathons and even ultra-distances.

And then there are the exercises, detailed and photographed step-by-step, to keep you honing and improving your technique and enjoyment.

Why we like it: The author’s love of running is evident, and his passion is infectious. “The truth is that running has many highs (and many lows too, at times), but it never ceases to allow you to explore, push and discover new levels of ability, and utter self-satisfaction.”

Rated : 3 star

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