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'Women don't know how to eat without a diet' says personal trainer Chloe Madeley

It might be hard to believe considering her super-toned, athletic build, but Chloe Madeley says she used to eat five chocolate bars a day.

‘My first memory of nutrition was when I was about ten years old,’ she says. ‘After seeing me eat my fifth chocolate bar, my Dad asked: “Chloe, how many of those do you eat a day?” When I told him about five, he was mortified and that’s really the first health message I can recall.’

These days Chloe has a carefully crafted body and we’re used to seeing her toned abs and pert behind on social media channels.

And rightly so when she works so hard on it. So how did she go from a chocolate-chomping teenager who would pretend to be on her period to miss PE, to the owner of a killer body and a fitness empire that includes three books, two apps and informative podcast, The Bodcast?

The daughter of Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, Chloe grew up in Manchester with her three older brothers. ‘I had a very normal upbringing that was punctured with these very bizarre moments,’ she explains.

‘Like George Michael coming over for Sunday lunch, or Emma Bunton coming over to say hello at the airport. In Manchester, I think my parents struggled a bit financially with four kids. There was lots of beans on toast and frozen beef stew and dumplings for dinner. There was no budget to think about eating healthy back then. I also don’t think it was of the time. Who was health conscious with their kids back in the 1980/90s?’

Chloe and her family moved to London when she was nine and this is when she recalls things being different.

‘Suddenly they weren’t worried at the check-out anymore and I could ask for two big presents at Christmas instead of one. This gave me a nice reality check and a barometer of how lucky we ended up being.’

At 24, she agreed to do Dancing On Ice and that was the start of her fitness journey. ‘I started to suffer from bad anxiety,’ she says. ‘I’d gone through some stuff in the public eye and I became acutely aware that if I made a mistake it would be very bad PR for my Mum and Dad. Not that they ever made me feel like that, but when you’re on the front cover of a newspaper and the pun is your parents name and how much of a mess you are…. I went to see a cognitive behavioural therapist and they suggested exercise and going for a run. I hate running, and still do, but it really helped with my anxiety.’

At the time, Chloe was dating former Coronation Street actor Danny Young who took her to the gym.

‘He was a qualified personal trainer and experienced body builder. He took me straight to the weights section, put an Olympic bar on my back and taught me how to do a squat. I was hooked. I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life so off I went to do my PT course.’

Now 34, and a qualified Active IQ Level 2 Gym Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer with a Principles of Nutrition certificate, Chloe says weight-lifting helped her control her mental health. ‘It makes me feel present. It anchors me. I’m always
really cautious about saying health and fitness cured my anxiety, but it greatly alleviated my symptoms. It gave me structure, discipline, passion and drive. It makes me feel strong.’

These days if it’s not lean, green and protein-packed we can’t imagine it passing Chloe’s lips. When we chat, she’s creating a home-made pea and ham soup, but just like us, she’s one pinch of salt away from turning a great dish into something unpalatable.

‘I’m just so disappointed,’ she groans. ‘I say it in all my books: add salt at the end, because once you’ve added it you can’t take it away. This is a really sad cooking moment.’

When she started training, Chloe began to see what was possible with
a diet overhaul and so went to extremes. In January this year she admitted that maintaining her ripped figure was hard work and a lot of pressure, so she decided to relax things a bit. During lockdown she enjoyed long walks with husband and former rugby player James Haskell and their dog – and lots of wine.

Now Chloe is all about balance. Something she says the wellbeing industry could greatly benefit from. ‘I first heard about the concept of wellbeing when I had a book meeting with my publishers,’ she says. ‘They said to me that women wanted more “lifestyle/wellbeing/holistic” approaches to fitness while men wanted workouts and diet plans.

Chloe’s favourites…

Exercise

‘I like an overhead squat. It’s very difficult to do, but when you pull it off it tends to mean you’re pretty strong and stable.’

Healthy dinner

‘Pea and ham soup. It’s my new recipe and it’s perfect for this time of year.’

Naughty treat

‘Chocolate. I don’t have an off-button. I won’t stop. I don’t feel sick, I just keep going and going.’

Wellbeing booster

‘Sleep. There’s not one area of your life that won’t be improved if you don’t get a better quality of sleep.’

Skincare product

‘I like the Clearasil Exfoliating Scrub because I train a lot and have really greasy, oily skin with big pores and it gets in there and does the job. I haven’ had a break-out since I started using it.’

‘I disagreed and that’s when I realised men and women were being put into two different boxes. I’ve made it a staunch and obnoxious point to lead the charge for women who like training ever since.

‘There’s a lot of women, including myself, who greatly benefit from having some structure and discipline and those aren’t dirty words. I think the attitude of, “I’m going to work hard and achieve a result,” whether that’s muscle mass or fat loss, is still very unpalatable to the female market. And that’s quite sexist.’

So, what is wellbeing? ‘It depends on who you ask. If you ask the self-love community, they would say it means self-acceptance, that we don’t have to achieve a goal or look a certain way, taking care of your mental wellbeing and understanding your importance in society. I totally understand why the pendulum has swung that way.

‘The diet culture is awful and most of my female clients don’t know how to eat without being on a diet. And that’s the other side of the pendulum.

‘To them, wellbeing is dieting yourself into a smaller body and that’s equally awful. We live in a world of extremes now, but the answer actually lies in the middle: being mindful about nutrition and expenditure and what things like muscle mass does for your longevity of life and all-cause mortality.

‘But still going out and having enjoyment of life. It’s about punctuating your structure and routine with bouts of chaos and unexpectedness.’

Maybe if we took a leaf out of Chloe’s book and implemented healthier routines in the week, we wouldn’t feel so guilty about indulging at the weekends.

Chloe is an ambassador for sports nutrition brand Grenade

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