Former Strictly Come Dancing dancer Ola Jordan opens up about her weight loss journey, telling us how she rediscovered her body confidence from losing three and a half stones and how it’s also improved her sex life…
Ola Jordan: ‘I’ve been a dancer since I was seven and dancing professionally since age 17. Dancing and fitness were my life but after leaving Strictly, a show that required sometimes 10 hours of training daily to get our celebrity partners show-ready, James and I didn’t need to rehearse even half as much in preparation for our couples’ shows.
‘Over time, my fitness reduced. During my pregnancy I didn’t exercise because after having IVF, I didn’t want to risk putting myself under strain. Last summer, I was at a soft play centre with my daughter Ella, struggling to keep up with her and thinking: “I don’t want to be here because I find it so hard”.
‘The UK went into lockdown three weeks after Ella was born. Like for many people, food became a comfort. A year later, we were grieving the loss of James’s dad, Allan, who passed away in March 2021 after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. We would sit on the sofa every night watching a movie eating crisps and tucking into a sharing bag of Minstrels. I couldn’t help myself and, because we had also let our exercise regime slip – something so many new parents will relate to – my weight crept up.’
Ola Jordan on starting her weight loss journey
‘Last summer, we went to a barbecue and a friend mistakenly thought I was pregnant again. He said: “I’m going to pour you a little glass of Champagne, just to pretend that you’re drinking. I won’t tell anyone”. I couldn’t believe it! Then one sunny afternoon, James and I were messing about by our pool and a friend took pictures of us.
‘Seeing us side by side looking so out of shape, overweight and unhealthy (James had also gained three stones and hit 15st 6lb) was a shock. I decided to post the picture to social media to give myself a wake-up call. It was hard pressing that button to post it to the world. But something in me told me I wanted to as it would spur me into action as I no longer recognised myself.
‘The three of us would be cha-cha-ing around the house and slowly – by combining the dancing with squats, lunges and planks – the weight fell off.’
‘Once I began on my health journey, I lost 1st 9lb within the first month. James and I committed to cutting down on all the bad stuff. I’m not saying we don’t eat chocolate and crisps now and then, but it’s now very much in moderation. We also began working out at home, doing what we know best, dancing, which was lovely because we introduced Ella to those workouts.
‘The three of us would be cha-cha-ing around the house and slowly – by combining the dancing with squats, lunges and planks, as well as following a 1,500-calorie-a-day eating plan – the weight started coming off. It was so refreshing to be doing something positive. And, it’s been brilliant creating our online programme Dance Shred so others can reap the benefits, too.’
Ola Jordan on IVF, pregnancy and long-term health
‘We had IVF to conceive. I’ve heard that because of all the hormones during the process, some women put on more weight than normal. I don’t know how much of that is true, but I was nearly 15st two days before giving birth to our daughter Ella in February 2020. That was 7st heavier than when I left Strictly in 2015.
‘When I got pregnant, I wanted to enjoy the process. After all those years of trying to conceive and all the years of watching what I ate and exercising, I didn’t want to think about restriction. It was lovely not to think about whether I had another round of toast.
‘I’ve now lost 3st 6lb and it’s reignited my sex life, too! I’ve been with James for 23 years but at the peak of my weight gain, I became shy around him when I was naked. I didn’t want to get undressed in front of him. Now, I’m not shy to get undressed and I’m putting back on my sexy underwear, which I’d abandoned for so long.
‘When I got pregnant, I wanted to enjoy the process. After all those years of trying to conceive and all the years of watching what I ate and exercising, I didn’t want to think about restriction.’
‘I also wanted to lose weight to look after my health long term. I want to live as long as I can for my baby – anyone with kids will understand that. When I used to go out partying and drinking, I’d never think twice about the impact all the excess was having on my long-term health but now I do.
‘Nowadays, so many people are falling ill with diseases such as cancer, it’s terrifying. Ten years ago, at age 62, my mum [Janina Grabowska, 72] had a heart attack, so I don’t want to put myself at risk of going through the same thing. I want to keep my heart healthy.’
Ola’s nutrition and skincare habits
‘I don’t believe in being vegan or vegetarian – I believe we need meat, I follow a lot of doctors on Instagram who promote meat eating. I know a lot of people won’t agree with me, but I cannot imagine not eating meat and eggs; they’re a big staple in my diet. A lot of people swear by the keto diet and not eating carbs, but I eat everything and believe I need every source of nutrition.
‘It’s so important to listen to your body and know your body. Because I have a full, balanced diet, I don’t feel the need for food supplements. I’m not a nutritionist or a dietician but I feel I get enough nutrients from having a really good, balanced diet.
‘I developed bad hormonal acne at 22, which lasted until I was 30. One year on Strictly, the night before a red-carpet event, I came out in boils all over my face. I rang James, saying, “How am I going to go out tomorrow on a red carpet when my face is red with boils”. The acne was hormonal and I eventually took medication to clear it up.
‘It’s so important to listen to your body and know your body. Because I have a full, balanced diet, I don’t feel the need for food supplements.’
‘From then on, I became fastidious about looking after my skin. I know the products that work for me and I swear by Sensibio H2O micellar water. Then I use a La Roche-Posay moisturiser. I never go to bed with make-up on either.
‘I’ve had a bit of Botox in the past. Being in the public eye brings a pressure to look a certain way, I feel. I also think about my teeth – it feels as if everyone nowadays has veneers, and I don’t. My teeth are not the greatest. I don’t want to look like everyone else, but I would like to have a better smile.
‘I will try to have another baby, that’s for sure. Knowing what I’ve been through and what I’ve done, if I’m lucky enough to fall pregnant again, I’m going to be much more mindful about what I’m eating and I will do exercise. I won’t make the same mistake twice by sitting down all the time and eating, eating, eating!’
Ola Jordan: what I eat in a day…
Here’s an insight into what Ola and James ate before they transformed their health verses what they eat now…
- Breakfast: Two slices of toast and butter.
- Mid-morning snack: Tea and two chocolate biscuits.
- Lunch: Fish and chips.
- Dinner: Chicken curry with rice and poppadoms.
- Evening snack: 2-3 glasses of wine, plus Minstrels.
- Breakfast: Avocado on toast.
- Mid-morning snack: Skinny hot chocolate.
- Lunch: Tuna mayonnaise and sweetcorn sandwich.
- Dinner: Fish pie.
- Evening snacks: 1 glass of wine and small bag of crisps.
Words: Gemma Calvert | Images: David Venni