Be afraid, be very afraid: bikini season is back.
On a recent shopping expedition with a friend, my blood ran cold in the aisles.
It wasn’t the crop tops, sheer frocks or unitards that turned my retail therapy session into a nightmare.
Rather it was the sight of rails upon rails of swimwear heralding the start of the holiday season.
Every year about this time, glossy mags all over the world impart grave warnings about getting ‘beach body ready’. And every year, some of us, at least, succumb to the hysteria.
Bingo wings are blitzed, cellulite scrubbed and paunches punished all in pursuit of the perfect holiday snap to post on Instagram.
As a women’s lifestyle writer, I’ve gone on my fair share of crash diets in my time.
Over the years, I’ve swapped meals for shakes, sworn off sugar, worn a waist cincher and even had my fat frozen in the line of duty.
All the while, the needle on the weighing scales seems to be stuck just half a stone east of my ideal weight for my 5’2” frame.
Growing up, like most children of the eighties, the only diet I ever heard of was the “clean your plate” one.
So, in sixth class, when one classmate confided in me that she was planning to ‘dye it’ — ironically while bunking off from PE class — I innocently assumed she meant her hair.
Today, it seems like there’s a new ‘miracle diet’ every other day.
South Beach, the Zone, 5:2 and Weight Watchers are all staples.
But who can forget the whole apple cider vinegar thing, purple diet or tapeworm one (yes, really)?
Battling the bulge is, of course, nothing new.
Made famous by American nutritionist Robert Atkins, the world-renowned Atkins diet — which involves curbing carbs — can be traced all the way back to a 1958 research paper on ‘Weight Reduction’.
Dubbed ‘Banting’ after the British undertaker William Banting who popularised it, the world’s first fad diet dates even further back to 1863, and prophetically included giving up sugar and dairy.
By now, it’s not exactly rocket science that calories in versus calories out is the secret to getting slim — and staying that way.
So why do we always seem to swallow the latest celebrity slimming craze to come along?
Let’s face it, dieting is beyond boring. The very word ‘diet’ comes from the Medieval Latin ‘dieta’, meaning “a daily food allowance”.
The Greek word ‘diaita’ translates to the even more yawn-worthy “a way of life”.
In an era of one-hour tan and hair extensions, losing weight — like bronzing naturally and growing your tresses — is just another thing that can’t wait.
After all, why bother with three square meals a day when you can just go on a charcoal cleanse like Gwyneth Paltrow or binge on baby food like Jennifer Aniston supposedly did?
Despite all our dieting, as a nation, we’ve never been fatter.
Ireland is currently on course to become the chubbiest country in Europe, according to a study published in The Lancet, with 37% of Irish women and 38% of Irish men tipped to be obese by 2025.
From resolve to self-pity, Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt — who has shed 60lbs to go from comedy sidekick to leading man — last week parodied the ‘9 stages of a diet’ in a video that’s since gone viral.
“It’s 10.53pm and I should go to bed but instead I’m gonna maybe eat my snack for tomorrow,” joked the 37 year-old in the vlog.
But there’s nothing funny about a poll that found a quarter of under 10 year-olds have skipped a meal or that two-thirds regularly step on the scales amid the pressure to be perfect.
Older and, hopefully, a little wiser, I’ve finally settled on a sensible diet after going vegetarian almost a decade ago.
Having dabbled with Mark Bittman’s VB6 (Vegan Before 6pm) in the past, now I’m trying to scoff less cheese and other dairy products too.
The scales still haven’t budged, and my food baby doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, but I definitely feel better.
Eight years since Kate Moss infamously claimed ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, we’re constantly being told how curves are back — just not the kind that actually wobble.
When it comes to shopping for my holidays, I’ll simply be steering clear of Kylie and Kendall Jenner’s skimpy bikinis — and heading straight for the ‘sucky in’ section instead.