Kym Bassett considers herself an expert in gym fads. She has taken orders from aerobic Step Nazis; she has pumped iron with the manly men. She ran like a rat on a treadmill and searched for Nirvana in yoga. Very little about her body changed over seven years, mostly because she seesawed from five-day-a-week workouts to none at all. Last November the Manhattan jewelry designer noticed a story about Pilates, a regimen based on stretching exercises.
Now Bassett, 24, is coached twice a week on exotic machines with names like The Reformer - and the benefits she describes sound miraculous. Two hours of work with no sweat has allowed her to drop from a size 10 to a size 8, sometimes 6. Her stomach has been whittled; her hips have slimmed. She has the posture and lanky gait of a dancer. What she doesn't have is a diet, and her workout shoes (Pilates calls for socks only) sit in her closet, dusty. She's lost 10 lbs. "People say to me, 'You look thinner,'" she marvels. "And I'm thinking, But I had that huge piece of chocolate cake last night."
Pilates promises that you feel better in 10 visits, look better in 20 and have a new body in 30. Those who try it say it's true. "I'm naked and standing in front of the mirror," reports Belle, who's done Pilates for a year. "My stomach is tighter. The butt is higher and firmer. I'm more streamlined now."