Amanda Byram, model, TV presenter, and businesswoman, had always exercised but it wasn’t until her 30s that she kicked the fad diets, writes Deirdre Reynolds
AS THE face of Ireland’s Dancing With the Stars, Amanda Byram is famed for her floor-sweeping frocks, sky-scraper heels and high-definition-defying makeup.
Working from her London home in loungewear however, the impossibly glamorous presenter joked it’s a case of “messy bun, get things done”.
“Oh my God, absolutely,” Amanda laughs down the phone, “I’m actually in athleisure wear now!
“I’m in athleisure wear every single day, and I have been I’d say for the last 15 years.
“First of all, I feel comfortable in it, and second of all, I feel if I get into it first thing in the morning and I don’t go to the gym, or don’t do something physical, at least I know I can — so it sets me up for the day.”
As her debut fitness collection Body By Byram hits shelves nationwide this month, now thousands more women are set to make like Amanda in high-waisted leggings and breathable crop tops, among 12 other key pieces available exclusively at Arnotts and Pamela Scott.
Speaking to Feelgood ahead of the launch,
the fashionista turned fitnessista didn’t try to hide her “nervousitement”.
“The first time I saw my designs being brought to life and my name on it, getting the packages from the factory, I just looked at it and went … ” she gasps for dramatic effect. “So it being in stores is going to be a whole other ball game.
“It’s all a little bit nerve-wrecking. I can’t wait because once it’s out there it’s done — and there’s not a hell of a lot else I can do apart from hoping people like it!”
Whatever about athleisure, it’s difficult to imagine the jet-setting Dubliner
“at leisure”. Since bursting onto the modelling scene back in the ’90s, Amanda has gone on to front everything from cult British game show Total Wipeout to controversial American makeover series The Swan.
Yet it was returning to her roots alongside Nicky Byrne on DWTS on RTÉ One earlier this year that proved her biggest challenge to date.
“When I came up for Dancing, I was really quite nervous because I hadn’t been back for so long,”
reveals the 44-year-old, who wed Londoner Julian Okines last year.
“Obviously the last thing I did was Ireland AM.
“I didn’t know how viewers would react —would they say, ‘Who the hell does this girl think she is going away all the time and coming back?’ “Honestly, it was the complete opposite. [People] were so warm and being home in Dublin was amazing.
“I’ve been signed up again so that’s very exciting,” continues Amanda of the upcoming second season of the hit celebrity dance-off.
“Last year, I commuted every week; this year I want to spend much more time in Dublin because it’s such a lovely, lovely place to be.
“It’s nice to be able to go away and then come back and appreciate it for what it is and appreciate Irish people.”
Having previously lived in Tinseltown, Amanda told how she, too, was still reeling from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, as well as the subsequent allegations made against photographer Terry Richardson, but has never experienced the seedier side of the industry, or its casting couch culture.
“I never really came across it,” she tells. “I mean, I know girls that did, or I’d heard of girls that did.
“It’s a horrific thing and I understand why women were finding it hard to come out about it.
“If they’re in a room with someone who is very much in a situation of power, as a young woman, what do you do? What do you say if it’s your entire career smashed into smithereens?
“I think it’s about being strong and having a strong family behind you,” reckons Amanda. “My parents were my biggest supporters and would always make sure that I would be quite mature about any decisions that I made.
“I think it’s really about not jumping into a situation where you feel uncomfortable and thinking, ‘If I don’t do this, then my career is over’, because it’s not — there’s always another
“Hopefully the outcome will be that it just doesn’t happen anymore.”
Back on home soil, by now, Amanda is probably just as well known for pumping iron as presenting. A qualified personal trainer, she has been blogging about diet and fitness for the past few years, but conceded didn’t always get it right in her early days in front of the camera.
“I’ve kind of had my journey to health and, in fact, made a lot of mistakes if I’m honest with you,” admits Amanda.
“In my late teens when I was modelling and my early 20s and even into my 30s, I was over-exercising, I wasn’t eating the proper foods, I had all these notions of yo-yo diets and crazy stuff that I put my body through.
