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London - Drinking cocktails with a famous 20-something woman, the mother of a two-year-old, a week or so ago, I asked why she’d had her breasts enlarged. ‘Oh, well, after breastfeeding, they just looked different. I wanted them to look full again, just as they were before,’ she told me.
Welcome to the weird world of the celebrity mom, where women want to rub out any evidence they’ve given birth as if they were dealing with a nasty stain instead of a baby.
At the Glamour Women of the Year Awards at London’s Berkeley Square Gardens, the female stars - notably WAG Abbey Clancy and Myleene Klass - were spouting those usual lines: ‘I eat like a horse, I never exercise. It’s my busy lifestyle that makes me resemble a hat rack. Honest.’
In 30 years of interviewing female celebrities, I’ve learned never to believe a word they say about dieting, especially if they’ve just squeezed out a baby from between their over-Power Plated thighs.
There are exceptions. Liz Hurley recalled skipping breakfast and surviving on raisins. Victoria Beckham has also talked about how she walked seven miles a day, and reportedly followed the ‘five hands’ diet (which consists of five palm-sized servings of high-protein foods such as smoked salmon, prawns with chilli, yellow-fin tuna sushi, and scrambled eggs each day).
But it is the new moms who look too good to be true who get on my nerves. And it can be very hard to challenge them.
I recall writing about a star who looks so much more toned now than she did before she had her children. I suggested she must be doing far more than just 20 minutes of Pilates a day, and was slapped with a law suit - which I lost.
Unless we examine the contents of their stomachs, it’s hard to prove the level of self-flagellation. ‘An Egg McMuffin is my guilty pleasure,’ says lingerie model Clancy. A stick of celery and a Muller Light, more likely methinks. ‘I’ve lost the baby weight because I’ve been so busy,’ Ms Clancy continued in a recent interview.
Busy doing what, exactly? Ferrying her one-year- old daughter, Sophia, to her first pedicure?
Similarly, Ms Klass - whose marriage is apparently on the rocks - puts her slim figure down to ‘a hectic lifestyle’, running up and down stairs after her two children.
When she started out on TV talent show Popstars in 2000, she was told she looked too fat in a video. The barb cut deep. When we last met, her first baby was tiny and she was moaning that ‘I still can’t get into my pre-pregnancy jeans’.
And this entirely unnatural expectation of mothers is no longer confined to the West. Bollywood female stars were - before the rise of the middle classes and the launch of Vogue in India - routinely plump: a status symbol in a country where 6,000 children die of starvation every day.
But, earlier this year, its most beautiful star, Aishwarya Rai, was criticised for not losing her baby weight swiftly. The former Miss World was the subject of much debate, with many critics saying she had ‘an obligation’ to lose the baby pounds.
Why is all this so dangerous to women who will never set foot on a red carpet?
Well, we no longer believe that what we see in the mirror at home is normal. We believe the celebrities are the ones who are normal and we are (lazy, greedy) freaks, when the truth is the other way around.
There was a time when motherhood meant women could forget the silly nonsense of focusing on their own vanity.
Even in the Swinging Sixties it was considered normal that, once a woman got married and started a family, she would abandon the mini skirts and the fad diets.
As Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki told me: ‘The crucial difference is that, back then, we didn’t expect to stay young for ever. When you got married, there was no longer any pressure to look young. It was not about women looking like adolescents for ever, which is how it is now.’
A parliamentary report published last week found half of girls and a third of boys aged 14 have been on a diet to change their body shape, with youngsters mimicking their parents’ anxieties.
It concluded that a ‘toxic’ combination of the media, advertising and celebrity culture accounts for almost three-quarters of the influence on body image in society, yet the ‘body ideal’ typically presented was estimated to be unachievable by nearly ‘95 percent of the population’.
In that elusive 5 percent is Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen. In 2000, I was accused by a model agency boss of abusing the supermodel by calling her ‘a bag of bones’.
As a teenager, with her long limbs and nut-brown, spherical breasts, Gisele kick-started a million doppelgangers, which meant women must not only be thin but busty, too.
As a new mother, she has continued to promote a body ideal that is attainable by I’d guess 0.00001 per cent: that of the perfect post-partum torso that bears no evidence of having given birth at all.
Forget these celebrity tall stories. Nutritional therapist Catherine Jeans points out the more usual recovery time for a new mom is nine months.
‘Some women find their shape changes completely,’ she says. ‘After the birth, your body has been through huge demands for extra nutrients and it’s vital to eat enough food, with plenty of variety, to replace any lost nutrients. A mother’s breast milk is only as healthy as she is - and good nutrition is vital.’
So a woman who diets after giving birth is not only damaging herself, she is potentially damaging her child.
And the hurt is not just physiological, it is psychological, too. Are the current generation of toddlers a time bomb waiting to explode with a new set of neuroses? Only time will tell. - Daily Mail