Unless you live under a rock, it's impossible to turn the corner without seeing another post-pregnancy body story on a magazine cover. And it's a tale of two extremes: Either a new celebrity is flaunting her post-baby body on the cover of a magazine, or a star is failing to drop the pounds as quickly as the world expected.
"You're applauded for doing it fast or a failure if you don't do it quickly," said Tracie Egan Morrissey, a New York-based blogger for Jezebel.com.
Jessica Simpson is the celebrity du jour in the weight-loss spotlight. Simpson, 32, signed an endorsement deal to become the celebrity face of Weight Watchers, and since giving birth to daughter Maxwell Drew in May, she's had her every appearance and photo scrutinized by tabloids analyzing her weight loss.
Us Weekly magazine reports that Simpson has lost 60 pounds in five months following her Weight Watchers PointsPlus program and four-times-a-week training sessions with star trainer Harley Pasternak.
Convinced that celebrity examples were putting unrealistic pressure on new moms to lose the weight immediately, Morrissey, 33, wanted to put the model to the test.
As an experiment on celebrity culture, the blogger decided to try and follow the extreme examples set by celebrities to drop her pregnancy weight.
"I had a lot of weight to lose when I had my baby," said Morrissey, who gained 80 pounds during her pregnancy. "I figured I would do what they do, what I read celebrities do, to lose weight after having a baby or for a role."
Morrissey spared no expense, paying nearly $100 per pound on weight-loss methods she'd read about in tabloids. "I figured I would go all out and see what happened," she said. First, that meant singing up for a meal delivery service and getting a personal trainer.
"It's the convenience that you're paying for," she said of the five-meals-a-day diet delivery plan she received for a month for $1,282.33 - and lost 15 pounds with. She stayed on the program for a month, but ultimately deemed the price too excessive to justify and opted instead for Weight Watchers. The 60-day subscription fee cost her $56.86, plus $300 in meals, which was slightly more affordable, but didn't work as well for her, she said. The new mom turned to old-fashioned "portion control and healthy choices."
Two months after giving birth, when she was given the O.K. to exercise, she joined a gym and booked sessions with a personal trainer.
"I knew that if I was actually going to stick with this, I would have to get a trainer, if for nothing else than to just babysit me through the sheer, mind-numbing, boring, horribleness of it all," she wrote in her blog.
The biweekly sessions for 11 months were pricey ($5,160), but she thinks they were the answer to her weight-loss prayers.
Between the training sessions, meal services, gym membership, and a $250 visit to a special weight-loss doctor for prescription pills, the bill totaled $7,800.
"I know that's not affordable for everybody. I was fortunate to be able to do that," she said. "I couldn't afford a trainer every single day [like celebrities can]. I couldn't work out like it was my job. I actually have a fulltime job."
Morrissey found that even spending top dollar on weight-loss methods, it was much harder than the stars - and the media - made it seem.
"I didn't drop the weight in a few weeks," she said. "Doing those things - the meal plan and the trainer - while they were helpful and facilitated weight loss, it wasn't this quick, instant thing. It took me over a year to do it. It showed me there may be something a little bit more going on. [Celebrities] are doing more than is what even being reported in those tabloids." To real women who feel bad that they can't fit into a bikini shortly after giving birth, Morrissey is sympathetic.
"I did feel that pressure to lose the baby weight. I can't lie about that," she said. "The whole time you're pregnant, everyone thinks that your big belly is so nice and people are understanding. And the minute you have that baby, you're not pregnant anymore, you're just fat in the eyes of everybody."
Morrissey lost between one and two pounds a week - an amount she considers healthy. Now, 13 months after giving birth to her baby girl, Morissey can just about fit into her pre-pregnancy jeans.
She's the first to admit that no matter the amount of money anyone spends, no one will ever be able to get their "pre-baby bodies back," to use the catchphrase.
"I'm a few pounds off of my goal weight but not much. I've been judging by what I fit back into and not the scale," she said. "Your hips widen and your rib cage gets bigger. Your body isn't the same even if you aren't down to the weight you were before."