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'Pathological' fear of fat keeps this doctor a size zero

Dr. Jennifer Gardy plays tennis at the University of British Columbia Tennis Club in Vancouver.

rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

Jennifer Gardy, 32, host of The Nature of Things documentary Myth or Science, craves a group exercise class mixing high-impact aerobics with boxing drills. As a result of this healthy regime, she appears fit and lean wearing a bikini in one episode. But Dr. Gardy, who leads the Genome British Columbia research lab at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, needs to tone up something unseen – her flabby metabolism.

My goal

"To never be fat. I want to stay the same size as I was in high school [size zero dress, size two for pants]and be one of those people who always has fitness as a natural part of life."

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My workout

"Across from work is a Fitness World gym and my Monday to Friday routine is at lunchtime, taking a lot of their classes. You get the maximum from your workout – you've got an instructor, music, people. You're not gonna puss out before the hour's up. It forces you to work hard, and it's fun. My favourite class is Cardio Chaos. I call it the attention-deficit-exercise class. It's an hour of bouncing around the room, super-high energy. I try to get to class three times as week.

"A trainer created a little weight-training program to tone up my lower body to get nice quads and butt definition. Once in a while, if I can't get to class, I do a little run and this routine:

"We do high reps and pick one muscle group, like quads, and then do a series of four exercises that are modifications on the theme – narrow squats, wider squats and back to narrow, but only going halfway down and pulse, and then wider squats half way down and pulse. I do each one of these 10 times. I end up doing 40 reps, three times. When I was first doing the program three days a week, things tighten up right a way, within four weeks.

"On weekends I get at least one singles tennis game in. I took up tennis five months ago. My husband wanted someone to play with."

My lifestyle

"I'm an omnivore. I avoid processed foods. My breakfast is usually a grande non-fat latte. I'm a gourmet foodie and I shop on a daily basis for fresh ingredients to make dinner. Sushi is a big favourite. I eat that five or six times a week. And I love wine so much, red and white. I've never smoked.

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"I'm in an insanely busy period. Beginning of September, I went on a business trip to Winnipeg for a science meeting. I was teaching a couple of undergraduate lectures for a course I'm co-instructor for [she is an adjunct professor in microbiology and immunology at University of British Columbia]

Last week on Thursday, I flew to Toronto to do narration for Nature of Things. After that, I was due in Boston on Monday for a symposium at Harvard University, so in between I went to New York for the weekend to have fun on Saturday and Sunday [then on to Boston]

I came back to work and out of my eight-hour workdays six of those hours were booked for meetings, and then in the remaining two hours you have to get actual work done, like answer e-mails. I'm going off to a soccer game tonight, tomorrow I'm coming in to work for a couple of hours, and then I'm off to Singapore for work."

My motivation

"The pathological fear of fat."

My anthem

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" 45:33 by LCD Soundsystem for Nike Running."

My challenge

"Varying my routine to keep it fresh when I do stuff on my own.

The critique

Blair Larsen, fitness director at the Adelaide Club in Toronto, says exercisers who cannot stomach breakfast and who adapt to training could accelerate metabolism in two ways.

Break the fast

"Jennifer is exercising while she's starving, but her body needs carbs to have an effective workout, or her intensity drops. If she has an apple or a banana 30 minutes before class, she would have more energy and burn fat more effectively because she has a steady supply of blood sugar to burn fat. Otherwise the body finds the energy from protein, breaking down muscle to exercise, and your metabolism slows down."

Excite muscles, stoke fat loss

"If she doesn't vary her workout, she will continue to get the same or diminished results. Jennifer could change frequency, intensity, time or type of exercise and that should help stimulate the change she needs to burn more fat. For example, one week she can do five classes, or add weights to workouts, or slow down the movement, or switch to single-leg training, to stress the body to boost her metabolism."

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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