WE TOAST THE QUEEN OF SATURDAY NIGHT TVAND DISCOVER HOW SHE STAYS FIT HEALTHY AND FABULOUS
You can only watch with admiration as Tess Dalyposes up a storm for our shoot. It’s nother sparkling eyes, dazzlingsmile and glowing skin thatare alluring. Or the way shemoves so gracefully and naturally for ourphotographer (something that should comeas no surprise considering she’s spent thelast 32 years professionally working thecamera after being model scouted at theage of 17). It’s her energy – boundless,enthusiastic and infectious – that’s socaptivating to be around.
As we break for lunch and Tess joins theteam around the dining table to eat – soonpassing on her tips to make the perfecthomemade chicken burger (she’s a‘total foodie’, but more of that later) it’sconfirmed that she’s funny, frank andsuper-friendly. And, as we’re about todiscover as we head to the sofa to startour interview, she’s also just a little bitformidable. Taking a sneaky peek at ourquestions, the Strictly Come Dancingpresenter let’s out a hearty laugh and sighs.When we ask if she’s okay, she simplyreplies, ‘It just amuses me that your firstquestion is about age.’It’s true, our first question reads: ‘What’syour secret to looking so amazing at 49?’There’s a second’s awkward silence, andwe panic. Because indeed some of thequestions we’re planning to ask Tess relateto her age and how it impacts her changingphilosophy on fitness, nutrition, wellbeingand beauty because she does look reallyamazing – at least 10 years younger in theflesh – and we want to know how! Butbefore we can start furiously backtracking,Tess launches into an explanation.
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‘I read an interview with the actressJessica Chastain, where she said thatshe believes the age question should bebanned now when talking to women inmedia and entertainment, because it’sjust another label that’s used to judge us,whereas men are not judged by it at all,’she says. ‘Why are we labelled [by ourage]? We shouldn’t be. As soon as you hit40, you have to defend your right to be that“great age”, and still working in the media.‘But why should I defend my great age?I feel fantastic. I have the luxury of beingalive and healthy, and I’m very grateful forthat. You only notice [the age question]when you keep being asked about it. Itjust seems sexist and limiting. Not thatI’m accusing you of that,’ she addsreassuringly. ‘But I hope it changes forour daughters.’
FAMILY COMES FIRST
Tess’s daughters (Phoebe, 13, and Amber,8), it’s fair to assume from the rest of theinterview, are her inspiration and motivationin everything she does. From answeringhow she likes to relax after a long, stressfulday at work – ‘I cuddle my children’ – andwhether she enjoys red-carpet events –‘I have to attend them for work but, bychoice, I’d rather be chilling with my family’– to revealing how she feels aboutdiscovering a new wrinkle – ‘I don’t obsessbecause what’s the point? I’ve got twochildren to worry about who need me to befully present for them’ – it’s clear her girlsare at the heart of every choice she makes– including taking up regular exercise.As a self-confessed latecomer to thefitness party, Tess hired a personal trainerfor the first time just three years ago; notto look better, she says (she attributes herslim figure after both births to her fastmetabolism, running around after hergirls, and breast-feeding – ‘you can literallyfeel your uterus contracting… it’s likenatural liposuction)’ – but to live a longer,healthier life.
FIT FOR WORK
‘All my adult life, I’ve worked in media thatdemand you maintain your shape. Forexample, when you’re in the fashionindustry, if you don’t fit the sample sizes,you’re not going to get booked for jobs.So I’ve always looked after myself to adegree,’ she explains. ‘But becoming aparent made me realise I wanted to bearound for as long as possible for mychildren. To be fit and healthy so I can meetmy grandchildren. I’ve been very fortunatethat I’ve enjoyed good health thus far, andI want to maintain that. So, once the girlsgot more independent and I started doingless lifting of babies, I started thinkingabout getting fit.’Being the kind of person who could‘easily find 10 things that seem higher inpriority than going to the gym’, Tess admitsher resolution could quickly fall by thewayside if she didn’t pay for her twice-weekly training sessions in advance.
‘If mytrainer, Sam, is waiting for me in an agreedtime and place tapping his watch becauseI’m three minutes late, I feel guilty if I’m notthere ready and keen.’So did she not go into the training withany kind of body goals, then? ‘Well, I didwant to tone up my arms. Mine havealways been lean, but I’ve never hadany muscle tone with it because I neverexercised,’ she confesses. ‘I wanteddefinition to look good in the summer, andfor wearing dresses on Saturday nights. Doyou remember Linda Hamilton in Terminator2? That scene where she’s doing pull-upsShe was my early arm idol – althoughobviously, I haven’t gone that far!’Toned limbs aside, Tess credits her PTwith completely re-strengthening her body(in particular, her lower back and pelvis)through lots of dedicated core work. ‘I’vegot a long body, and after having children,and lifting and carrying them on my hipseverywhere, it finally took its toll,’ she says‘But I don’t feel weak anymore, whichI love! Although I don’t love all the dreadedbloody lunges and split squats!’
