Penny's best beauty secrets

"Although I have good genes to thank for my physique, I am certain that if I didn't work so hard to maintain my figure, things would have started sagging by now. However much we might wish for quick-fix ways to get in shape, there's no getting round the reality that if you want to look good it's a question of putting down your fork and getting off your backside.

At school I towered over both boys and girls and was dreadfully skinny. I hated my 36in legs - now my major asset - and would wear three pairs of thick tights to lend them bulk.

My mother told me to be proud of my stature and walk tall, but it was only when I was approached by a modelling agency in my early 20s that I began to feel confident about the way I looked.

I hail from a sporty family and I'm very grateful for that because exercise - even more than diet - is the key to a youthful appearance.

My father has always been into weight training and my brother Oliver, now 30, works as a fitness instructor. In my teens I would accompany my mother to the gym and I swam for Essex. From the age of six I had tap, ballet and modern dance classes with a view to turning professional.

Unfortunately, by the age of 16, it was obvious my height was going to be a problem, so I stopped dancing and took up aerobics. I enjoyed it so much I considered it as a career. At 22, I took the YMCA Teachers Training Exercise to Music qualification. Looking to the future, I'd like to open a fitness centre with my brother.

Luckily, exercise for me has always been more pleasure than chore. It releases natural endorphins to lift your spirits and can help you lose weight or tone up. If I go without exercising for a couple of days I literally feel the blues descending. Even though Rod and I are constantly travelling, we always try to exercise.

I aim to stave old age off for as long as possible by keeping fit and Rod feels the same way. We don't need a gym - we are happy running or doing circuit training in the local park, and using a bench for step-ups.

I know many would consider me to have a perfect model figure, but at 6ft 1in and 10 stone, I'm considered too 'big' for the catwalk.

I've always been of the opinion, though, that you should work with what nature gave you. I'd rather be toned and athletic-looking and make a career from modelling lingerie, hosiery and sportswear than starve myself just to be able to do shows.

Of course, there are still some things I'd like to change about myself - for example, I have ugly feet. My toes are all bunched up from years of ballet, but I've learnt to accept them and now bare them in strappy heels.

For the most part, I feel comfortable with myself, which I think is in no small part due to being in a loving and supportive relationship. Rod finds me sexy and that makes me feel great. What other people think about me is really not important.

I would never change myself physically for a man, although I have been known to change from trousers to a skirt for Rod because he likes my legs. I haven't really thought about plastic surgery because I'm still only 32, but it is at odds with my attitude to healthy living.

You should never say never, but it should only ever be a last resort - that is, when you've exhausted every natural avenue of self-improvement. The problem is where you draw the line once you start having nips and tucks. Eating healthily is a good way to combat bad habits which might age you. If Rod and I have had a blow-out meal, we'll make sure we're good the next day. We try to have three light meals a day.

It might be fruit and cereal for breakfast, then a salad for lunch with nuts, seeds and flax oil as a dressing. I don't eat much red meat, so dinner will be chicken or fish with fresh vegetables.

One great tip to slim down quickly is, for four or five days before a big event, to cut out alcohol, salt and refined foods such as sugar and white flour, as well as carbohydrates. I never crash diet, but that will help reduce bloating. I drink at least three litres of water a day, and moisturise and exfoliate regularly.

Sometimes I get Rod to scrub my back with a loofah to help detox. My secret for smooth, shiny legs is mixing Nivea with almond oil and some Revlon tanning cream. It creates a fantastic glow. Whatever I may do cosmetically, however, I know that the secret to looking good starts on the inside - and that means getting your muscles and heart going through exercise.

My video works every muscle group and most of it is low-impact aerobics - the best way to lose weight and suitable for all fitness levels.

The best way to get results is to exercise three or four times a week for 30 to 40 minutes. But if you want to look slim for the new year, don't wait until the Christmas bingeing is done. Think damage limitation - then you can eat and drink yourself silly without worrying.

No comments: