Tess Daly on why 'diet' is a four letter word

·5-min read
Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing Launch at BBC Broadcasting House in London. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Tess says she never counts calories. (PA)

Ms Saturday Night, Strictly's Tess Daly, has maintained her glowing looks and svelte figure since she was scouted as a model at just 17.

But the much-loved presenter, now 52, has revealed that the secret to her slim frame is not dieting. Sure, there's genetic luck involved - at 5ft 7in and naturally slim, she has a head start on most - but in an exclusive interview with Metro, she explained that calorie-counting is just not her thing.

"Everything in moderation," said Daly. "I cannot picture a life without 'naughty' snacks and cake, but I enjoy cooking healthy, whole foods at home for my family.

"My mum never dieted, and that word was never mentioned in our house. I grew up in a traditional northern household where dinner was meat, potatoes and vegetables," she explained.

"I didn’t realise there were calories in food until I left home at 19, and I have been on a taste journey cooking for myself ever since.

"I do not calorie count. I refuse. And I wouldn’t dream of mentioning calories to my young daughters."

Read more: Tess Daly and Vernon Kay look so young in this romantic wedding day throwback

Claudia Winkleman (left) and Tess Daly with the award for best talent show in the Press Room at the National Television Awards 2020 held at the O2 Arena, London. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
Tess Daly and co-presenter Claudia Winkleman. (EMPICS)

Her daughters, with fellow presenter Vernon Kay, are Phoebe, 17, and Amber,12, and Daly is aware of the pressure on young women to look a certain way.

"We had a letter from the headmistress the other day," Daly said.

"She said that, in her 30 years of schooling she had never experienced the pressure that young girls are under today. And she’s right. We just had school-friends judging us — now it’s the whole world.

"It’s so important as parents that we lay good foundations [for health and nutrition] early on."

Watch: 5 Things you didn't know about Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman

Daly says she enjoys food, and was alarmed by the way models ate in the early days of her career, when she was sent on assignments all over the world.

"When I worked in the fashion industry and saw people who were not eating sensibly, it was really disturbing to me that food could become such an issue, when in fact, it’s such a pleasure to enjoy," she said, adding that although she was super-cool and 'danced in Duran Duran videos', "My kids are thoroughly unimpressed.

"I’m like, 'Excuse me. These guys were the One Direction of my day. I had their posters on my bedroom wall and look, I’m dancing with them.'

"They’re like, 'What’s for dinner?'"

Read more: Vernon Kay planned surprise wedding vow renewal for wife Tess Daly

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Vernon Kay and Tess Daly attend the BAFTA Film Gala at the The Savoy Hotel, ahead of the EE British Academy Film Awards this Sunday, on February 08, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Vernon Kay and Tess Daly (WireImage)

Daly has been married to Kay since 2003, a lifetime in showbiz terms. She admits that while she does 'most of the cooking' at home, he's capable of whipping up a ‘mean’ bolognese.

"The other night he whipped up sea bass and mustard mash," she said. "I make everything from fajitas to chicken pie, but it’s mainly chicken or fish as I don’t eat red meat. I also do naughty stuff like rhubarb crumble — definitely one of your five-a-day, right?"

She also told Stylist magazine, "On the plus side, I’ve got a fast metabolism, so I can eat as much chocolate as I like and… I was going to say I get away with it, but frankly that’s a lie. I’m breathing in most of the time in those tight dresses on Strictly."

As for exercise, Daly has said: "I like to get up a bit earlier than everyone else so I can have ten minutes of quiet time before the day begins. I start with a cup of tea and if it’s early enough I might do a 10-minute Yoga with Adriene session. I find it hard to motivate myself at home so I also have a brilliant PT who keeps me on the straight and narrow.

LONDON - MAY 4:  Tess Daly attends a  photocall launching
Daly is a fan of workous and yoga at home. (Getty Images)

"I genuinely don’t feel any different to when I was in my thirties. And that’s because I make a point of looking after my physical health. After all, it’s an investment in mine and my family’s future.

"To me, wellbeing means looking after your physical and mental health so you can function to your maximum capacity, be happy in yourself and strong enough to fulfil your life demands and be able to look after those closest to you," she said.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Tess Daly attends the red carpet launch for 'Strictly Come Dancing 2018' at Old Broadcasting House on August 27, 2018 in London, England.  (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Tess Daly wears a selection of 'tight dresses' on Strictly. (WireImage)

The star added that she struggled when Kay was away filming I'm A Celebrity, thinking, "Okay, Vern, I really do need you around the house'... We’re soulmates, me and Vernon. It’s been a ride. And I love him more than ever."

When it comes to her own role models, Daly admitted that she's more interested in kindness than looks.

"I look up to women who set a good example through their work or kindness and make a little bit of difference in the world and make other women think, ‘I can do that!’

"I’ve met Oprah Winfrey. She’s got powerful from being really smart, working really hard and being lovely to everyone she meets. I like women who are kind and clever and set a good example."