- Helen Seymour is a novelist and screenwrit­er from Dublin. She’s the author of Beautiful Noise, and a regular contributo­r to In between writing, Helen teaches Reformer Pilates. @jackrabbit­pilates ILLUSTRATI­ON BY RACHEL CORCORAN

The wonder that is back fat

Let’s talk about the pantomime villain of body fat. The only body fat that has the ability to sneak up behind you when you’re not looking, firmly attach itself, and then refuse to leave. Yes, I am talking about back fat. Those sloping rolls that spill over and slide under your bra strap. Back fat is devious. It starts small – so small, you think to yourself, “It’s the bra. My bra is too tight.” Believe me, it is never the bra. You will fool yourself into thinking it is, and you will believe this for as long as you can, until one day you stand naked in front of the mirror, with no bra to blame. You turn sideways, and there it is. Like old fashioned curtain drapes, hanging in a series of long gathers directly beneath your shoulder blades. What?! I thought it was the bra. No. No, no, no. It is never the bra.

The sneakiness is what I can’t stand. Belly, bum and thigh fat are upfront. They’re like the neighbours you don’t really like, who call around, press your doorbell and say, “Hello! We thought we’d just pop in for a while.” They take over your living room, and you have to switch off the TV; you are forced to interact.

Back fat is like dry rot. You don’t notice it for ages, and then suddenly you realise the house is riddled. And unlike the belly, bum and thigh fat bad neighbours, back fat cannot be shifted with straightfo­rward measures. With belly, bum and thigh, you go to the gym, you walk to work, ditch the carbs, give it a month or two, and you get results. Back fat is like a verruca. It takes expert attention. It takes focus, commitment. The gym will tone and shape it, but the only way to really make it disappear is the Dallas Buyers Club diet that Matthew McConaughe­y went on. Steamed fish, vegetables, a spoon of tapioca pudding in the morning (no, I don’t understand that either) and apparently as much red wine as he liked. Like I said, it’s beyond me, but Matthew definitely didn’t have any back fat in that movie. What he did have was a scrawny chicken neck and sunken facial features; the only time in his life he looked dreadful, so maybe there’s a better way? Clearly, I’m not offering solutions here. I write purely as a warning. Because there is definitely a point in your life where you don’t have back fat, and you take it for granted. You think this is the way it is. This is the time in your life where you can wear a string bikini and the string doesn’t sink into your flesh and disappear from view. So, if you’re at that point, and your only worry is belly, bum or thigh fat, I say good for you. Enjoy this time.

For my part, I have been slowly working at making my back fat disappear. No extreme Dallas Buyer measures, I assure you, just a healthy diet and regular, consistent exercise. And that’s one hundred per cent where my observatio­n has come from. As I’ve slowly watched my body shape shift over the last two years (I’m an ongoing work in progress), everything is contouring nicely, firming up, toning, disappeari­ng where it needs to, which is fantastic, but my back fat has given me clear indication­s it will be the last to leave the party. It has no plans to leave. It is (literally) hanging in there. So, like I said, if you are back fat-free, do enjoy this time. But keep an eye out. Look behind you. And remember, it is never the bra. Or, then again… I mean straps are tight, right? And a tight strap has to make flesh protrude. I mean that’s like science, right?

“Back fat is like dry rot. You don’t notice it for ages, and then suddenly

you realise the house is riddled.”

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