Wellbeing: ‘It’s important to let go of strict diets on holiday’
It’s over a year since Janette Manrara announced she was leaving Strictly, after nearly a decade as a professional dancer on the hit BBC show – and she’s happy to admit her body changed as a result.
“I fluctuate often – I can tell when I’ve not been dancing on tour, or I’ve not been doing shows.
“I noticed my body changed because I wasn’t doing the physical activity I was doing every single day when I was dancing,” explains the 38-year-old, who would previously be in the dance studio for up to 10 hours a day. “I think I used to watch what I ate even less when I was dancing, but now I balance it out a bit more.
“I’ve started really getting into weight training. I’m doing a bit of running, and I like to be at home and just do 25 minutes of body exercises, just here with my yoga mat, as much as I can. That’s helped me maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep an eye on my weight, because I did feel the difference, in my muscles especially, when I stopped Strictly.”
Cuban-American Manrara – who is married to fellow Strictly dancer Aljaž Škorjanec, and took over from Zoe Ball hosting Strictly spin-off series It Takes Two last June – is keeping a level approach though, and steering clear of rigid diets.
“At the moment, I’m really allowing myself to just relax and enjoy the holidays and sunshine and spending time with loved ones. I think it’s important for our overall health and wellbeing to do that, and let go of that super-strict diet and enjoy the holiday and not feel guilty about it – and having a few cocktails and a dessert at the end of the night.
“Don’t feel guilty about it, you’re on holiday, this is good for you as well,” she enthuses.
It Takes Two will return to screens soon, and right now Manrara says she’s “kind of in holiday mode – I’m working but I’m holidaying a lot”.
She adds: “I just came back from Mykonos with my friend Ashley [Roberts]. Aljaž and I went to visit our families, and I was in Ibiza with my brother, and in the midst of that I’ve been doing bits and bobs of work.
“Those 20-30 minute workouts I can squeeze in even when I’m on holiday have been really helpful. I try and exercise at least three times a week, even if it’s on my own in my hotel room if I’m on holiday, or here at home, and be careful with what I’m putting into my body. But not too careful either, because it’s good to relax.”
She’s all about balance when it comes to what she eats. “I wouldn’t say I eat healthily, but I think I’m very balanced with my food. If I’ve been very good in the day, I allow myself a little treat in the evening, or if I’ve been naughty in the day then I try to eat not too bad later. I also watch my portions – I don’t have big portions of anything.
“But I’m not a crazy fiend about eating super-healthy, I just try and keep my plate balanced, with a little bit of salad, a little bit of veggies, some protein and some carbs, and if I want a little treat afterwards, then a piece of chocolate or anything like that,” she adds.
“But Aljaž and I love a pizza or a burger, and this weekend we had friends over, so I didn’t really look at what I ate and I enjoyed myself. But this week I’ll be a little bit more conscious, because I ate a bit more relaxed at the weekend.
“I don’t think it’s about cutting things out completely, it’s just about balancing it out, and watching what you put into your body.”
Manrara, who got a diploma in the science of wellbeing last summer, adds: “Wellbeing is everything. It’s about finding a way to be physically active and mentally stimulated and happy. There are so many different ways we can look after our mind and our body and put that into one. There’s no one solution for anyone – I learned that through my wellbeing courses. It’s about finding that balance that’s right for you, not trying to fit an image, profile or a certain type. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and finding what works for you is what I think wellbeing is all about – what makes you ultimately happy and feel good.”
As for ageing, Manrara, who has become a brand ambassador for New Nordic Collagen Shot, says: “I’ve got nothing against Botox – maybe one day I will do it, who knows – but if I can find natural, easy ways to look after my skin and body, then I’d rather do that now.”
She says she’s been taking the Collagen Shot sachets for about a year. “It’s such an easy way to look after yourself, without having to apply a thousand creams and everything else we try to do to look after our skin. I take a multi-vitamin for women in the morning, and that and my Collagen Shot are my two saving graces.”
What’s her secret when it comes to working with her husband? Škorjanec announced his departure from Strictly earlier this year – but the couple’s careers remain closely entwined.
“All Aljaž and I have known since the day we met has been working together,” she says. “When we’re not together, that’s when it’s more weird for us than when we are together, because it’s what we’re used to.”
They’ve just recorded a “really fun” TV show that took them across the UK, and Manrara says it was great to work together on something non-dance related. They’ve also got a show coming out this winter that she’s “not allowed to say too much about” – although she does reveal she’ll be dancing with her husband on stage again.
“When we worked on Strictly together, we rarely saw each other,” she adds. “It was nice – oh, that sounds awful – well, it was different, because we’d come home and share each other’s experiences and talk about how the day went, and at the same time try not to talk about work too much.
“Because we both do the same job, it’d be very easy to make our lives 24/7 about work. I think it’s important, especially as a married couple, to always be very honest and communicate and discuss when lines are crossed, in the sense of we’ve been at work and rehearsing together all day – let’s not come home and spend the next three hours talking about work again,” she adds.
“You have to disconnect and get your mind off it, and sometimes that’s tough with Aljaž and I because we’re both passionate about what we do.”
Are there any plans to start a family?
Manrara says they’re thinking of getting a puppy, although she adds wryly: “A friend of mine said you should have a baby before you get a puppy.
“Obviously, I don’t want to say we’re planning for a family, all I want to say on that is I definitely want to be a mother, and we shall see what happens.”