Photo: @karenhauer

    How to beat the Christmas bulge: tips from Strictly and Dancing on Ice

    4 January 2021

    “I’ve got a 20 kilo weight bag that I can now lift above my head with one hand,” says Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell. The former Olympic skier is telling me how he’s training for Dancing on Ice, which will air just a few weeks into the New Year.

    It all sounds very athletic, but desperate times call for desperate measures. After eating in lieu of a social life during innumerous months in lockdown, Christmas could be my downfall. Walking has turned to waddling, and I fear I may be just one more multi-pack of mince pies away from needing a mobility scooter.

    “I think my first number is to the theme tune of Ski Sunday and I hear they might be looking for a figure-hugging catsuit.” Oh my God! I declare, horrified for him. But this is why I’ve turned to Graham. Anyone prepared to flash their flesh on prime time TV, in barely more than a spider’s web of sequins, must know how to shed the festive flab.

    First of all, what are we dealing with? Sounding excited, Graham reveals that Christmas Day involves a meat coma induced by pigs-in-blankets, with whisky liqueur chocolates to revive him. “There’s nothing you can’t burn off the next day, if you work hard enough.” OK, so how are we going about this?

    “Running is the best way of shedding body fat, so I’ll ditch the biking and swimming I’d normally do, for more running,” says Graham, who also plans to increase his strength training. “That makes your body munch through calories, so I’ll be doing sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, handstands and weights. I’ll be 55 when Dancing on Ice starts, and weights are especially important at my age.”

    Fresh from the final of Strictly Come Dancing, Karen Hauer seems like a strong contender to help me undo the effects of eating for fifteen. In nine years of Strictly, the pro-dancer’s belly has never once wobbled. It’s like she wakes up wearing control pants, only it’s her skin. Is she ever naughty? “I eat pretty much everything I’m not supposed to over the Christmas season,” claims Karen.

    With mac ’n’ cheese and sticky toffee pudding on Karen’s Christmas menu, how does she ensure she’s ab-tastic in time for filming? “I eat clean and limit my intake, so for example I’ll have chicken with vegetables in a correct portion size,” says Karen, who probably isn’t referring to KFC.

    When it comes to exercise, Karen mixes up running, yoga, pilates, boxing and HIIT. “Then I’ll probably dance for a couple of hours,” says the Strictly star. I suspect this involves more than swaying about to Wham! with a Bacardi and Coke, but I’m careful not to clarify.

    Talk show host and national treasure Trisha Goddard competed in the last series of Dancing on Ice, slipping into a skinsuit after Christmas 2019. “I didn’t give a damn about leotards – until I had to put one on. Then I was like, oh crap!”

    Luckily Trisha was already in the habit of running, power walking and using resistance bands. She also has a lifetime of secrets up her sleeve. “I have all the treats, but there are ways of cutting down the calories,” says the 63 year old, who throws away the tops of mince pies, and decants olive oil into a spray bottle. “It’s still covers everything and cooks it exactly the same, but you use a lot less,” says Trisha, pointing me in the direction of Lakeland.

    Both Trisha and Laura Hamilton swear by skipping. Best known for presenting A Place in the Sun Laura made it to the final of Dancing on Ice in 2011, after a heavily cakey Christmas. “I love brandy butter melting over Christmas pudding – and every year my mum makes an amazing Christmas cake!”

    OK Laura, what’s this about skipping? “Boxers do it! It’s great for toning your arms and legs, and it’s a great all over body exercise,” says Laura, who favours club beats for skipping in the garden. “I think, what’s a music track – three minutes? Then I set myself a mission to start off with one track a day and try to build up.”

    When it comes to diet, Laura turns to keto. “When I was asked to do the show, I was so shocked, I didn’t think what the hell I’d have to squeeze into, but now, if I wanted to lose weight quickly, I’d go on a hardcore ketogenic diet, cutting out sugar and carbs.”

    OK what do I eat? “Lots of broccoli and spinach. Instead of sweets, have a small handful of nuts – the energy is slow release so it will last, instead of having a sugar high then crashing.”

    Former NFL pro Jason Bell, who competed on the most recent series of Strictly, tells me: “No matter what shape you’re in, when you’re going to be dancing in front of millions of people, you start to focus on what you might look like in those outfits!”

    Jason is fully committed to Christmas dinner. “I have seconds about 20 times. I am not holding back on that day. I have zero shame!” Excellent! How do we work this off?

    “My secret is being diverse in my workouts. I learned from my playing career, if you do one thing over and over you’ll get good and you’ll see results, but then they will stop. So I change up my workouts. I’ll do yoga, calisthenics, the Peloton bike and I’ll change up how I do them, to trick my body into thinking it’s doing something new.”


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    Jason is also a fan of a gentle stroll. “People make the mistake of trying to work out hard, like, “oh, I’ve got to work this off!” when your body isn’t ready for that. The next day, I’ll just go on a walk. I’ve had back surgery, so the way I work out now is very moderate,” says Jason, who’s an occasional fan of intermittent fasting. “I’ve tried it and I like it, so I might do that for a week or two, then go into my normal eating cycle.”

    Capital Radio presenter Sonny Jay has also joined the Peloton posse. A contender on Dancing on Ice 2021, he’ll have about two weeks to burn off the Yuletide treats. “I’m cycling at home, doing the live, interactive classes. You’re up against everyone else, and the instructor’s telling me to keep going. I’ve been going crazy on it, trying to burn calories!”

    OK but tell me you’re going to enjoy yourself over Christmas? “I’m absolutely going to indulge on Christmas Day. After everything that’s happened this year, we deserve to indulge on Christmas Day, don’t we?” Yes, Sonny, yes we do.

    Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here