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Launching her wellbeing book, Tess Daly on body-shaming and training her husband to eat well

Former model Tess Daly reveals how much her life has been dictated by her appearance.  She is now launching a wellness book on body-shaming and eating well

Tess Daly is making me breakfast. She worries about my belly. But it’s not just mine that worries her, it’s the stomach of every woman she meets.

She tells me this as she pulls Greek yogurt, honey, bananas and pineapple out of a small, neatly wrapped cooler bag.

“It’s so simple,” she says, expertly chopping, spooning and squeezing. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are added, then cinnamon and turmeric come out of her little Mary Poppins bag and she sprinkles them over the mixture.

It tastes rather wonderful. “I forgot the pecans,” she said, momentarily bored with herself. “Add them and they will blow your mind.”

She watches me as I devour the contents of my breakfast bowl. “That’s how I give love,” she says.

Former model Tess Daly reveals how much her life has been dictated by her appearance.  She is now launching a wellness book on body-shaming and eating well

Former model Tess Daly reveals how much her life has been dictated by her appearance. She is now launching a wellness book on body-shaming and eating well

“To my family, to my friends. Life is busy, things can overwhelm us. We all need to be taken care of.

It’s to that end that the ultra-glamorous Strictly host wrote her first wellness book, titled 4 Steps To A Happier, Healthier You. Divided into four sections – Eat, Breathe, Move, Sleep – it contains recipes, tips, tricks, breathing exercises and practices, as well as expert advice from trainers and nutritionists Tess has worked with over the years.

We share some of the recipes with you this week at the end of this magazine.

At 53, Tess in the Flesh remains stunning (“Not a facelift yet,” she chirps, moving her forehead to show she’s staying Botox-free), and as tall and lean as a Giacometti sculpture in her fitted black pants and monochrome top. If this book really helps you look as beautiful as she does, Tess Daly has a runaway bestseller on her hands.

So does all this focus on the gut, turmeric and proper breathing mean Tess wants to become Britain’s answer to Gwyneth Paltrow with her wellness brand Goop? “God no,” she said.

“I think she’s a brilliant businesswoman, and what she does is great, but it’s very different. It’s relatable, simple, and it’s completely accessible.

I am a girl from the North. It’s as down-to-earth as it gets.

“For me, it’s about having five minutes a day to do something that makes you feel good,” she explains. “Whether it’s standing against a wall rolling a tennis ball over your butt, breathing through your stomach if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or eating something that will really nourish you.

“Keep it simple and realistic. Who wants to go through life without eating cake or chocolate?

‘Certainly not me. It’s about trying to keep a balance and be as good and healthy as possible.

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You must be realistic. Who wants to go through life without eating chocolate or cake? Certainly not me!

Food, health and well-being are a touching subject for this eldest working-class daughter of Derbyshire factory workers. “I cried when they sent me the first copy of this book,” she says.

“I had to stop myself from kissing the delivery man and bursting into tears over him. It means so much to me because it means everything to everyone in my life.

It stops here. Having known Tess for years, I feel that the real heart of this book comes from the death of her beloved father Vivian in 2003.

He contracted emphysema after years of inhaling fumes from dyes from the wallpaper factory where he worked. The loss of her father – and her “second father” Bruce Forsyth, who died in 2017 – still lives with her today.

“A lot of what I do is because of my dad. My biggest regret is that he never saw his granddaughters.

Ultra-glamorous Strictly host Tess Daly has written her first wellness book, titled 4 Steps To A Happier, Healthier You

Ultra-glamorous Strictly host Tess Daly has written her first wellness book, titled 4 Steps To A Happier, Healthier You

“So yeah, I worry that those around me stay okay, I worry that I stay okay.” I want to be there to raise my own grandchildren.

“And if it can help anyone else, it makes me feel like I’ve done something bigger.”

Tess – née Helen Elizabeth Daly – now lives in a very different world from the one she grew up in. She has led one of TV’s biggest shows since it launched 19 years ago, making her one of the most profiled TV presenters in the country.

Home is a stunning six-bedroom property in Buckinghamshire, where she lives with her husband of 20 years, TV presenter Vernon Kay, and their two daughters, Phoebe, 18, and Amber, 13.

“I’m lucky,” she said. “But I worked hard for everything I have.

‘Nothing has ever been handed to me, and everything I’ve ever achieved is due to my mum and dad, my past, going shopping in Littlewoods with my mum and getting say, “No, you can” I don’t have these pants because we bought you a cardigan two weeks ago and we can’t afford them.

