The name’s Pierce, Andrew Pierce… and like most people, I developed a bit of a James Bond fixation after seeing No Time To Die.
Well, on a certain part of him, anyway.
Gazing enviously at Daniel Craig’s rippling torso, I started to get a terrible case of tummy envy.
Despite being on the wrong side of 50 like myself – I turned 60 at the beginning of February – Daniel had the honed body of an athlete half his age. Whereas I… don’t.
I haven’t done too badly, though: for the past 30-odd years I have boasted the same 30 in waist, and while I knew Michelangelo would never have considered me as a life model, I thought I was in pretty good shape.
But having given up the gym over lockdown, I was beginning to feel a little paunchy. Six months ago, the pounds suddenly seemed to pile on and in no time my midriff was overhanging my waist.
Depressingly, I was also beginning to feel a telltale strain when I fastened my suit trousers in the morning.
The scales confirmed my suspicions: I was weighing in at 11st 4lb. At the start of the year, I had been 10st 12lb.
After months of wallowing in self-pity, Daniel spurred me into action, and I decided to set off in pursuit of the Holy Grail of male fitness: the six-pack, or sharply defined abdominal muscles.
It was now or never… you only live twice.
Before and after: But having given up the gym over lockdown, I was beginning to feel a little paunchy. Six months ago, the pounds suddenly seemed to pile on and in no time my midriff was overhanging my waist.
Like most people, I developed a bit of a James Bond fixation after seeing No Time To Die. Well, on a certain part of him, anyway. Gazing enviously at Daniel Craig’s rippling torso, I started to get a terrible case of tummy envy
If men’s health magazines are to be believed, every man is just a few weeks away from a ripped, lean, washboard stomach.
I surfed the internet for inspiration and found an exercise programme which promised to deliver a flat stomach within six weeks.
It involved squatting, jumping up and down and throwing myself to the floor as fast as possible in one-minute bursts. It made me feel sick — for days.
The name of the programme? Insanity… never a truer word. It was more likely to give me a hernia than a six-pack.
There had to be a different approach to battling the bulge. And then I found it lurking in my email inbox. Above an artist’s impression of a rippling torso were the words: ‘Muscle man: the lazy guy’s guide to killer abs.’ Now we were talking!
I was being tempted by a machine called EMsculpt Neo, which claims to mimic the effects of 20,000 sit-ups, or crunches, in 30 minutes.
I was intrigued. The term ‘sit-up’ to me was simply the posture I adopted to drink tea in bed.
I’ve always avoided them in the gym, because the prospect of time in the weights room with grunting, groaning, sweaty men held no appeal.
The EMSculpt Neo therapy promised I would see a change within two to three weeks. What’s more, it would do all the work for me. At a price.
Miracles rarely come cheap, and the EMsculpt is no exception: One 30-minute session costs an eye-watering £950, and at least four sessions are recommended – at EF Medispa clinics, in London’s Chelsea, Kensington and St John’s Wood – to do the job.
The only proviso is that you have to be over 18. I decided to give it a go.
So how does it work? The EMSculpt Neo emits radio frequency and high-intensity electromagnetic energies.
According to the blurb, they combine to kill off fat cells and build muscle at the same time. All in a single half-hour session.
Would it hurt? More importantly, would it work?
I booked into EF Medispa in Kensington, which has just introduced the treatment.
Here, the staff explained I could do my abdomen, buttocks, thighs, arms or calves. Slimmer clients use the procedure to build muscle rather than lose fat. They insisted that there was very little discomfort.
So I agreed to do it and, taking the clinic’s advice, had only a fluid breakfast and nothing for lunch. I lowered myself on to the treatment couch at 2pm, stripped down to my boxers.
A paddle-like device was strapped around my fat belly. Once it was secure, my technician Virginija, a 38-year-old Lithuanian who looked only 28, turned on the power
A paddle-like device was strapped around my fat belly. Once it was secure, my technician Virginija, a 38-year-old Lithuanian who looked only 28, turned on the power.
There was a low humming sound as the machine sucked in my fat like a vacuum stuck to a rug. I was warned I might feel burning, pinching, pulling or tugging.
At first, it felt more like a woodpecker was chipping away at a tree. Click, click, click, knock, knock. They were intermittent bleeps and bumps.
Then high-intensity solitary waves rolled up and down my abdomen. I felt my stomach tightening.
As the session continued, the waves became more intense, the most prolonged lasting five seconds.