When we remark that all that core work canalso have a great effect on posture, Tessenthusiastically agrees. ‘Yes! So true! It’sreally improved the way I hold myself.Being tall,’ she explains, ‘you have a sortof forgiving posture where you dip yourshoulders a bit… you lean towardswhoever you’re talking to. And that’s myjob, talking to people and leaning in toconnect with them. So I was alwaysstooping with my shoulders forward. Butmy trainer’s taught me how to realign mybody, which by the way, also automaticallytakes 5lbs off your figure!’While Tess knows that working up asweat sometimes is vital to maintaininggood health, she admits yoga is her truefitness passion, because she doesn’tactually have to break a sweat while doingit. ‘I know I shouldn’t say that in thismagazine,’ she says in hushed tones, ‘butI really enjoy the stretching elements. It’sgreat for the mind, your skin, muscle tone,and for massaging your internal organs…but most importantly, I love it because itputs me in the moment. Anything thatstops me whirring off into my endless listof things to do is beneficial.’Does she practise every day? ‘Only in adream world. I struggle to find the time,’says Tess.
‘I do it a few times a week withmy eldest daughter, either with a candleat night, or in the morning with the suncoming into the room. Yoga works for me.’Ask Tess if she’s ever tried meditation,and you get a decidedly different response.‘I have! I’ve tried! I’m desperate to be ableto mediate, to do it well and make it a partof my day, but I can only concentrate forabout three minutes. I’m a doer andconstantly on the go,’ she continues.‘People seem to think I’m only busy whenStrictly is on, but trust me, I’m busy!Whether it’s doing the school run, takingthe girls to play dates or netball and hockeymatches, walking the dogs, looking afterour ponies, running into town… and thenthere’s all the charity work, voiceovers andphotoshoots. The only time I sit down iswhen I’m driving, because we live in theShires and you have to drive everywhere.Even now, it’s hard for me to sit still andtalk to you. That’s not being rude, but Ialways want to get up and move around.
Bring up the subject of food with Tess,however, and you suddenly discover thething that truly grounds her in life. Whenshe says she’s always had a very healthyrelationship with food, you believe her. Herattitude, she thinks, is very much downher Northern, working-class upbringing,where every dinner consisted of meat andthree veg, a side plate of buttered whitebread and ‘gravy with everything’, plusa pudding and custard for afters.‘I grew up thinking that food was thereto be enjoyed, not just to fuel our bodies,’ says Tess. ‘And I’m always on a journey ofdiscovery with food, whether that’s throughtravelling, eating out at restaurants, orbuying a new cookery book. Nothingmakes me happier than a strong cheeseplate at the end of a meal.’Although Tess always stays mindful tomake healthy food choices, preferring tocook with wholefoods, chicken, fish andplenty of vegetables free from additiveswhenever she can, she admits it would be‘schizophrenic of me to say I won’t havea bar of chocolate if I feel like it’. She tellsus she’s gone sugar-free for the pasttwo weeks, but keep her talking andyou soon find out her definition of ‘sugar-free’ means staying off the Haribo andKitKats. ‘It’s all about enjoying things inmoderation,’ she says later. ‘I’m not intorestricting myself too much when it comesto food because I find it doesn’t work ifI cut out a food group – I’ll just crave it.’The secret to eating allthings in moderation,explains Tess, is portioncontrol. She generallyeats little and often,and she’ll never eatuntil she’s stuffed.Another reason sheavoids overeating is toprevent inflammation in herbody. ‘If you overload yourdigestive system, your cellsbecome inflamed, which canaffect your immune system andlead to cancer, if coupled withstress. For that reason alone, itmakes sense toeat healthily.
’When we remark she seemsvery well educated on holistichealth, and ask if she’sinterested in alternativetherapies, Tess replies,‘I dip into it. I’m into anAyurvedic approach tomedicine. I’m a big fanof Deepak Chopra andI’ve been reading up onhis work as I’mmeeting him soon.’She’s also anambassador forVitabiotics Wellwomansupplements. ‘It’s beengreat to work withWellwoman because,for me, they’re the beston the market. When Iwas pregnant, I did a lot ofresearch into what were thebest supplements I could taketo give the baby everythingit needed and VitabioticsPregnacare supplements cameout on top, so I took themthroughout both pregnancies.healthy, and the kids, so far so good,healthy too. So I stuck with Vitabioticstake Wellwoman supplements everysomething works, you stick by it.’does her holistic approach translatethe beauty products she uses?
‘I’m a beauty junkie,’ admits Tess. ‘I’m notloyal to any brand because I’m alwaysfinding something new that gives me thedesired effects until a make-up artist orhairdresser introduces me to somethingelse. I choose products for theirperformance, rather than their contents.But if something’s organic, it’s a bonus.’Tess adds that she’s extremely low-maintainance off duty, spending just fiveminutes on her face in the morning tocleanse, apply a tinted moisturiser, creamblush and lip balm, and curl her eye lashes.When she says she likes ‘quick solutions’to her beauty regime, it seems the righttime to ask if she would ever considercosmetic surgery in the future.‘Well, despite being in a business thattends to obsess over looks, I try not toas I think it’s really unhealthy. Like everyoneelse, I have good days and bad days, butI tend not to beat myself up about that.I’m all about the big picture. I mean, I’vegot wrinkles and it’s inevitable they’ll getworse, but I’m not ready to go down thatline. You can see in the flesh I haven’t hadany work done because there are wrinkles!But you know what? I embrace it. I’mhappy. Life’s a journey, right?’Never a truer word spoken, Tess.