“I had three jobs at 15 because I understood that you have to work for what you want. And the most important thing has always been family. Family meals, family talks, taking care of each other others.

Tess may be one of the biggest names in television, but every year she turns down hundreds of thousands of pounds of work because her priority is “to be the one running in school, to prepare the dinner in the evening, to be a mother”. To me, that will always mean more than money.

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Her daughters were undeniably raised in privilege. “But I stick to my values,” she says firmly.

“They get a pocket money allowance and that’s it, no more. If they want more, they have to earn it.

‘My elder [who will be off to university this year] was putting clothes together to do a car boot sale,” Tess says with a smile — and yes, she checked that none of her outfits were thrown away. “It was all his thing. I was very proud of her.’

Tess’ life has not been ordinary. When she was 17, she was spotted outside McDonald’s in Manchester and asked to do some modeling.

Within months she was on a plane to Japan with a new name (there was already a model called Helen Daly) and a new future. In the book, she recounts discovering her love of cooking in Paris, New York and Tokyo, the cities where she has lived and worked.

But as a model, surely the whole question of food must have been very complicated? “It was,” she said. “I was a skinny teenager but those were the days of Kate Moss and heroine chic. I’ve never been skinny and it became a problem.

Tess is married to fellow TV presenter Vernon Kay.  The couple have whom she shares two daughters, Phoebe, 18, and Amber, 13

Tess is married to fellow TV presenter Vernon Kay. The couple have two daughters, Phoebe, 18, and Amber, 13

“I’ve seen a lot of girls with eating disorders, and I found that scary and very sad. I would try to take care of them. I’d say, “Why can’t you eat that?”

‘But nothing has changed. It really bothered me. I’ve never been one of those girls. I had been brought up to be grateful for the food my mother cooked, to have regular meals at the table.

In Paris, where she lived for five years, she was called by her agent and told to lose weight. “I was wearing 27-inch jeans,” she says, “but I remember walking out of the office thinking, ‘OK, so I need to stop eating chocolate and cake.

“But after telling myself I became obsessed with eating them. I thought about it all the time and then I thought, “It’s not right, I’m not going to be that person.” So I stopped the diet.

“The following month, I went to see my agent. I stood there in the same jeans, no change in my body. She looked at me and said, “Actually, Tess, you need to gain weight now.”

“That’s when I thought how ridiculous the obsession with weight was.”

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Tess moved to New York, but knew then that she wanted to do more than model. She began interviewing celebrities at red carpet events and sending showreels to television production companies, and by the turn of the millennium she had snuck into Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast and then the ITV’s makeover show Home On Their Own.

In 2004, the BBC asked him to co-host a brand new ballroom competition called Strictly Come Dancing with Bruce Forsyth. Pregnant with Phoebe, she stepped out onto the shiny floor of prime-time entertainment and a star was born.

After Brucie retired from the show in 2013, she and her great friend Claudia Winkleman became the first women to co-host a prime-time TV show, redefining what it’s like to be a woman. middle age on mainstream television. “I’m very proud of it,” says Tess.

“And the other important thing is that we’re good friends. We support each other because we care about each other. (She says she constantly asks Claudia to drink more water, but “she pretends to be allergic”.)

As a former model, Tess is aware that much of her career has been defined by her looks. “I would be lying if I said I don’t care about looking good,” she says.

To look good is to take care of yourself. At my age you have the face and the body that you deserve

“But that’s just the outside. To do Strictly is to look glamorous and be able to run back and forth in heels.

“It’s full, it takes a lot of energy, which is where good food, good sleep, exercise and good breathing really helped. For me, being beautiful is more about what’s on the inside.

“It’s about putting in the work, taking care of yourself. At my age, you have the face and body you deserve.

She is, she says, by no means perfect. She eats sandwiches on the go, drinks wine, eats chocolate, and her attempts to grow vegetables have ended in disaster.

“So I stick to the herbs on the windowsill.”

At home, she is the usual cook, Vernon pleasing the crowd with bolognese and Sunday roasts.

He’s a meat man. He practically throws chops in a pot for breakfast,” she laughs.

“But he lives with three women, so I guess he needs to boost the man’s testosterone.” She pauses.

“Although we finally had a breakthrough the other week when he said he would only eat red meat once a week…maybe because he loves my turkey burgers.” She lets out a long throaty laugh. ‘Does that sound rather rude?’

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