Tess Daly is launching her wellbeing book

I was told I was too fat! Launching her wellbeing book, Tess Daly on body-shaming, training her husband to eat well – and why she’s not the new Gwyneth Paltrow

  • Former model Tess Daly reveals how much of her life was dictated by her looks 
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Tess Daly is making me breakfast. She’s worried about my gut. But it’s not just mine she’s worried about, it’s the stomach of every woman she meets. 

She tells me this as she pulls out Greek yoghurt, honey, bananas and pineapple from a small, neatly packed cool bag. 

‘It’s so simple,’ she says as she deftly chops, spoons and squeezes. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are added, then cinnamon and turmeric appear from her little Mary Poppins bag and she dusts them onto the mix. 

It tastes rather wonderful. ‘I forgot the pecans,’ she says, momentarily annoyed with herself. ‘Add those and they blow your mind.’ 

She watches me as I devour the contents of my gut-friendly breakfast bowl. ‘This is how I give love,’ she says. 

Former model Tess Daly reveals how much of her life was dictated by her looks. She is now launching a wellbeing book on body-shaming and eating well

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‘To my family, to my friends. Life is busy, things can overwhelm us. We all need looking after.’

It is to this end that the uber-glamorous Strictly host has written her first wellbeing book, entitled 4 Steps To A Happier, Healthier You. Divided into four sections – Eat, Breathe, Move, Sleep – it contains recipes, advice, life hacks, exercises and breathing practices, along with expert guidance from trainers and nutritionists Tess has worked with over the years. 

We are sharing some of the recipes with you this week at the back of this magazine.

At 53, Tess in the flesh remains head-turningly stunning (‘No facelifts yet,’ she chirps, moving her brow to show it remains Botox-free), and as long and lean as a Giacometti sculpture in her fitted black trousers and monochrome top. If this book really does help you to look as good 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 that Tess wants to become Britain’s answer to Gwyneth Paltrow with her Goop wellness brand? ‘God no,’ she says. 

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

I’m a Northern girl. This is as down-to-earth as you can get. 

‘For me, it’s about having five minutes a day to do something that makes you feel good,’ she explains. ‘Whether that’s standing against a wall rolling a tennis ball over your butt cheeks, breathing from your belly if you feel overwhelmed, or eating something that’s going to really nourish you. 

‘You have to keep things simple and realistic. Who wants to go through life never eating cake or chocolate? 

‘Certainly not me. It’s all about trying to keep a balance and be as well and healthy as you can.’ 

Food, health and wellness are an emotional subject for this working-class eldest daughter of factory workers from Derbyshire. ‘I cried when I was sent the first copy of this book,’ she says. 

‘I had to stop myself hugging the delivery man and bursting into tears all over him. It means so much to me because it’s for all the people in my life who mean everything.’ 

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

He contracted emphysema after years of breathing in fumes from the dyes at the wallpaper factory where he worked. The loss of her dad – and of her ‘second father’ Bruce Forsyth, who passed away in 2017 – still lives with her today. 

‘So much of what I do is because of my dad. The greatest regret I have is that he never saw his granddaughters. 

The uber-glamorous Strictly host Tess Daly has written her first wellbeing book, entitled 4 Steps To A Happier, Healthier You

Looking for your next TV fix? Click here for our on demand TV guide and programme finder on The Mail+


‘So yes, I worry about those around me staying well, I worry about me staying well. I want to be around to lift my own grandchildren up.

‘And if this can help anyone else then that makes me feel I’ve done something bigger.’ 

Tess – born Helen Elizabeth Daly – lives in a very different world today from the one she was brought up in. She has fronted one of the biggest shows on television since it was launched 19 years ago, which makes her one of the most high-profile television presenters in the country. 

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

‘I’m lucky,’ she says. ‘But I’ve worked hard for every single thing I have. 

‘Nothing was ever handed to me on a plate, and everything I’ve ever achieved is down to my mum and dad, down to my background, down to going shopping at Littlewoods with my mum and being told, “No, you can’t have those trousers because we bought you a cardigan two weeks ago and we can’t afford them.” 

‘I had three jobs at 15 because I understood you had to work for what you wanted. And the most important thing was always family. Family meals, family talks, looking after each other.’ 

Tess may be one of the biggest names on television, but every year she turns down hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of work because her priority is ‘being the one on the school run, making the dinner in the evening, being a mum. To me that will always mean more than money.’ 

Her girls have undeniably been brought up 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 eldest [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 did check that none of her outfits were thrown in. ‘It was all her stuff. I was very proud of her.’ 

Tess’s life has not been ordinary. At the age of 17 she was scouted outside McDonald’s in Manchester and asked to do some modelling. 

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 talks about discovering her love of food in Paris, New York and Tokyo, the cities where she lived and worked. 

But as a model the whole issue of food must surely have been very complicated? ‘It was,’ she says. ‘I was a skinny teen but this was the time of Kate Moss and heroin chic. I was never that skinny and that did become an issue. 

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

Looking for your next TV fix? Click here for our on demand TV guide and programme finder on The Mail+

‘I saw lots of girls with eating disorders, and I found it frightening and very sad. I’d try to look after them. I’d say, “Why can’t you eat that?”

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

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

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

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

‘That’s when I thought how ridiculous the whole weight obsession was.’ 

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

In 2004 she was asked by the BBC to co-host a brand-new ballroom contest called Strictly Come Dancing with Bruce Forsyth. Pregnant with Phoebe, she stepped out onto the shiny floor of primetime 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 primetime television show, redefining what it is to be a middle-aged woman on mainstream TV. ‘I’m very proud of that,’ Tess says. 

‘And the other important thing is that we’re great mates. We support each other because we care about each other.’ (She says she’s constantly bugging Claudia to drink more water but ‘she claims to be allergic’.)

As a former model, Tess is aware that much of her career has been defined by her appearance. ‘I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t care about looking good,’ she says. 

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

‘It’s full on, it takes a lot of energy which is where good food, good sleep, exercise a nd proper breathing has really helped. Looking good for me is more about what’s on the inside. 

‘It’s about putting the work in, looking after yourself. At my age you get the face and body you deserve.’ 

She is not, she says, in any way perfect. She eats sandwiches on the run, drinks wine, eats chocolate and her attempts to grow vegetables ended in disaster. 

‘So I stick to herbs on the windowsill.’ 

At home she’s the regular cook, with Vernon making the crowd pleasing Bologneses and Sunday roasts. 

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

‘But he lives with three women so I guess he needs to up the man testosterone.’ She pauses. 

‘Although we did finally have a breakthrough the other week when he said he’d only eat red meat once a week… possibly because he absolutely loves my turkey burgers.’ She lets out a long throaty laugh. ‘Does that sound rather rude?’ 

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