TV presenter, PT, healthy-living devotee and fitness wear entrepreneur Amanda Byram talks about discovering 'healthy fitness' in her forties, Instagram anxiety and starting a business from scratch
I've just gotten off the phone to TV presenter Amanda Byram, who was perhaps one of the loveliest, clearly talented and most charming celebs I have ever had the pleasure of interviewing. Eloquent, driven, a 'girl’s girl' (she is best mates with Fearne Cotton and Denise Van Outen and regularly goes on girly weekenders with them), she is totally honest about everything from her love life mistakes to having therapy, giving up alcohol and overcoming past body image obsessions.
She is also hugely 'pro' helping women to change how they perceive themselves and their bodies, having tortured herself with every fad diet going since the modelling days of her youth. Having discovered a healthier way of living as she turned 40 (and now, age 44 she has a mega buff body to show for it) she also recently launched her own fitness wear brand, Body by Byram , a company born out of her own fitness wear needs, about which she makes every business decision going.
Amanda spoke to us about being a brand owner, finding love, diet disasters, lifting weights, the clean eating movement , cosmic ordering, giving up alcohol for good and celebrating life as she enters her mid-forties…
On being an entrepreneur
“About seven years ago my gym kit was my daily uniform but I felt that I could never look sexy, cool or fashionable. I thought – wouldn’t it be brilliant if I could create something that was affordable but good quality.
“I had turned my health around in my late thirties and studied to be a PT. I started getting a reputation as being this presenter who was also into fitness. Because I lived in activewear, I knew exactly what I wanted it to be, however, at the time people said that there wouldn’t be a market for it! Activewear wasn’t a thing at the time.
“Now I get amazing feedback from people in the fitness industry who say that the leggings are the best they have ever worked out in. That makes me really proud. People say that they hold you in in all the right places, like they are gloves for your legs. I can’t bear low rise leggings or just a piece of elastic around the waist, or leggings that you have to hitch up all the time. When designing my leggings, I made sure that the waistband was really thick so that nothing falls down and there's no 'overspill' Women’s Health said my Aphrodite jacket was their jacket of the month. You can pick the kids up in it or go for coffee after a workout and still look great.
“Before I started Body By Byram I had no idea about business. I’m a TV presenter and host shows for a living- I know what I want and need and know how to negotiate a contract, but not about the nitty-gritty of owning a company. Then I started working on the business with a team who all have different opinions. It’s been a rollercoaster and things go wrong- buyers pull out or complain or samples are wrong. It’s a journey.”
On body image
“My journey to health came out of the fact that I practically starved myself. I had done every diet going since I was a model in my teens. I was in my late thirties and had taken the Atkins diet to the extreme, having done it for three years. I felt awful and was very tired and bloated. I knew that the situation had to change.
Diet is such a money-making word and I abhor it.
"My ‘aha’ moment came when I had a modelling shoot booked and had three weeks to get ready for it. I started training with a proper trainer and he got me into lifting weights, eating well and fuelling my body properly. By the end of the three weeks I had never looked better and it changed my entire outlook on food and training. I realised that carbs weren’t the devil and I knew that I couldn’t get to fifty eating the way I had been. I love the phrase ‘the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ This was me – sticking at the same thing and always getting nowhere.
“Diet is such a money-making word and I abhor it. What we need to be focusing on is nutrition, not starving ourselves. I was on so many diets in my youth and unfortunately there is a big industry around the word that will always be there. My theory is that if you go on a diet, you put any weight you lose back on again. Now I eat and train as much as I want to, and I don’t feel the need to be hung up on weight.”
“I used to exercise every day to the max- I was fit in an unhealthy way and I would just exercise to burn off calories. I didn’t really see much difference in my body and just couldn’t understand it. Now I mainly lift weights alongside a little bit of cardio. People think that doing weights will turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that’s never going to happen unless you're pumping serious iron or are on steroids .
