In the dead of winter, who can be blamed for settling into the couch with a six-pack of beer and a plate of those brownies from the holiday party? Now, though, it's time to confront our bloated waistlines, contemplate the skimpy bathing suits we'll wear this summer and... panic. Never fear, though. Each year gives rise to new diet products and fads--some effective, others simply strange. tip sheet surveys the latest trends around the world:

Exercise London boasts some of the most bizarre ways to get fit. At the hip fitness club Gymbox (gymbox.co.uk), the "Shag Workout" is gaining converts. The class offers 30-minutes of pelvic squeezing, thrusting and rotating, pulling moves from yoga and erotic dancing. LA Fitness (lafitness. co.uk) is planning a "sexercise" class with hip-lifts, and inner-thigh-strengthening exercises. In February, health-club chain Holmes Place launched a "speed-dating yoga," where young singleites swap partners for each stretch (holmesplace.com). Romance buds sitting across from each other, eyes locked, legs spread, and feet touching, while pulling each other's arms.

Diet products In Asia as well as Europe, a number of new products claim to facilitate weight loss without the hassle of actual effort. Contrex water, owned by Nestle, has moved into third place in the French bottled-water market, largely by claiming its high calcium and magnesium content spurs weight loss. Health experts are skeptical. A better solution may be Japanese "petit fasting." Replace one or two meals a day with enzyme-rich vegetable juice or ginger tea. A growing number of online stores (great-antonio.jp/fasting_diet fasting.jp) are offering products to help give you the nutrients of a meal without the calories, such as nutritionally balanced vegetable juices.

Retreats In China, the Aimin Fat Education Hospital in Tianjin is drawing a growing number of foreign clients by offering a weight-loss plan blending Eastern and Western techniques, such as acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicines.

Chocolate The diet fad that promises the most adventure is the new Italian wine-and-chocolate reduction diet. (cercasalute.it/migliaccio/Dieta1.htm)

At a conference in Rome this month experts from prestigious universities like Rome's La Sapienza agreed that chocolate not only keeps you younger, but makes you feel better and even improves libido. Sample menu: a breakfast of cappuccino with one teaspoon of sugar, and a croissant; for lunch, an 80-gram piece of bread with 40 grams of chocolate (or one ice cream cone); the mid-afternoon snack is one 20-gram bar of chocolate, and dinner includes one portion of meat or fish (not fried), 250 to 300 grams of vegetables, 30 grams of bread and a glass of red wine. We're not sure if it works, but it sure sounds like fun.



Florence isn't the only beautiful city under the Tuscan sun; Siena boasts similarly impressive history, architecture and the region's wondrous landscape (and wines). Highlights:

The Villa Scacciapensieri (villascacciapensieri.it) Located only 2.5 kilometers outside Siena's city walls, it's the perfect place to relax. Their glorious pool and gardens overlook the rolling hills and olive groves.

Enzo (39-0577-281277) Enjoy complimentary champagne when you dine at this famed fish restaurant. The Parmesan mousse with Parma ham and truffles is a culinary gem.

Piazza del Campo Sip wine and take in the sites at any number of wine bars and cafes that line the medieval square.

The Basilica of San Francesco It's worth visiting because of its simplicity. Afterward, take in the over-the-top Duomo or cathedral, housing treasures by Donatello and Michelangelo.