Caroline Flack's fitness affair: 'Why I love my body now'

Caroline Flack is about to hit the stage in Dublin. We talk to the TV star about fitness, flaws, and living life to the full

CAROLINE Flack knows a thing or two about being in the limelight. From The X Factor to Love
Island, she’s worked our screens for over 10 years — and has had her non-presenting life splashed across tabloids for nearly the same amount of time. Now 37, she is a woman who knows what she wants — and, more importantly, what is good for her.

So what’s her secret?

“I’m confident in different ways,” she says. We talk as she gets her hair curled — her stylist crafting the tousled waves that have become her signature look.

Caroline’s no-nonsense attitude is immediately apparent — the term thick-skinned has never been more apt. “There will always be things you’re insecure about, that’s just being human, isn’t it?”

Whether it’s the recent changes to her diet and lifestyle, or simply a matter of becoming older and wiser, she appears relaxed and comfortable. “It’s good to have flaws, it’s learning to love your flaws.”

Is this something she’s conquered?

“Yeah, I think so. There’s a lot of things you can’t change about yourself so there’s no point moaning about it. I mean, I’ve got a really nonsymmetrical face but I can’t change it — well, I probably could actually!”

Her infectious, husky laugh is a reminder that she never takes herself too seriously.

The last year has seen a huge shift in her lifestyle,
resulting in the starlet being in the best shape of her life — something she attributes to her personal trainer Sarah Lindsay, as well as a largely dairy and sugar-free diet, and a healthy dose of balance.

Caroline’s new-found fitness will serve her well in her stage debut as ‘Irene’ in the musical Crazy For You, which comes to Dublin this month.

Despite dancing her way through childhood and her teens, once she left stage school and entered the world of television, exercise took a backseat. “I wasn’t looking or feeling my best,” she admits. “I knew I needed to do something.”

It took a few false starts to find her feet. “I never really enjoyed cardio,” she says.

“I kept having these trainers who were like ‘and now you’ve got to jump up and down five times’ and I’m like ‘well I don’t want to do that!’ So then I’d always quit.”

Cue Lindsay, the super-toned ex-Olympian PT who acts as much as Caroline’s friend and mentor.

“My friend introduced Sarah to me. She said, ‘I’ve met this girl who is going to change your life’ — and she did.”

Her biggest revelation was that exercise could be enjoyable — and it didn’t have to always involve cardio. “Sarah taught me how to really enjoy exercise. It was just something different about the way she trained that
I really liked. The whole process of being at the gym,
getting a coffee, having a chat and a gossip — it becomes routine.”

Caroline and Lindsay largely focus on weight training in their sessions. “Upper-body weight training is my favourite because I always used to hate my arms, that was the one part of my body that I disliked yet probably the part I exposed the most.

“I thought it was just age, it was just what was happening, and then Sarah said to me, “You hate your arms? I’m going to make them your favourite part of your body!’”

Did she succeed? “Yeah, I do like my arms now,” she says.

Alongside a dairy-free diet, Caroline’s on her way to kicking sugar completely. “Last year I gave up sugar for 12 weeks — it was such an eye opener! It gave me more energy, I didn’t feel bloated — I’d highly recommend it. I found what worked for me.

“I really believe it’s all about balance — and it’s fine to have a cheat day.”

She’s also toying with the idea of vegetarianism: “I think I need to do it slowly rather than going cold turkey. I’ve got some nice big vegetarian recipes and am trying to find things that still give me that food fix because I love food, when I eat I want it to taste good.”

And one thing’s for sure, Caroline’s love affair with fitness certainly doesn’t seem to be stalling. “Find something you enjoy,” she advises, drawing on her own experience. “Because you don’t want it to be a slog, if you enjoy it and make it part of your lifestyle then it’s easier — that’s what I’ve done. I’ve never lasted this long with anything — this has been longer than any relationship I’ve had!” she laughs.

While her health kick started with an intense 12-week programme, these days Caroline works out a little differently. Aiming for three workouts a week, she enjoys weight training, yoga, and, more recently, spinning. “Do you know why it’s good?” she says. “You can’t leave! It’s good for me to have that, for them to lock me in and say ‘Right, you’re going to have to exercise and you can’t stop!’”

She knows what she likes and what she doesn’t — “I don’t like anything that makes my boobs go up and down!” — and she’s learnt how to fit her workouts around her work and social commitments. “Now I work out to keep it, to maintain it, and keep a balance. I think it’s really important to have balance and have fun.”

Caroline doesn’t pretend to work out every day, survive on kale juice, or shun a party over the gym. Even during her transformation programme last year, she refused to let it get in the way of the Brit Awards. “I said to Sarah in the middle of it, there’s one night, it’s the Brits, and I’m going to be able to drink — I’m having a night off!”

Rather than cutting things out completely, Caroline opts for swaps. “I pick my vices wisely now. For example, if I go to a party, I’ll get a vodka lime and soda rather than wine; I’ll pick dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate; edamame pasta instead of pasta pasta. I make healthy choices — I’ve found my good swaps.”

Caroline’s sunny outlook and determined refusal to let anything get her down could have you fooled. She admits the constant scrutiny and picking-apart used to affect her. “I think when it first happens it’s quite normal for anyone to feel like that, it’s not a nice thing to experience.

“But you can’t take it to heart, it’s a tiny part of a very big world.”

But as social media grows, negativity, abuse, and trolls are only a mouse click away. Does she believe a body-shaming culture exists? “I think sometimes people say a comment and don’t realise they’re body shaming. I don’t think people are body-shamers, maybe just body-judgers. People will say throw-away comments. But then you do sort of get used to it — it comes with the territory.”

Should it, though? “Yeah, you put yourself out there,” she shrugs. There goes that thick skin again.

Indeed, with a job like Caroline’s, the pressure to look good is always going to be there. “Of course you want to look a certain way,” she says.

“I’m not going to turn up in my pyjamas and unbrushed hair There’s definitely pressure to look nice, but it’s like going to a party, you want to look your best, don’t you?”

Age and experience, says Caroline, are the key to dealing with it sensibly. “Getting older isn’t always a bad thing.”

“Do you know what I’m enjoying?” she asks towards the end of the interview. “Curves. I used to hate my boobs and now I like them. I used to want to be thin, but now I’m curvy and strong.”

  • ‘Crazy For You’, Bord Gáis Energy
    Theatre, Dublin, September 19-23

Celebrate yourself

Try Caroline’s favourite full-body workout for serious body gains

Toned arms, slender waists, firm thighs, and shapely glutes don’t simply rely on low body fat alone, you will also need to gain some lean muscle tissue which will only be achieved by following an intelligent weight training programme, explains Sarah Lindsay, Caroline’s personal trainer.

“Training should not be seen as punishment for what you ate yesterday but instead, start thinking of it as a celebration of what your body can do.

“Train like an athlete and trust me, you’ll start looking like one.”

This full-body workout is based on supersets (in pairs), which helps increase the total amount of work you can complete in a single workout.

KIT YOU’LL NEED:

- 2 x dumbbell

- Bench

- Barbell

HOW TO DO IT

Perform the allocated reps and sets for each move. Complete Pair A three times with 60-90 seconds’ rest between each exercise before moving onto Pairs B, C and D.

Aim to perform three times a week.


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