A Cordon Bleu chef, model, qualified gym instructor, fitness and fashion blogger and personal trainer/nutritionist in training; believe it or not, each of these titles relates to one very talented Francesca Fox.
When Francesca is not working as a private chef for families throughout London, she is running triathlons, posing for the camera or writing features for her blog Francesca’s Fitness Kitchen, which happens to be one of my personal favourites.
Fascinated by Francesca’s many different ‘hats,’ I couldn’t wait to learn more about her, and I am sure you will agree she becomes all the more admirable through her deeply frank and inspiring interview…
Your blog mentions that you used to ‘abuse’ food, could you tell us more about this and how you changed?
I suffered from anorexia at the age of 14 and was removed from school due to my severe weight loss. Although I managed to gain enough weight to be considered ‘healthy’, I secretly continued to abuse food with bulimia; making myself sick, taking laxatives, starving and purging for ten years.
Three years ago, when I was desperately unhappy and in an unhealthy relationship, I turned more and more to my bad habits. Following further weight loss, my wonderful close friends encouraged me to seek help. I found a brilliant therapist and, with the fantastic support of my friends, family and boyfriend, I’ve not relapsed for two years. I believe that throwing myself into the world of food was essential therapy towards this.
When I was taken out of school, desperate to have control over my food and paranoid that my poor mum was sneaking packs of butter into everything I ate, I decided to cook for myself. My first cookbook, by nutritionist Jane Clark, helped me understand what I was putting on my plate and how it benefited my body.
With food it’s not like cigarettes, you cant just give it up! It has been a long process and I truly believe that your mental health and happiness has a direct correlation to how you treat your body. Having a regular workout routine and making fresh, healthy, homemade food has all been incredibly beneficial for me.
With all your training and knowledge you must be very food aware, please could you describe your ‘usual’ diet…
Cordon Bleu food is rich, creamy, and full of butter. It tastes great but cooking school was laden with calories!
I started doing triathlons last year and realised that I need to bulk up on carbs before a race and eat appropriately when training. The same applies now; I weight train every day and need to maintain high protein levels (for more details of my diet, please visit: francescasfitkitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/going-clean.html).
I live by the rules of little and often and protein with every meal.
Do you allow yourself treat days? And, if so, what is your indulgence?
I find if you tell yourself you can’t have something then you want it more and end up devouring it! Having a cheat day can result in me completely overindulging, because I am not the best at saying ‘stop!’ So, I eat well 80% of the time and also try to eat regularly enough that I’m never so hungry I make bad decisions.
My friends would say I like to overindulge in red wine and cheese!
Do you try to cook healthy meals for your clients or is what you cook dictated by their own choices?
To be honest, I cook differently for my clients than I do at home. I like to present menus and I’m always thinking of new recipes and ideas for dinner parties etc. More often than not, my clients like to have an active input in what I cook.
What are your top foods for the active woman?
Firstly, I would recommend not shying away from protein, and that includes red meat. I always plan my meals around protein, so try to approach food differently.
I suffered a lot with IBS and avoiding gluten and dairy when possible has helped immensely; it was honestly a problem that I thought I would never overcome and I’m delighted to have finally found something that keeps it under control.
Oily fish, such as salmon, is rich in omegas, which is brilliant for our hair, nails and skin – try to have at least 2 portions a week when possible.
Finally, porridge is a real must for me in the mornings. It is my ‘fast food’ and really keeps me going until lunch. You can add anything from coconut milk and mango to cinnamon and blueberries, so it can be different every day.
Do you believe in supplements?
I undertook BioSignature at my gym, which assessed my body fat, how I metabolise food and so on. My trainer, Olly Foster, at Up Fitness has prescribed me the following Poliquin supplements: Glutamine, Digest Force and Pro Flora, to help with digestion and to make sure I utilise the clean nutrients in my diet. I also take Branched Chain Amino Acids approximately every 15 minutes during training sessions to try keep me in an anabolic phase (meaning I’m not using muscle as energy), for a more toned and athletic physique.
I would recommend doing a full body test, such as the BioSignature, and speaking to a qualified nutritionist before embarking on supplements; they can be very expensive and often unnecessary.
How did you get into modelling? Has it changed the way you see and treat your body?
