Celebrity Health – Denise Lewis

Image of Denise Lewis by Siôn Roe

Olympic champion Denise Lewis talks to Liz Parry about her involvement in a new healthy eating campaign

Gold medal-winning heptathlete turned TV presenter Denise Lewis is one of the most well-known faces in British athletics. The 47-year-old won many medals during her sporting career but her crowning moment was when she claimed the gold medal for the heptathlon during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Since her retirement from athletics in 2005, Denise has become a frequent commentator on high profile sporting events and has presented shows such as the BBC’s Secret Britain and Right on the Money.

Q Is exercise still a major part of your life since you retired from athletics?

Denise: Exercise is now a necessity in a different way to when I was competing. Before it was my job, but now I do it for my mind, my health and for that bit of me-time that we all crave. I enjoy walking or jogging with the dog. I also like HIIT and spinning classes – anything that gets my heart rate up. I always find time to fit it in around work commitments and the children’s diaries.

Q Do you like to follow a healthy diet?

Denise: Absolutely. As a former Olympian, I’ve always been committed to maintaining a healthy diet so I can live life to the full and stay fit enough to race around with my kids. I’ve always felt that you are what you eat. I’m a mother of four so I want my children to understand that principle. I’ve always taught my children from a young age about the importance of healthy eating. They are well versed in good, healthy food and they enjoy it. It makes my life a lot easier and I know that I’m giving them a nutritional advantage for later in life.

Q You are currently an ambassador for the Sea for Yourself campaign. Tell us a bit about this.

Denise: The idea behind the campaign is to encourage and motivate people to eat more fish and seafood and to learn more about the seafood caught in UK waters. There are a lot of positive things to be learnt about fish and how it’s caught, how it’s sourced and why we should be eating more of it. Seafood continues to be my favourite source of protein and healthy fats, and I love the variety it allows me.

Q Do you tend to eat a lot of fish and seafood on a regular basis?

Denise: Yes I do and I always have done, even as a young girl. My mum used to cook very traditional Caribbean food like akee and saltfish. We also ate a lot of mackerel and salmon. My husband is a keen fisherman so we always eat a lot of fresh fish in our house. I like to cook rainbow trout, which we will have pan-fried or steamed with a little bit of lime, salt and pepper and served with some greens or brown rice. It’s light, quick and very tasty. For breakfast we’ll sometimes have mackerel or salmon with scrambled or poached eggs and wilted spinach.

Q Do you support your diet with any particular vitamins or supplements?

Denise: I have done over the years, especially when I was training heavily. I don’t feel the need to now as much as I did because I eat well on a daily basis.

Q How do you make sure that you achieve a good work-life balance?

Denise: I’ve got a really good ability to recognise when I’m starting to get stressed, if I’ve taken on too much or things aren’t flowing as well as they should. Whenever that happens I just press the pause button. I think as women we try to pack a lot into our day, whether it’s being a good friend and listening to someone else’s problems, putting in that extra shift at work, or looking after the children and keeping the house in order. Our days can be so jam packed. Sometimes it’s ok just to say no and to press pause. Instead catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while or take some time to read a book. I find a lot of relaxation in going out walking. Taking in the environment is very therapeutic and relaxing for me.

The Sea for Yourself campaign is an initiative to inspire the UK to cook and eat more seafood caught in UK waters. The campaign is supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Non-Departmental Public Body Seafish. For more info, visit www.fishisthedish.co.uk

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