Pregnancy Weight-loss: The real secret behind those celeb 'mom-shells'
Losing pregnancy pounds is labour intensive, even for Jess and Gwyneth
You know the scenario – you're flicking though a gossip magazine only to see pictures of a sexy celebrity in a skimpy bikini, you pause and think, "hang on, didn't she just have a baby?"
Revealing a dramatic post-pregnancy look has become de rigueur in Hollywood with many new bombshell mums, or 'mom-shells' as they've been dubbed, insisting their weight slid off magically almost before they'd left the delivery room.
But the reality of what it takes to erase the evidence of giving birth is often much more labour intensive.
Back in 2011, Jessica Alba was walking the red carpet looking fabulous in Michael Kors just a month after giving birth to her second daughter Haven.
"I'm not super hardcore," she told an interviewer who asked about her approach to shifting post-pregnancy pounds. "I'm just doing a little bit."
Yet an interview with last month's Net-a-Porter magazine told a very different story. "I wore a double corset day and night for three months, it was sweaty but worth it," confessed Alba (32) adding, "it was brutal, it's not for everyone."
Already enough to make most women wince, it turns out the double girdle wasn't even the whole story.
Ahead of the birth, the Sin City star who also has a four-year-old daughter, Honor, with husband Cash Warren, told Lucky magazine: "I have a hard time with portion control so I have 1,200 calorie meals delivered, but I also work out, so basically I'm starving. It sucks."
If that's not super-hardcore, then, frankly, what is?
But she's far from being the only mum in La-La land taking extreme measures to battle the baby bulge in super-quick time.
Jersey Shore's Snooki gave birth seven months ago but started working out after six weeks, also slashing her diet to 1,300 calories a day to lose 42lbs, and Kourtney Kardashian recently passed out after exercising on an empty stomach to get in shape for a post-pregnancy photo shoot.
In 2011 it was widely reported that Victoria Beckham had adopted the Five Hands Diet (five meals a day with palm-sized portions of smoked salmon, prawns, eggs or tuna) to lose her baby weight in time for fashion week.
Though Posh kept mum on what was (or wasn't) eaten while sequestered in her Malibu mansion, she did tell Vogue she ran six times a week to shift the pounds.
Liz Hurley famously only ate one meal a day and paltry snacks of six raisins to get in shape postpartum.
"The only meal I have is dinner. I'm on a good old-fashioned low-cal diet. I'm going to be hungry," she explained.
A terrifying number of celebrity mums make a beeline for the gym almost as soon as the umbilical cord is cut. In 2008, Jennifer Lopez pushed herself to compete in a triathlon just months after giving birth to twins and also installed a $50,000 gym in her home to prepare, and in 2005 Anna Friel exercised with a Hypoxi Vacunaut 40 minutes a day, five times a week, in preparation for filming nude scenes months after giving birth.
"I wear this space-age looking wetsuit that wires me up to a suction pump as I walk on a treadmill," she explained of the device, which supposedly had fat-sucking powers.
Several Victoria's Secret models, including Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio and Heidi Klum, are out of the delivery room just weeks before they're back on the catwalk in their lingerie sets – even if it means up to six hours a day of back-breaking exercise to get them back on the runway.
Post-partum workouts are something every mum can do, according to Gwyneth Paltrow, who spent two hours a day training with Tracy Anderson in 2006 to lose her pregnancy weight.
"Every woman can make time – every woman – and you can do it with your baby in the room," she said.
"There have been countless times where I've worked out with my kids crawling all over the place."
More concerning are perhaps the weight-loss regimes we don't hear about, with Hollywood rumoured to be rife with post-delivery tummy tucks, fat transfers, extreme breast pumping and appetite suppressants.
The baby weight debate and example set by celebrity mums is one regularly discussed on parenting forums like mumstown.ie.
"Celebrities definitely portray an unrealistic image of how a new mum should expect to look soon after birth and it puts undue pressure on tired new mums," says Siobhan O'Neill White, founder of mumstown.ie and mum of four.
"I remember reading about how Jordan went on a juice diet to fit into her skinny jeans just weeks after giving birth and thinking this is extreme and not what new mums should be worrying about.
"They should be focused on spending time with their baby, recovering from birth and getting as much rest as possible."
She adds: "Seeing celebrities looking so svelte weeks after giving birth can make 'normal' mums think this quick weight loss is easy and doable but they need to take into consideration that celeb mums have a lot more help – personal trainers, nannies, chefs and often an exercise DVD deal – to lose the baby weight."
Even celebrities aren't immune from peer pressure. Ahead of giving birth to daughter Maxwell last year, Jessica Simpson had hoped to lose weight as fast as Jessica Alba and signed a WeightWatchers deal.
Having set herself the task of losing 50lbs in five months, Simpson reportedly ended up "stressed out", crying and torn between the worry she should be at the gym while wanting to stay with her baby.
But what does it say about society that women can't look like they've just given birth?
Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been accused of letting India down by not shifting her pregnancy pounds fast enough.
One comment under a cruel YouTube clip depicting the former Miss World's weight gain reads: "It is her duty to look good and fit," while another adds: "She needs to learn from people like Victoria Beckham who are back to size zero weeks after their delivery."
Thankfully some famous mums are happy to tell it like it is. Earlier this year new mum Drew Barrymore decried losing baby weight blitzes as a "hamster wheel from hell".
"I want nothing to do with that," she told Oprah.
"It seems miserable. I want to be healthy enough that I feel good mentally and I don't care what the weight is."