How to shed the pregnancy pounds without following Posh
You might think Victoria Beckham would already have her hands full looking after a new-born infant, but now the mum-of-four has decided to fill her palms with something else -- food.
In a bid to get trim for New York Fashion week, September 8 to 15, the image-conscious designer has embarked on the gruelling Five Hands Diet, which will see her munching on just five handfuls of food daily for the next three weeks.
Despite gaining just one stone seven pounds during her pregnancy with daughter Harper Seven, Posh is reportedly finding it hard to lose her pregnancy pounds since giving birth last month.
Thus, in a bid to return to a svelte shape similar to her pre-pregnancy size 0-2 frame, the former Spice Girl has sequestered herself away in a Malibu Mansion focusing on Pilates and small portions of protein in a bid to wow fashion big-wigs next month.
But her tactics won't impress the millions of new mums who already feel under pressure to drop weight just weeks after giving birth.
It's increasingly hard to find a celebrity looking anything other than immaculate mere weeks after exiting the delivery room.
Who can forget the pictures of Claudine Keane rolling in the surf in a white bikini just two months after the arrival of little Robert, or actress Anna Friel making sure she was nude-scene ready by plugging away on a Hypoxi machine for hours on end?
Real women might not need to be catwalk ready or filming in the buff but there's no denying the bombardment of trim yummy-mummy images has had an impact.
Last year a survey by the Royal College of Midwives found two-thirds of new mums feel under pressure to slim down to their pre-pregnancy weight, while a Body After Birth poll showed nine out of 10 new mums were unhappy with their bodies largely due to impossible targets set by celebrity role models.
The topic is one of the most discussed on Ireland's largest pregnancy and parenting club, EUmom.ie.
The website's weight-loss expert David McDonagh says: "Celebrities are not realistic role models for weight loss after pregnancy as they live in a different galaxy to us mere mortals.
"New mums will of course want to lose weight but to try and reduce your calorie intake by anything above a 500-calorie saving will lead to hunger and cravings. My recommendation is always to try four-to-six medium-sized meals a day, plenty of fruit, veg and wholegrains and a slow and steady approach to weight loss.
"Crash dieting, especially if breastfeeding, can be harmful to your baby as it limits not only your nutrients but theirs too."
Stephanie Sinnott from Baby Body Fit, which runs exercise classes for new mums across Dublin, agrees losing weight is an issue more and more mums are affected by. She says: "I find conversations about Victoria Beckham and other celebrity mums often come up in classes, but it's ridiculous how skinny they are after birth and its unrealistic for other mums to aspire to that.
"Celebrities have personal chefs, personal trainers and it's their job to be looked at."
But that doesn't mean regular mums can't look their best. Stephanie says: "Baby Body Fit focuses on healthy eating and working up a sweat through interval training. "Interval training, like jumping jacks, followed by squats, followed by high knees with 20 seconds' rest in between, is great because it builds muscle and burns fat -- most mums see a difference in two weeks."
She adds: "But I don't think it's wise to put a time frame on shaping up, otherwise you'll just end up beating yourself up."
Like Posh, many new mums are signing up to Pilates, but Mags Clarke Smith from Dublin-based Body Centering Pilates says she would never advise clients to start exercises with her until at least six weeks after the birth.
She says: "The body needs time to recover, the organs need to return to their natural position and the muscle area around the ribcage needs time to knit back together -- normally this will take around six weeks after giving birth."
Thereafter Pilates can help with tightening abdominal muscles, pelvic-floor muscles and help promote general wellbeing in new mums.
"It's about toning up and feeling better, not losing weight," explains Mags.
"Most women say they go down a dress size and get a flatter tummy, but I wouldn't have anyone in before six weeks, aside from anything I think that time is precious and should be spent enjoying the new baby."
Aisling O'Donoghue spokeswoman for EUmum.ie agrees. She says: "I hope new mums put their energies into bonding with their new baby and not worrying about fitting into a size-8 dress."