My fat-busting session with Hollywood's favourite personal trainer
Tired of faceless gyms, Deirdre Reynolds turned to Ireland's most famous fitness freak to get in shape ...
Like a lot of women, my life seems like one long tug-of-war with the weighing scales. Just when you manage to slink into that size 10 little black dress, there's always that sneaky half-stone waiting in the (bingo) wings to sabotage all your efforts.
Ladies, you know what I'm talking about. It's that flap of flab that stares at you in the mirror in the morning as if to taunt: 'Skinny jeans? You must be joking, love!'
It's those surplus pounds that have earned their place in the English language, filed somewhere between 'love handles' and 'muffin top'.
Or in my case, it's the daft cow who asks you outright if you're pregnant -- when you're most definitely not.
I've tried all sorts of fitness trends through the years: spinning, swimming, karate, yoga, military boot camp, pole-dancing, vibrating plates and vacu-training (don't ask).
So I've decided to take an even more drastic step -- a personal trainer.
Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson are just some of the stars who rely on a personal trainer to help hone their famously sexy physiques.
But here at home, if you're looking for an A-list body there's only one name in the butt-whipping business: Pat Henry.
Personal trainer and potentialist Pat qualified under bodybuilding legend Vince Gironda at an exclusive Hollywood gym before setting up his own business in Dublin in 1986.
Despite sculpting stars such as Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Sylvester Stallone, Christina Ricci, Helen Mirren and Michael Flatley, however, Pat dedicates most of his time to deflating Z-list spare tyres like mine at his celebrated city-centre gym.
"Having a personal trainer is not just for the elite anymore," Pat reckons. "When we first opened, we were the first gym in the country to offer personal training and everyone said we wouldn't last.
"There's this idea that only the super-rich can have a personal trainer. And when people find out you've trained so many movie stars, they think you're out of reach. But that's not the case -- I have clients from all walks of life coming in.
"So many young professionals want a personal exercise programme made up for them," he adds. "They've been to the big gyms with the fancy pools and hundreds of machines, but they don't have anyone coming over to ask if everything's OK."
Arriving at the Pat Henry Wellness Centre on Pembroke Street, it's clear there's nothing glitzy about the gym.
With no snazzy flat-screen TVs or plush saunas, there's no escaping those stomach crunches. Don't even bother the old 'one, two, skip a few' trick either -- even the walls have eyes to ensure I'm working out properly.
Fitness freak Pat, who works alongside personal trainer son Karl, believes this is where other gyms fail their members.
"People are paying hard-earned money to these big chain gyms but then they're ignored when they go in," Pat says. "They don't have enough instructors to look after the number of clients so they'll tell you to do 30 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes on the bike and 10 minutes of sit-ups and they call that a workout. That's not a workout," he adds, Mick Dundee style, "it's just a small bit of cardio. You need someone who has the knowledge to look at you and say 'Well, your bum is too big or your arms are too soft'," he says.
"I often see girls whose figures have been destroyed by doing the wrong exercise -- it's such a shame. For instance, spinning at high resistance can make your bum bigger and too long on the cross trainer will bulk up your legs. "
Pat imparts exactly where he thinks it's all gone pear-shaped for me. He puts me on a six-week diet and exercise programme designed to shed a stone and elongate my stumpy limbs -- something I would have previously only thought possible by being put on a rack.
But as for looking up to twiggy lovelies like Gwyneth Paltrow or Nicole Kidman, Pat urged us to get real.
"A lot of girls come in to me saying I want to look like Kate Winslet or Gwyneth Paltrow, even though genetically they're not built the same way."
Pat uses a wrist-measuring technique coined by Vince Gironda to establish a new client's body type before devising their get-fit plan.
After that, there's nothing you can do except feel the burn.
"I trained Ellen Barkin, who was in fantastic shape --really toned," he recalls. "But after her first session with me, she rang the next morning and said 'I can't get out of bed! My ass is so sore!'
"The point of a personal trainer is having someone who has the knowledge to fulfil your long-term potential as a person."
My potential? To look as good in a bikini as Raquel Welch circa One Million Years B.C., apparently.
After two weeks of crunches, lunges, squats, sit-ups and an assortment of other masochistic exercises under Pat's mindful eye, I have shed half a stone and lost more than an inch off my arms, tum, thighs and calves -- and the transition from dumpy duckling to elegant swan isn't even complete yet.
So, if in about four weeks you see me stalking the streets of Kells in an animal-skin loin cloth and wielding a club, don't be alarmed.
One-to-One Personal Training with Pat Henry costs €695 for 12 sessions, or €70 per session. Contact the Pat Henry Wellness Centre on (01) 6616195 or see www.pathenrywellness.com