Modelling is very much a part time thing for me. Unfortunately the industry can be quite a fickle and superficial one, however, I have a great agency (IMM) that look after their models and promote positive body image. I am never going to be a catwalk model and quite frankly I wouldn’t want to be.
I see my body very much as mine – take it or leave it, I am not changing it for anyone but me!
You also credit your boyfriend for a new-found respect for your body. How has he inspired you?
My boyfriend plays sports professionally, and I am very lucky to have him on hand for advice and inspiration. He has worked hard to get where he is and has been the first person to fill me with confidence and compliment me on my body, for example he loves my hamstrings!
I hate my thighs but I love that he loves me with muscle and for what I am. I’ve never been complimented on my hamstrings before and it beats any other compliment I’ve ever had.
He’s dragged me out in torrential rain to do sprint sessions in the local park and made me realise that a small amount of hard work, whether you like it or not, goes a long way. No excuses!
Do you ever feel pressure to look good when dating a professional sportsman? And how has your own knowledge and expertise helped him?
At first I felt a lot of pressure and didn’t believe he wanted to be with me. However, having overcome my own demons, I still stand by ‘this is who I am, take it or leave it.’ I can finally say I truly believe in myself and my boyfriend has been intrinsic to this.
Getting into modelling has only cemented this feeling and finally made me realise that I should stop doubting myself and learn to love what, and who, I am.
I am certainly a girlfriend that comes with a fair bit of baggage, but James has been amazing; fully supportive and always ensuring that I fulfil my potential. He believed in me when I certainly didn’t.
I cook a lot for James and always try to teach him recipes and little tricks to help him eat well and often. It’s difficult when you are so busy, and he has to eat well and make the right decisions.
I always try to send him motivational quotes before a game; Arnie is a favourite!
How do you like to workout?
At the moment I am training hard to strip my body of fat. Having started at a body fat percentage of 15.1% I am now at 12% and am aiming for 10% before I go on holiday to Miami this year. With this in mind, I am doing meltdown circuits, which incorporate a mixture of compound and isolation movements to try to elicit a maximum demand on my energy system.
I am hopefully utilising as much fat for energy and making my workouts as efficient as can be.
How do you pamper your body post workout?
Post workout I always grab a protein shake and have a cold shower. I like to jump in a bath of epsom salts to help soothe aching muscles and will rub arnica into anywhere that’s especially sore. Apart from that, I wear gloves to look after my hands after developing unsightly callouses!
Which are your favourite natural beauty brands and products?
Dr.Hauschka does a divine rose day cream and now does make up too. I also love John Masters Sea Mist spray, it smells like lavender and gives your hair a sexy, ruffled, surf/just rolled out of bed look that I can’t avoid with my hair! Finally, Love Lula is a great site devoted to organic beauty products.
Who is your body icon, and why?
I first got into the whole fitness regime and lifting weights after coming across Jennifer Nicole Lee. She’s just a brilliant ambassador for women everywhere to take the time to look after themselves, and reap the rewards.
She weighed over 200lbs and managed to lose 80lbs by hitting the gym and training hard, all while being a mum to two kids. If she can do it, then I think we can all take that extra 45 mins in the day to take care of our bodies, and in turn our health.
What made you start blogging and what do you most enjoy about it?
I started blogging after cooking in New Zealand for James. He would take pictures of my food and pop them on Twitter. He got loads of feedback asking for the recipes so I decided to set up a blog and see if anyone was interested. I thoroughly enjoy it; I’m very new to it but I’ve had over 10,000 hits within six weeks of launching, which has been astonishing!
I now have my friends over to try out the healthy recipes for my blog – I can’t really road test my clients! I love sharing my tips and enthusiasm.
To inspire some healthy summer eating, Francesca has kindly shared one of her recent blog recipes; a beautiful crisp salad with strawberries and an exotic coconut dressing. As Francesca says, salads don’t get boring if you keep your tastebuds guessing! View the recipe.
A huge thank you to Francesca, who I am certain you will agree exudes beauty in both her looks and attitude.
Visit her blog: francescasfitkitchen.blogspot.co.uk
Admire her portfolio: www.immmodels.com/female-models/francesca-w/portfolio