It’ s a work in progress, by her own admission, but caroline flack is feeling more comfortable with herself than ever. haters be damned
The face of Love Island opens up about overcoming body worries, the lure of a good doughnut and her surprise engagement
Playing it safe isn’t the first phrase that springs to mind when describing Caroline Flack. From her close-to-the-bone cameos on Bo’ Selecta, dressed down in an LBD beside Keith Lemon’s Michael Jackson, to entering the world of pugil sticks and skintight Lycra as a presenter on Gladiators; then there’s the fact that she said yes when her on/off boyfriend of just three months proposed marriage. But when it comes to describing the state of play right now, she chooses her words carefully. ‘I feel really content. I like the word content, it’s a safer word than happy,’ she says, as she finally sits down following an afternoon of prancing in the swimwear equivalent of undies, as per our photographer’s direction. Because happy might be, what, tempting fate? ‘Yeah. Although I don’t worry so much now – you get to your mid-thirties and you lose the worry you carried through your teens and twenties,’ Caroline adds.
Though the 38-year-old might avoid using the term, there’s more than enough for her to feel happy about. She’s spending her third summer as the face of ITV’S BAFTA award-winning Love Island (that show you say you won’t watch but get sucked into within a week), is seemingly besotted with new fiancé Andrew Brady (our shoot takes place one day after the couple return from the holiday on which Caroline shared their big news) – and, of course the icing on the cake, she’s fronting our In Shape My Shape issue after having launched the inaugural body confidence campaign two years ago.
Having undergone a body and mind transformation just before she last appeared on the cover of Women’s Health – ‘I wasn’t educated in what a healthy diet and lifestyle really looked like; then my whole outlook changed’ – Caroline has spent the interim working out how best to balance what she learnt with a propensity to indulge. It turns out, the key for her is to focus on where her head’s at. ‘I think that if my mind is in a good place, everything else is in a good place. It works the other way around, too. I always thought a “detox” was for the body, but even after a week of getting up early and training well, your mind just goes to a different place completely.’
Switching the emphasis from calorie control to mental strength works because Caroline isn’t one of those people to whom an iron will at an overladen table comes naturally. ‘Oh my god, I was at Soho Farmhouse [in Oxfordshire] the other day. Have you had their Sunday buffet? I was in pain for two days because I just couldn’t stop eating.’ Never ideal. The rest of the time, she tries to exercise a more intuitive approach – ‘I’ve learnt to eat, stop and wait, then you’re going to feel full’ – and take control of her circumstances. ‘It’s about eating the right foods but, at the same time, I’m really not very good at not giving into temptation. If something’s in front of me, I’ll usually take it. I’ve always been like that since I was a kid.’ For example? ‘A really nice doughnut.’ I assure her it would be rude not to.
It means her body might not be quite as ripped as it was two years ago, but that’s okay. ‘I did a full-on nutrition plan with no sugar for three months and I was training five times a week. It was just easier to not really go out. But I want to eat bread. So now I’m eating bread and training at the same time – I haven’t got as much definition as I had, but I’m comfortable. And I like curves.’
Speaking of training, Caroline enjoys mixing it up, alternating between weight training with Sarah Lindsay at Roar Fitness in London and reformer Pilates. But she knows what she likes – and what she doesn’t. ‘I tried spinning, but it’s so difficult. I hate being out of breath! And you can’t just walk out of that room because everybody’s going to see!’ I get the impression she views fitness as an extension of her social life. ‘Going to train with Sarah is just like going to have a drink with a mate. She’s not judgemental. If I go, “I went out last night,” she just says, “Okay, what time do you want to come in?”’
Worrying about how she looked wasn’t really part of Caroline’s consciousness until a colleague made a flippant – harmful – remark. ‘There was a moment. It was a man I worked with. I was about 27 and he comes over to me and says, “You need to start getting in shape.” And I was like, “Wow!” I was quite happy with how I looked until then.’ As she continues, it becomes clear that it was less a case of Caroline always having been happy with her appearance, more that she just didn’t really think about it too much. ‘I’ve never really been overly obsessed with the way I look. I just come from that kind of family where we didn’t focus on it, it wasn’t a big thing when I was growing up. Which I know is an amazing place to be – and I don’t think most people are in that place.’
So, what made the comment stick? ‘I linked it to my job, someone telling me to try harder. I started thinking maybe I should give more attention to what I look like.’
And although she seems genuinely chuffed with her lot, Caroline’s one of the few celebrities willing to say she’s still got a way to go when it comes to body confidence. ‘Being happy with yourself is the most important thing, but I won’t lie – I’m not going to say I stood in front of the camera
‘IF MY MIND IS IN A GOOD PLACE, EVERYTHING ELSE FOLLOWS’