Celebrity Health - Jane McDonald

Singer and TV star Jane McDonald talks to Liz Parry about her impressive weight loss and new zest for healthy living

Image of Jane McDonald courtesy of Nicky Johnston, © Jane McDonald Ltd.

Q: You’re looking very trim and fabulous! We hear that you have completely overhauled your diet.

Jane: Thank you! Yes, that’s right – I’ve lost a stone and a half since taking part in the TV show Sugar Free Farm last year. I used to eat so much rubbish. I didn’t realise how much rubbish I used to eat. I’ve always loved a pie and I was very carbohydrate-led as I was always hungry. I ate far too much and all the wrong things. I didn’t realise that if you eat the wrong things, it doesn’t feed your body so you will want more. I like my life, and my schedule takes a lot of energy, but I was beginning to get quite tired and I was blaming it on age – I’m 53. I thought it’s just normal to have a big waist and a spare tyre because of my age. Then I was invited to take part in Sugar Free Farm and I met Angelique Panagos, the resident nutritionist. She said that I’d get a lot more energy if I just changed my diet and I looked at her with that ‘whatever’ look. But within two weeks I’d lost about 9lbs and I didn’t feel hungry. I always used to be hungry and was always snacking on something, but I don’t have any of that now. It’s because of a change in my mindset. I used to live to eat, but now I eat to live.

Q: So how has your diet changed?

Jane: I don’t eat any white carbs, like white flour or white pasta, now. And I start the day with a green smoothie every other morning. I blend up a mixture of raw greens, flax seeds, chia seeds, spinach, kale, mint and a banana. It really is lovely. If I go for about four days without it, I really feel a difference. I think it’s the raw greens that give you loads of energy. I’ve changed my whole life, though, too. I even have a tour bus now instead of staying in posh hotels while I’m on tour. I’ve got a fridge in there stocked with kale and I can plug my blender in. The only bread I eat is one that I’ve got a recipe for from Angelique. It’s got no yeast in it and it’s made with lots of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, wholemeal flour, oats and yogurt of all things! It’s literally 20 minutes and it’s made – ready to put in the oven. I don’t eat a lot of it but when I’m really craving a bit of starch I just get some out of the freezer and stick it in the toaster and it’s done.

Q: Have you discovered any new health foods that you didn’t know about or eat before?

Jane: Yes. I don’t eat any crisps now whereas I used to devour them. They were my guilty pleasure, crisps and dips. Now I buy organic nuts and seeds and I have Pulsin’ bars – they’re fabulous! It’s just changing your snacks. It’s easy to just sit and watch television and snack on crisps but now I do something else when I’m watching TV – I chop up my salads!

Q: What else have you learnt from Angelique?

Jane: I really had energy dips in the day – the 3pm dip – and she said that if you are feeding enough nutrients into your system you won’t have that dip. Since changing my diet I don’t any more dips! I can’t say I’m fully sugar–free, but I’m probably 80 per cent and I think that is quite healthy. It works for me. If I’m travelling I always take things with me like salmon and oatcakes.

Q: When you were going through the programme, were there any points you found hard?

Jane: Me and Jennifer Ellison had a big sugar crash, mainly because I think we were the biggest drinkers. It was the biggest shock – the alcohol. It’s full of sugar. Now I hardly ever drink. My body doesn’t crave it any more. My body isn’t thinking that it needs sugar. I have the odd glass of champagne or two on a special night but that’s about it.

Q: Is there anything you find yourself craving or missing?

Jane: Not now that I’ve detoxed and my body is used to not having sugar. It’s all about preparation. I spend a lot of time making sure I’ve got a big bowl of chopped up salad. It has everything in there: red, green and yellow peppers, radishes, olives, celery, cucumber – everything that I like – and I just bang it into a bowl and keep it in the fridge. Every meal I have, I always make sure half of it is vegetables or salads now. I eat quite a lot of meat, but I now have two days without it. That’s massively new for me. Although my other half has meat on those days, I have halloumi cheese instead.

Q: Would you say the experience has given you a new interest in healthy living?

Jane: Well, one of the things I always say is that life’s too short not to have a scone, and I have a scone maybe once every three months now but that’s it. You can fall off the wagon occasionally but you just have to get right back on. That’s how my mindset is now.

Q: Do you take any vitamins?

Jane: Not at the minute because I’m eating loads of fruit and vegetables and healthy foods. When I’m on tour though I will take a really good multivitamin with minerals in it and I’ll probably take some magnesium and zinc too. When I’m on tour there’s no understudy so I have to be fighting fit. I’m singing better than I have ever done now, which is a shock. In your fifties your voice tends to go a little bit but mine has got stronger. I don’t know what has happened but whatever it is I am going to keep doing it!

Q: Do you enjoy exercise?

Jane: No, I do nothing. That’s terrible, isn’t it?! If I can, I’ll walk somewhere, particularly if I’m in London. When I’m on tour I’m very active though. The singing is fantastic for the lungs and the breath and the stomach. You have to deep breathe an awful lot and my abs are fabulous because of the singing – it’s nothing to do with crunches!

Q: Are you looking forward to your upcoming UK tour?

Jane: I’m looking forward to it more than I ever have because now I’ve got loads of energy. I’ve got two dancer/singers with me, and I’m doing a bit of a Tina Turner in this one as I’m dancing as well as singing. So I suppose I am doing quite a bit of exercise! Also, because the girls are in their twenties and look gorgeous you find yourself thinking: ‘Right, I’d better up my game here’.

Q: Do you ever miss performing on cruise ships?

Jane: I don’t perform on ships any more because I’ve got such a big band that I perform with so it’s very difficult. If they could fit my band back on the ship I’d be back in a heartbeat. I turn up with a truck and a tour bus – it’s quite a big show that comes into town.

Q: Do you have any other projects coming up besides your tour?

Jane: I’ve got my own TV show now so I’m busy filming and that’s going to come out in December on Channel 5. It’s called All At Sea. If anybody enjoyed The Cruise, they will love this – that’s all I’m going to say about it...

Q: What would you say would be your best tip for readers to live healthily?

Jane: My top tip is preparation. If you go to the fridge and you don’t have some healthy food prepared then you will go and get a sandwich. Don’t buy it in. If it’s not in the drawer or in the fridge you won’t have it. Healthy eating and good preparation are key – and you can do that while you watch telly.

Q: You must feel great about the weight loss and your new healthy lifestyle.

Jane: Yes! Losing one and a half stone is unbelievable – and that’s just by cutting out cakes, biscuits, crisps and all the rubbish I used to eat. I’ve kept this up for a year and I’m so pleased.

Jane McDonald’s new show, Making Memories, is packed full of phenomenal songs and arrangements, featuring Jane’s exceptional musicians and singers. Jane will be performing at 19 venues across the UK. To book tickets and find out more information, visit www.jane-mcdonald.com

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