As a 1980s pop superstar, Kim Wilde, 43, knew all about the pressures of staying slim and looking good. Two decades - and two children - later, she's just as famous for her career in gardening. Here, she talks diets, detoxing and healthy living.
What was it like being part of the 1980s pop music mania?
It was a great time and there was lots of fun to be had, but there was also immense pressure. There's this view that all the groups were mates and out partying together the whole time. The reality was we were all in competition, so I wouldn't say we were best friends at the time. It was a stressful environment, too, and we were under so much scrutiny lookswise - it really gave your confidence a bashing.'
So that part of your life's over?
Actually, I was invited to go on a 1980s revival tour a couple of years ago, which I did, and they asked me back the year after, so no, I haven't left music behind me. In fact, I'm enjoying it more than ever. In your 20s you take it all a bit too seriously and there's so much pressure, but second time around and a few years older and wiser, I'm more relaxed about it. I have other things in my life. Also, it's only now that I'd say us 1980s pop stars are proper friends. I took Nick Heyward to TopShop with me to help me pick out my outfits for the 1980s tour. It was really good fun - although I couldn't get him to try anything on!'
Do you feel the pressure to be thin?
Always - either from myself or, on occasion, from the record company. I've always accepted it was part of the deal to look slim and control my weight. I never took it to extremes and luckily never suffered serious consequences from dieting, but I'm sure many of the young women in the public eye these days will, maybe not now, but in years to come.
It was a real relief in 1996 when I got married [to Hal Fowler, 36, an actor she met while starring in the West End musical Tommy], and quickly fell pregnant. For a few blissful years I indulged my pregnant status and piled on the pounds. I watch my weight again now. Not so much for vanity these days, although I won't deny it's important to me to look good, but I think it's vital for health reasons, too.
You're healthy and happy now then?
Yes. I've no ambition to be size 10 again, size 14 suits me fine. I have no time for diets per se and I'm not strict in the sense that I don't deny myself treats. I've tried various diets over the years, but have come to the conclusion that everything in moderation suits me best. The key to my weight being stable centres on regular, moderate exercise, sensible eating and moderate alcohol intake. If I feel I've overdone it, I'll detox for a few days, eating only steamed veg and fish, as well as freshly juiced organic fruit and veg. I've tried various diets - fat free, food combining, the Atkins - and although none have suited me on a long-term basis, I've learned something from them all. What I'm interested in now is eating a diet packed with nutrients that'll give me and my family a sense of wellbeing - the energy you get from eating well over a period of time is tangible.
And how do your kids feel about that?
I love the fact my children willingly eat fruit and vegetables, but of course I give them sweets from time to time. If you're too fanatical and ban children from all sorts of food, they'll just rebel - it's got to be about balance.
We're real foodies in our family. We love to cook and have people round for dinner and there will be times when the "all things in moderation" rule goes out of the window and you have to pull the reins back in. In fact, it was when I'd let the reins loose for a while that I got invited to go to the detox camp in Thailand.
Ah yes, you joined Keith Duffy, Tamara Beckwith and Richard Blackwood on Channel 5's gruelling Celebrity Detox Camp last year. Tell us about that.
It was perfect timing as I needed to get back on track, and I was feeling that motherhood had taken its toll on my body. On the camp you couldn't eat any food for seven days and were only allowed to drink five unpleasant-tasting but nutrient-packed potions a day. You also had to do self-administered enemas on a daily basis which involved pumping fluid into your bowels to purge your insides of years of toxic build-up. It's a bizarre experience and, although I wouldn't continue such a strict detox at home, I felt amazing by the end of the week.
As a celebrity, we now know you as a TV gardener. What prompted that?
I'd become a bit jaded and disillusioned by the pop industry and, besides, there's only so long you can keep up that London lifestyle. I'd spent the whole of the 1980s in town and needed a change. Then in 1990 I turned 30 and, although it sounds cliched, I did start to re-evaluate my lifestyle and realised I missed the outdoors and more rural life I'd had growing up. I wanted to have a garden and get back to nature again. I also missed seeing my family, so I moved back to Hertfordshire. Hal and I bought a barn, which we converted ourselves. It was a fantastic experience to create something of our own. In this setting we would watch the seasons come and go and see the land change. We were also keen to build an environment where our kids could enjoy and learn to appreciate nature. So the garden itself became a big focus for us. Also, being a creative person [Kim studied art and design at college] it really satisfied my artistic urge, something I had previously channelled into my music.
So it's more than just a hobby?
The more time I spent in the garden, the more I enjoyed it. At first, I simply loved just being outdoors in the sunshine and getting my hands dirty - the smell of fresh air is so invigorating. But I soon became more artistic and adventurous. It's great when you find new and interesting places to put a plant and see it grow. Flowers need a stage where they'll flourish to perfection - it's like painting with plants.
Also, I needed something else to put my energies into and didn't want simply to potter in the garden, so I went to horticultural college to learn more. It was there that I got involved in TV presenting on ITV's Better Gardens and BBC's Garden Invaders.
Have your children caught the gardening bug, too?
Absolutely, and that's the best thing. Hal and I love watching Harry (five) and Rose (three), enjoy what we created for them. Not only do they love playing in the space and getting out in the fresh air, they really participate in the garden, too. They love picking homegrown fruit and vegetables like raspberries and pumpkins for our meals.
A healthier lifestyle all round then?
Definitely. When you're in your 20s and 30s you can take your health for granted, but when you reach your 40s you can't be as naughty as you used to be. You have to think more about what you eat and how you live your life. We try and eat as much homegrown and organic food as possible and, because organic food doesn't always last as long, any excess we just throw into the juicer. The debate over whether organic food is best still causes some argument when talking about quality and taste, but you have to think about what you're putting in your mouth and whether it'll make your body feel great. Even if, say, an organic carrot doesn't look as great as a non-organic one, the fact it's not covered in chemicals or genetically modified has to outweigh any aesthetic benefits. If you eat junk all the time you'll feel sluggish and unhealthy, it's as simple as that.
How else do you keep fit and healthy?
I exercise regularly by going on lots of long power walks and practising yoga. I also find managing stress is by far one of the most important things you can do for your health. For women, I think it's really important to eat plenty of soya for the hormone-balancing phytoestrogens they contain. I love using soya in cooking, drinking the milk or just having the yogurts. I also take a fish-oil supplement and evening primrose oil. And if I'm feeling under the weather I'll take echinacea and vitamin C.
JOIN KIM ON A 10-DAY DETOX
So inspired was she by her Thailand detox, Kim has joined forces with healthy expert Michael van Straten to produce the DVD and video 10 day Detox (Contender Entertainment, £ 12,99). The plan includes daily menus and recipes and advice on supplements, along with therapeutic beauty treatment ideas and exercise advice. It also features shorter 48- and 24-hour plans and plenty of motivational advice from Kim, such as the following tips:
Reduce your coffee and tea intake. You really will feel calmer for it, especially if you're prone to stress. It may be what everyone says, but it really sets you up for the day and you feel like you've done something good for your health.
Get juicing. It's such a good way to consume a variety of fruit and vegetables and they taste great. We juice every day at home and one of my favourites is beetroot, apple and carrot.
Find a balance and don't forbid yourself anything (you'll only crave it). I eat lots of organic fruit, veg, muesli and honey, but I also love roast potatoes, Smarties and a good green curry. You can still have some carbs on my detox, such as wholemeal rolls and organic pasta. Just avoid the refined, white stuff.
The plan promises to set you on a path to better health and weight loss by boosting energy and resistance and replenishing vitality. Fancy giving it a try? We have 15 copies to give away.