My stomach is fat so I can’t treat myself to McDonald’s tonight, said my friend who is approximately size zero. Walk along a busy street in St. Petersburg and you’ll notice women oftentimes look like they’re fit for a runway. Try buying clothes at a mass retailer and discover first hand that the size you thought you were has miraculously shrunk. So how to do they stay skinny?

A healthy way of life is, of course, all the rage, and everyone will tell you about balancing calories and exercise, but it’s not quite as simple here. Staying thin is an art, a quest and an ongoing act of heroism, which is something Russian women love. If it’s not heroic, it’s not worth it…

The most basic lifestyle choice you’ll see is girls not eating “in the evening,” which can start as early as 5 pm. Everything consumed after 7 is absolutely bound for the hips.

Then comes the fun part: The more exquisite the torture the better the gain.

Kefir days. Can’t get yourself to drink sour, clumpy milk even if you got paid? Many here believe that it’s the surest way to get rid of toxins and hold a “kefir” day one a week when they consume only the beverage. The good news is that it comes in a variety of flavors to make it more palatable, but hard-core beauties would frown on that.

Single-food days. How’s filling your lunch box with cooked cabbage and cooked cabbage sound? Your other choice is steamed carrots, no salt, no oil. If you think that sounds like a soup and have a vegetable soup instead, you’re a cop-out.

Buckwheat and chicken breast. Now that sounds like an actual meal, right? Picture the hearty, whole grains (steamed with no sugar or salt) and a skinless, steamed piece of chicken without a damaging hint of anything. Eat that for a week and you don’t have a choice but to lose weight.

Banya. Because nothing gets you to lose fat cells like first softening them up in a hot sauna and then whacking them with a birch-tree whip. For many, the banya, which is usually a version of a dry or wet sauna, is an integral part of keeping in shape. When we were kids, mom would get on a scale before going to the banya and after. I’m not sure I should ask her how she did it.

‘Eclairs, blinis, sausages, pelmeni and pirogi exist in an alternate universe. You’ll have to ban them from your kitchen, your best friend’s kitchen and the office kitchen and pretend they’re not staring at you from every cafe and grocery store. You’ll have to find an alternative way to reward yourself fitting into the new jeans. Perhaps some food for the soul?