ADVENTURES IN HONESTY
Always grown-up and self-possessed beyond her years, Rosanna Davison seems younger, and more relaxed than ever. As she prepares for the publication of her second book, ‘Eat Yourself Fit’ LIFE has exclusive extracts with tips and recipes overleaf Emily Hou
I’m sure it is pathetic to take comfort in the fact that even the naturally slim and beautiful need to work at their appearance and can have off days and bad weeks, but it is also only human. And so, when I hear Rosanna Davison — formally crowned the most beautiful woman in the world in 2003 — admit “I have to work very hard to stay slim and toned, and especially as I get older, as my body would love to be bigger than it is”, I feel a bit like cheering. At her honesty, and at the sheer normality of it all. And at the fact that she isn’t just making this stuff up to allow the rest of us to feel better, but is speaking from tricky experience.
“I put on weight very quickly after our wedding in 2014,” she says, “because I had been so disciplined all year in the run-up to the celebrations. I had focused on removing refined sugar and alcohol from my diet as much as possible, and had really wanted to look and feel my very best on the big day. But once the wedding was over, I felt that I could relax and enjoy all the foods I had banned myself from eating.
“So even in the week before our honeymoon, I remember gorging on Chinese food, bread, wedding cake and wine! Then, when we set off on honeymoon, I decided that it was a time to relax completely and really enjoy eating whatever I fancied. So that’s what I did! I ate all the high-carb food I had denied myself. I ate desserts, drank wine and enjoyed sugary cocktails every day.” The result? “I put on weight so quickly during the honeymoon that most of my clothes were too tight by the last few days of the holiday, and I had to wear baggy T-shirts and shorts. When we arrived home again, we had to go to a good friend’s engagement party, and there was only one dress in my wardrobe that would fit me, and the zip on it kept popping open all night!”
As for how that made her feel, again, Rosanna is commendably honest. “It definitely did affect my self-confidence, to the point that I avoided going to social events because none of my clothes would fit me. I felt self-conscious and low in confidence, but I also felt determined to get back to feeling healthy and fit again.”
She also manages to keep a sense of perspective, saying, “I appreciate that plenty of people go through periods of weight gain, whether from medication or childbirth or many other reasons, and my story probably sounds insignificant in comparison. But body image and body confidence are so individual, and when you’re not feeling your very best, it can affect the rest of your life. In my case, gaining a stone pretty quickly was a huge knock to my self-esteem, as I hadn’t really struggled with my weight that much up until then.”
Being blessed with plenty of grit and determination, she tackled the problem head-on. “My willpower is very strong when I have a goal in mind,” she says, “so I knew I would manage it. It took me about eight weeks of healthy eating and regular exercise to really start feeling good again.” But the lessons learned have lasted, and indeed underpin her latest book,
“My entire approach now is about achieving balance and never feeling deprived of the foods you enjoy. The book is packed with healthy meals, but there are also plenty of desserts and sweet treats, all made without refined sugar, and using healthier ingredients. I’ve experienced what happens when you deprive yourself and binge afterwards, so balance and being kind to yourself are key.”
And so, in a health-and-fitness market that, these days, is about as crowded as one of the great souks of Marrakech, Rosanna increasingly stands out. So successful has her transition from model and beauty queen to nutritionist and fitness expert been, that the arrival of her second book feels like an event.
Rosanna herself, now 32, looks almost younger than she did the first time I interviewed her, 10 years ago. And no, that’s not code for ‘has she had work done . . . ?’ Simply that, these days, she looks noticeably relaxed and carefree.
This may be partly because she always seemed so very grown-up in her 20s — self-possessed way beyond her years — but also because married life suits her, her 30s
Yourself Fit. Eat
suit her, and her new career suits her.
We’ve had Rosanna as Miss Ireland and then Miss World, we’ve had the slightly naughty Rosanna of various Bebo shoots,
Rosanna, and Rosanna the TV presenter. In all of these, she has been very much herself, with the same kind of conviction, work ethic and credibility. But the latest incarnation may be the one that suits her best.
Now, this relaxed demeanour does not, natch, translate into any kind of sloppy dressing. It is a Sunday morning, early enough, and Rosanna already has a Pilates class under her belt — she works out six days a week, a combination of cardio, Pilates and weight-training — but far from turning up in sweats, with a bare face, she is as perfectly turned out as ever; hair and make-up done, wearing a gorgeous tangerine-coloured jacket.
is a recipe book, but it’s also very much a lifestyle book. Rather than diving straight into the recipes — all of which are wheat, dairy, meat and sugar free — there are comprehensive introductory sections giving Rosanna’s personal journey to health and fitness. There is advice on how, and why, to give up refined sugar; tips for workout motivation; the case for weight training; possible reasons for food cravings (the body’s desire for magnesium, for example, often gets translated into what feels like a chocolate craving; a yen for fizzy drinks can mean you lack calcium), along with advice on attitude overhaul — how to look on workouts as desirable ‘me’ time rather than oh-god-I’ve-got-to-go-to-the-gym time, and how to enjoy living and eating healthily so that it doesn’t feel like a ‘diet’ or denial.
Throughout, Rosanna’s advice is sensible, balanced, experience-based and forgiving; as she says in the book, “It’s not about being perfect all the time. It’s about balance and progress”. She is also adamant that “this is always alongside a person’s GP, never instead of. It’s a complementary therapy. I would often write to my client’s GP saying, ‘This is what I’m doing, working alongside you’.”
“I’m not a preachy person,” she tells me
Playboy Eat Yourself Fit
now. “I think leading by positive example is a good thing. The book is just showing, ‘This is what works for me; this is what I feel best eating’.” And so, she says, “I personally try to avoid sugar, dairy and wheat, because my skin is triggered by eating too much dairy and sugar, and I have found over the years that I function better without them. But I would always say to everyone to figure out what works best for you.”
The book, she says, “is focussed on fitness foods, everything from the best foods to boost muscle tone, the best foods to boost your body’s ability to burn fat, foods for before a workout, after a workout, easy hacks to getting more nutrients into your body. I encourage people to take control. It’s about giving people the tools, the recipes, the ideas, to take control of their own health and fitness.”
This is a big thing with Rosanna, the far-sighted wish to encourage people to be their very own guru, on the basis that it is far better to lead oneself than to follow someone else. “Everyone is different,” she says. “And what works for me won’t necessarily work for other people.” She is also pragmatic. “This needs to fit it into your lifestyle. There is no point spending half your wages on superfoods when you can’t afford it, and there are so many great foods that are inexpensive. I think it’s a bit of a myth, this ‘superfoods’ thing; I would say to families, or students on a budget, buy the big bags of dried pulses, nuts and seeds; make stews, casseroles, curries in huge batches.” She also, refreshingly, recommends sourcing produce in the fruit and veg aisles of the big discount supermarkets.
So what motivates her? “I’m not trying to save the world,” she says. “It’s just about the difference you can make to someone’s life. The feedback I’d get from people after, say, six months — ‘I feel better, I’m sleeping better, my energy is better . . . ’ I get hundreds of messages, people telling me, ‘I’m eating better’; ‘I’ve managed to clear up problem skin’.
“That’s huge, to think you’ve inspired someone to make the changes or motivate them, give them that little lightbulb