"What I’ve learnt about keeping fit is that it’s never, ever too late. Your body is a machine and it will respond according to how you treat it- it's like a car, it needs taking out for a spin and it will respond well if you give it the right fuel. Many people spend more time taking their car to the garage than they do caring for their own bodies, sadly.
"My mum is 68 and we work out together. She does much less high impact stuff now but she looks awesome. I say to my friends– if you have pushed an 8lb baby out of your vagina, you can exercise a few times a week! When it comes to motivating yourself – I say ‘suck it up’. Stop moaning. You don't have to exercise for long but I see it now as part of my daily routine. If you are away that’s no excuse either – stick on Youtube and just do 15 minutes, and if there are days that you don’t feel like doing it, then just don’t.
“Stop thinking that when you are in the gym people are looking at you – no one gives a shit. Everyone is self-obsessed in the gym and in a world of their own- they’re thinking about whether they're loving it or hating it or just want to get the hell out of there. Noone is thinking about you so just go- a journey of 1000 miles begins with 100 steps and you have to start somewhere. If all else fails, do that old trick of thinking about everyone naked. Works every time.
“I was doing fitness online but wanted to make sure I was giving out all the right information so I did a PT course. I completed my course with No.1 Fitness Education . It was six weeks, five days a week and it was full on with written exams and physical work, but I now have a Level 3 qualification. I also developed a better understanding of my own body through doing it.”
“For me, food used to be the enemy, a guilty pleasure. If I was having a lovely meal then I would then purge myself the next day by doing half an hour more of cardio. I drank, I smoked, I ate fizzy sweets because they didn’t have fat in them and I had no education about food. Now, however, food for me means fuelling myself so that I can run and walk and make my brain tick. I care about the next 40 years I have on this planet and being fit and healthy for that.
“I never board a flight without at least six boxes of Tupperware. I prepare a lot of my own food in advance- I often chop up vegetables or avocado and keep them in the fridge to eat with quinoa or salmon and prawns. I’m never without snacks in Tupperware pots such as cacao nibs or goji berries. From experience, I can tell you that boiled eggs don’t go down that well on a plane.
"Fearne Cotton and Denise Van Outen call me the seed lady. We are great friends but they've dubbed me thus because we've been on treks and I'd have loads of ziplock bags full of healthy snacks and seeds and theirs would be full of sweets!
“If you came for lunch I’d probably cook tapas. Or roast salmon with quinoa and veggies. Tapas is great though as you can throw everything on the table and it's very sociable – chargrilled veggies, crispy kale, sweet potato fries...you name it. My beetroot houmous goes down particularly well.
“My go-to breakfast is oatmeal. I mix it with water, berries, chia seeds, mulberries and nuts. If I have more time I make protein pancakes with bananas. I don't have dairy or caffeine. I used to drink a lot of coffee but found that the crash afterwards was too hard. My vice is ice cream.
"I don't think that the whole clean eating movement was born out of malice. It started as a good thing but sadly for many it has turned into orthorexia . I don’t think the blame lies with anyone but the word ‘clean’ has destroyed any initial goodness intended. In a way I guess I eat ‘clean’ in that I don’t really eat much sugar, I don’t have dairy or caffeine and I don’t really drink. I never go without lots of good food though. I think it all comes back to food education, which I believe is really lacking in schools – the language of healthy eating. The food we eat is all linked to mental health too and since depression is on the rise we really need to do something about it.
“I’m not good at training on an empty stomach. An hour or so before training I have something with protein and carbs. After the gym I’ll have a lot of carbs like slices of rye with boiled eggs or porridge. The meal after training is so important to me!”
On giving up alcohol
“As it does for many people, it started with Dry January . I decided to take part in Dry January and then I got used to going to events and not needing the crutch of alcohol, so I carried on until June. Then I went to an engagement party and I got so drunk that I threw up everywhere and then got sick with the flu. I realised that I just didn’t need any of that in my life. I also met my now husband who had just given up alcohol- our first date together was the last time we have been drunk together.”