“I spent the longest time going the faddy diets — so I would do cupping for hours and hours on end, [put] fat in my coffee and all of that stuff.
“I would drink for a whole weekend and then not drink for three weeks and then have three bottles of wine the next weekend. I would do things like a having zero fat, sunflower seeds, so I’ve kind of done all of the things, and everything wrong, so now I genuinely never say never — that’s one of my mottos.
“I kind of turned everything around in my mid-late 30s,” she says.
“That’s when I really just thought, ‘You know what? I’m approaching 40 soon, and I’m just tired.
“I’m tired of constantly battling with wanting to be fitter, stronger, leaner, skinnier, all of that stuff, and it took quite a while — it took a lot of soul-searching and studying.
“I studied my PT Level 3 personal training course just because I wanted to understand how the body worked and I’m studying nutrition as well.
“So I think it was when I educated myself about all that stuff and just stopped reading the shite that was in magazines and just all these online stories, ‘Lose 6lb in six days’, and I got it. I finally learned what it was to just have balance in my life.”
Of course, you don’t get a body like Byram by chance either. Since overhauling her health, the superfit presenter doesn’t eat meat, limits her sugar intake and has cut back on coffee and booze, as well as working out up to five times a week.
Embracing her new role as role model, Amanda — who swears by spinning and lifting weights to keep in shape — believes “there’s definitely a shift [in attitudes] in Ireland and it’s brilliant to see.
“I definitely think that the word has really sunk in that actually, yes, strong is better than skinny.
“Obviously I don’t mean skinny as in if you’re naturally skinny, that’s wonderful, but dying to be skinny — literally women dying to be thin.
“The statistics of women that think about their body on a daily basis is shocking, especially young women because we’ve got social media now which is the ruination of mental health, I think, for a lot of young women because they sit there all day comparing themselves to other people who have put a filter on their lives so it’s not even a real life, or a real body for that matter.
“So sometimes I really worry about that aspect when it comes to younger women and men, as well, but I definitely think that we’re making a huge shift in Ireland and it’s wonderful.
“And I think we’re really copping on worldwide that balance is the key and if you train well and if you’re committed to a certain amount of days a week that actually you can have that body you crave.” Off camera, Amanda has finally struck the perfect balance in her personal life too with her TV producer husband, who is six years her junior.
“We got married in April last year,” says the fashion designer, who was previously engaged to rugby player Craig McMullen before they split in 2012. “We always say we knew that we were meant to be together the minute we met, so we’ve kind of always been on an even keel when it comes to our relationship.
“I think we were both at an age where it wasn’t about all blossom and romance and gooey eyes, and all of that other stuff. Yes there was that, of course, [but] we very quickly settled into a very comfortable relationship.
“We’re definitely just into the swing of things as husband and wife — we’re a good team and we make each other laugh.
“Most importantly, we’re really supportive of each other in what we do because I’ve been in relationships before where it’s supportive, but it’s ‘you do your thing and I do mine and then we’ll come together at the end of the night, and if we agree on things, then great, if not we won’t talk about it’.
“With Julian and I, we just constantly ask each other questions and advice, and it’s really just that level of respect there. We’re each other’s best supporters and best friends, and none of that’s changed, and I don’t think it ever will.”
Although she’s previously made no secret of her desire to become a mum, wary of being misconstrued during the press tour for Body By Byram, today Amanda is taking a more philosophical approach: “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be — there’s really nothing else you can do or say apart from that.”
In the meantime, she’s hoping to muscle in on the activewear market by launching her collection in the US.
“It’s been a journey to say the very least,” concludes Amanda. “A lot of ups, a lot of downs, and I’ve learned a lot in the last two years, and especially the last six months, because obviously I’m in the business of show business, which is completely different.
“This is an actual
business and creating an empire and there have been really tough moments where I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this’.
“I think that’s why it took two years because I’m very much a perfectionist. I very much want to get things right, and if I was going to do it, there was no point in doing it shoddily.”
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