July 6, 2012 8:29 pm

The beach body myth

It taunts us on the cover of magazines with promises of miracle diets and tans. But is all the effort worth it?

Want to achieve a pert and peachy derrière?” There can’t be many jobs where emails open with that sentence but, from February to August, my little finger hovers anxiously over the delete button in readiness for the offers that fill my inbox, all promising that elusive thing: the ultimate beach body. I’m not falling for it this time.

Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of favourite myths, from the one about Aphrodite with her magic girdle (aka Spanx) to the one about flawless skin (ie the work of Pascal Dangin, the retoucher famous for his Vogue covers). But – those empty promise emails aside – the myth of the beach body is by far my favourite, taunting us on the cover of just about every magazine with promises of miracle diets and tans, always accompanied by pictures of semi-naked celebrities flaunting their glutes in what amounts to a beauty call to arms.

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And, I confess, I have tried them all. There was endermologie – the one with the roller-machine (lie on a couch in unattractive paper knickers and have a machine roll over you once a week); thermage – the one that heats up the skin to stimulate new collagen, promising cellulite-free thighs (pose in paper knickers for humiliating “before” pictures, get “problem areas” zapped, wait three months for effect to kick in); and mesotherapy – the one with the needles, which I didn’t go near. And on it goes, like episodes of Friends: “The One With the Cling Film”; “The One With Foil”; “The One With Heated Blankets”.

I’ve tried diets where I’ve had to hold small scraps of paper with the names of vegetables on them to see if any individual scraps of paper make me sway forwards – in which case I was to avoid said vegetable. I’ve done gyrotonics, an ahead-of-its time version of Pilates. I’ve been to Rio and witnessed breast surgery (not pretty) with plastic surgeon Ivo Pitanguy. And I’ve come away suspecting that you’d have to do all of them at once, all the time, to see any tangible difference.

Yet still we persist. Because the truth is, the beach body is no myth. It does exist. Back in the land that the ravages of time forgot, when a beach holiday meant three weeks of sand, a hot boyfriend and no buckets and spades in sight, even I had one. Not that I appreciated it then because, of course, I thought I was fat.

But to get one as a grown-up – well, even the genetically blessed have to spend hours, days, weeks, months working on it once they hit 30 (and I’m being generous with the age thing here). I’ve given up because frankly, while I’ll exercise to keep mentally sane, I just don’t believe that the amount I can feasibly do in a day without neglecting children/work/becoming extremely boring is going to give me the body of Aphrodite.

. . .

On a cost-per-view basis, for anyone not living in Sydney, Los Angeles or Rio, the beach body would only be aired a tragic four days a year. If you do the maths, based on weekly tanning sessions, a daily nutritionist-prepared diet, training four times a week with Elle Macpherson’s trainer James Duigan, yoga with a private instructor at home once a week, four exfoliating treatments, two courses of slimming wrap treatments and a dose of thermage, the cost per viewing works out at approximately £166 a day, or about £60,000 a year (excluding loss of earnings due to time spent doing all the above). For me, it just ain’t worth it.

But for anyone who dreams on, I offer the following tips:

1. Bypass all cellulite creams except for Soap & Glory’s Sit Tight. It’s not that the others don’t work – they still sell by the bucket and spade load, and we can’t just be going back for more because of clever marketing, can we? But the wording on the Sit Tight tube is witty and real enough to make me crack a smile, which must burn at least another two calories.

2. In cases of emergency – ie, your parents did not give you beach body genes – I recommend Ren’s new Body Contouring Detox Wrap, a salt scrub, lymph drainage massage and heat wrap that temporarily sweats off inches and results in incredibly soft, smooth skin.

3. Never be fooled into thinking those supermodels are really just supersizing behind our backs when we’re not looking. Elle Macpherson swears by the Detox Kitchen’s pre-prepared snacks delivered to her door (think nuts, pulses and vitamin supplements, deliciously combined). The Detox Kitchen says she’s been on them for 10 weeks and counting. Less of a detox, more of a lifestyle choice.

4. Which brings me to Gwyneth Paltrow. While others work out four hours a day purely to look good, Gwynnie has turned it into a career, setting up gyms with her trainer, Tracy Anderson. So while you might be enjoying your career as a neurosurgeon, or a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, or a train driver, and dreaming of a six-pack (abs, not beer) on the side – hello! Have you ever thought of becoming a yoga instructor? It’s really the only way.

kathleen.baird-murray@ft.com

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http://www.detoxkitchen.co.uk/

http://www.renskincare.com/

http://www.soapandglory.com/

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