“People really judge you when you decide not to drink. I'm not really asked about it anymore now, but at the time I got a LOT of grief for not drinking. People throw it back onto you that you’re going to ruin their night, and some would put us off coming to things and would say things like ‘oh it’s going to be a crazy night’, as if they thought we’d be a buzz kill. My husband and I actually lost friends at the beginning, who were big drinkers, because of it.”
“I say screw the begrudgers. People project their own insecurities onto you. My advice is not to say ‘I’m not drinking' if you go out. If the others have had a few drinks they won’t notice what you are drinking anyway.”
On love and life
“I cancelled a wedding in my late thirties. I was about to get married and I realised that I needed to be brave and to walk away from it. I thought ‘we’ll both get over it' and we did.”
“One of my biggest life lessons is not to try and fit in with the norm. I think its really important to do the things in life you really want to do and not do what is expected of you. 'Why fit in when you were born to stand out' as they say. I remember when I was younger and I was at art college and I didn’t like it. I told my parents and they just said, "you don’t have to do or be the norm". What you do in life doesn’t have to define you as a person either. I don’t feel that I’m solely defined as a TV presenter.”
On being over 40
“I have never thought about my age and never lied about it. It feels as though there’s a much-welcome pro ageing movement at the moment. The word ‘anti-ageing' is negative and women in their forties and beyond are not afraid to say so now. Women such as Davina McCall and Melanie Sykes are really embracing the fact that they are growing older. They are busting the myth that things go downhill when you’re over forty- they're proving that you can re-energise your life again.
“I don’t think that I would enjoy being back in my twenties. Now I feel I’m more balanced, more relaxed and I don’t care about the small things as much. I think I’m more grounded in my belief systems and what I like and don’t like. I’m not afraid to speak my mind. Of course I get stressed and anxious as everyone does but there comes a point where I understand the balance between life, relationships and work, and the older you get, the more you realise what is important.”
“I was single for a long time and had the chance to figure out my sh*t. I read The Alchemist: The Power of Now and I went to see an NLP therapist . NLP was amazing for me - it changes the way you think about things but also changes how you form your sentences. It really helped me to see things in a much more positive light. I also learned to be with myself fully, sitting on the edge of the bed in silence and being ok with that.
“I learnt about 'cosmic ordering' from my friend Fearne Cotton. Fearne had this beautiful gold framed chalk board at her house and you write down what you would like from the universe on it. I’m very spiritual and believe in good things coming back to you and positive manifestation. It’s like when you walk down the street and you feel very positive and give off a positive energy and therefore you receive it too.”
I can feel my energy change when I go onto Instagram.
“I stay sane by talking to my husband. My husband and I talk a lot (he is trained in psychotherapy), which keeps me sane. I don’t do yoga (can’t get into it) but I do listen to guided meditation downloads – there are some great Rod Slane ones. I also go to see the most amazing acupuncturist ever- Gerad Kite .”
"I used to get anxious if I had a big TV event. I don’t any more but the NLP therapy really helped with all that. The therapist taught me to think of a time I did something amazing and then to channel that feeling as I stepped into the studio, and she taught me how to change my self-talk to something really positive.”
On social media
“The rate of depression in women is increasing and I think social media is having a very negative effect . We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and people who have perfect families and we start to think “why am I not in Antigua and why don’t I have a six pack?”. I do a lot of work with Kate Hardcastle who runs the Positive Image campaign . It's a non-profit organisation that helps young children around the country who don’t have a positive self-image and I’m an ambassador, as is Mel C.
“I can feel my energy change when I go onto Instagram. We need to put our phones down and stop the comparison. You are you, and you are unique. My best piece of advice to younger girls is this: I think it’s so important that you don’t follow the clique or the crowd.”
Body by Byram is available at Selfridges.com as well as Pamela Scott in Ireland nationwide and Arnott’s , Ireland’s oldest and largest department stores.