The vibrations coming from the paddles alternated between rounds of buzzing (some so intense I thought they might lift me right off the table) and hard taps, which felt like someone knocking on a sheet of glass atop my stomach.
At times, I felt like a giant magnet was trying to pull my stomach muscles up out of my body, and it sucked the air out of me, momentarily.
Now I understood why I was advised not to go under the paddle on a full stomach.
As the session neared the end, the intensity increased and I felt a pounding sensation with occasional sharp, but brief, stabbing pains.
They were the muscle contractions. Every time I thought I couldn’t handle another contraction, the waves stopped. Does this sound familiar, all of you mothers out there?
The EMSculpt Neo therapy promised I would see a change within two to three weeks. What’s more, it would do all the work for me. At a price. One 30-minute session costs an eye-watering £950, and at least four sessions are recommended
Virginija explained that the waves of energy were breaking down the fat cells via a process called lipolysis.
‘The fat cells, under intense attack, give up the fight and die,’ she told me.
‘The body naturally eliminates them and you can help the process by drinking two to three litres of water each day. You will be literally flushing the cells away.’
When the paddle came off after half an hour, my usually white tummy was glowing pink.
I got off the couch feeling invigorated, like I’d just done a rigorous workout, which convinced me it must be working.
I got dressed, went back to work, and an hour later the colour of my stomach was back to normal. There is no down time.
When I got home, I studied my stomach in the mirror and couldn’t see any difference. But I could hear Virginija’s words: ‘The fat cells are still dying.’
There was only one other rule. Absolutely no alcohol for 24 hours.
‘Alcohol is a fat bomb for the stomach. It’s the equivalent of pure sugar and sits straight on the waist, which stops the fat being burnt off until the alcohol has been processed,’ Virginija told me.
After the second session, the following week, I definitely felt my suit trousers were fitting better and I felt fitter.
I was convinced that some of the flabbiness had melted away. There was less discomfort during the session, as I was used to the sensation, although I was told the intensity of the waves is increased each time.
When we exercise in the gym, we are said to work on about 35 per cent of the muscle group, on average — and more like 55 per cent for a hardcore athlete.
But it is claimed this machine exercises you at 100 per cent. The publicity blurb insists that the process also increases your muscle strength by up to 25 per cent.
After the third session, there was no doubt my tummy had shrunk a little bit and, at that point, I decided to put my muscle strength to the test.
I had experimented with planks in my gym days: this is when you raise your whole body off the floor, with only your palms and toes touching the ground, as though you’re about to do a press-up.
In the gym, I could hold the position for 60 seconds maximum. I tried planking the day after my third session and managed two minutes with ease.
I’ve lost 4lb in weight, the flab has tightened, my stomach is flatter, and there is definitely more definition. While I won’t be striding the streets like a veritable Adonis — or James Bond — when I look closely in the mirror, I think I can see two abs
So my muscles had strengthened. By the end of the four-week course, I was managing three minutes.
As I felt fitter, I embarked on more exercises at home and walked further each day. I ignored the escalators at Tube stations and would run up the stairs to get my heart rate up, which is important for fat burning.
On my last session, I got lost in the EF Medispa clinic, which has five different floors. I stumbled across a clinic helping men with erectile dysfunction problems.
I walked quickly past in case anyone came out thinking I had an appointment. There was also a sign for FemiLift, a non-surgical intimate treatment for ladies. I knew then that I really had taken a wrong turn.
There was also a place to treat cellulite and a another clinic offering a range of anti-ageing facial and décolletage treatments, all under the same roof. I decided to stick to my quest for a six-pack.
I was excited about the fourth session – and so was Virginija. The waves were unleashed at maximum strength for probably 20 of the 30 minutes.
There were the usual sharp, but only fleeting, stabbing pains and I felt again like a vacuum cleaner hose had been attached to my stomach.
When it was all over, Virginija removed the paddles, rubbed in some soothing cream, and my stomach was the pinkest it had ever been.
We both whooped. There was absolutely no doubt my tummy had contracted.
I’ve lost 4lb in weight, the flab has tightened, my stomach is flatter, and there is definitely more definition.
While I won’t be striding the streets like a veritable Adonis — or James Bond — when I look closely in the mirror, I think I can see two abs.
So not so much a six-pack but a two-pack. And it looks and feels so much better.
If money were no object, I’d go back every three months to maintain it. However, as it stands, I may have to pinch my nose and get back to the gym.