Under the microscope: Gerard's Green Tea Abdomen Treatment
£50 in spas nationwide (tel: 020 8202 2020 www.gerards.co.uk)
In theory: Using a combination of deep massage and a green tea and seaweed mask, this treatment promises to treat your stomach from both the inside and out. Because of the massage element, Gerard's bills this as a "non-invasive colonic", that will stimulate a sluggish digestion system for a flatter tum, while the green tea and essential oils improve skin tone, stretch marks and cellulite.
In practice: Expecting a fairly wishy-washy 45 minutes of someone rubbing a bit of cream into my stomach, the firmness of the massage was rather alarming (you are advised to, er, relieve yourself beforehand) and a little bit uncomfortable, although Nadia, my therapist, assured me this was normal and after a while I relaxed into the sensation.
Observations: With days to go before ~a post-Christmas holiday in Brazil, this was a last-ditch attempt at reclaiming some swimwear dignity. Slipping back into my pencil skirt I had definitely lost an inch or two from my waist (not bad in an hour), though this was no doubt due to the short-term alleviation of water retention. The next morning, my stomach was flatter and maybe just a tiny bit firmer.
Analysis: Nadia was refreshingly honest in telling me "not to expect miracles from a single treatment" (slightly depressing when your beautician tells you the scale of change needed) and it's true that you are kidding yourself if you think you are going to get a firm stomach through treatments alone. But the internal benefits separate this treatment from cosmetic fixes and if you can commit to a regular course you will see and feel tangible improvements.
Prescription: If you have a holiday or a hot date, this is an instant, if short-lived, confidence boost with instant inch-loss. Better, though, to combine a course with a decent exercise routine to maximise your efforts and motivate you.
Further experiments: Rodial's Tummy Tuck cream is said to be a favourite of A-listers (£98, www.rodial.co.uk).