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Tess Daly on the new Strictly Come Dancing head judge, staying trim and being mum to growing girls

The 48-year-old says she is fitter and stronger than in her 30s

by Rosalind Powell

The professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing must have to limber up and keep trim months before they foxtrot back onto our screens. But spare a thought for the presenters, who also have their own camera-ready routines to go through in preparation for the next series. For Tess Daly, this involves getting in shape and cutting down on her carb consumption from about July onwards, ready to start work in August.

"But I can't ever give up bread or potatoes. I'm Northern. It's soul food to us," she's keen to point out. "I grew up with a pile of sliced buttered white bread with every meal and we'd consume at least two rounds before dinner. It was the norm." Going "cold turkey" on the carbs is out of the question, she says. "I don't have the willpower and, frankly, life's too short. And it makes me miserable and horrendous to live with."

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Tess Daly has revealed she fitter and stronger now that in her 30s

Not that she has much to worry about. The tall, leggy TV presenter looks as lithe as ever, as she models a new range of tights for Scholl. Her twice-weekly exercise regime with a personal trainer is clearly paying dividends but the 48-year-old also says that as she grows older she's becoming more comfortable in her own skin.

"I've got a mum tum like every other mum I know, but I'm fitter and stronger now than I was in my 30s. I'm also someone who counts her blessings rather than goes, 'Oh, Lord, there's a new wrinkle that wasn't there yesterday.' I celebrate every birthday rather than think, 'Oh, God, I'm two years off 50.' I'm happy to be alive." ‘

Working on a show that she clearly loves no doubt helps the glass-half-full attitude she inherited from her parents. She's particularly looking forward to seeing the chemistry between the judges and their latest member, Shirley Ballas, who, it was announced last month, will be the new head judge. There had been frenzied speculation as to who was going to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Len Goodman – dancer Anton du Beke was considered a shoo-in. So it was a surprise when Shirley was chosen, even though she's one of the most decorated dance professionals in the world.

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The Strictly presenter looks as lithe as ever as she models a new range of tights for Scholl

"They absolutely had to go for experience – after all, she's replacing Len, who was the voice of wisdom and the most experienced. So you go for the person who brings that experience with them.

Tess Daly shares thoughts on new Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas

"I think she’ll be amazing – firm, fair, a little bit fierce and quite fabulous. That's my prediction," says Tess, who hasn't met Shirley yet but is looking forward to having dinner with her and the team. "She'll help Darcey [Bussell] keep her naughty boys in line," she laughs. "Bruno [Tonioli], you know who I mean."

Once work begins on the show in August, it's "all systems go" pretty much for six months. "I wouldn't have it any other way," says Tess. As a mother to two daughters with presenter husband Vernon Kay, she appreciates the work-life balance that the job allows her. "I'm not just sitting at home twiddling my thumbs for the rest of the year," she says. "But it's nice to have a bit of time to do ordinary things like the school run, baking with the kids after school, helping them with their homework. I live for that stuff, it's my number one role as a mum.

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Tess is fronting Scholl's Step Ahead campaign to celebrate the launch of its 20 denier Light Legs tights

"Vernon's also a brilliant dad. He's there at the netball matches, cheering on, and we never miss a concert. I'm very aware that you don't get these precious times back – there will only be one musical concert where my seven-year-old sings solo." As her daughters grow up – Phoebe is 12 and Amber has just turned eight – she feels they need her more now than ever. "It's funny, you think when your children are pre-school that's when they need you but it's not true. Somebody said to me the other day, 'Bigger children, bigger problems,' as they approach a new stage in their life." Has any pre-adolescent behaviour kicked in yet? "Let's just say we're seeing flashes of it. Sometimes I'm being challenged in ways I wasn't challenged before. But you can't quell the fire in your child. If you want to raise a child who has opinions, it's finding that happy balance between them respecting your authority and not dampening their spirits too much.

"But can you imagine for them what they’re going through?" she says, shuddering. "I wouldn't want to be a teenager again. There are more challenges now than we faced, so they need a bit of hand-holding through the process." Before work begins on Strictly, Tess is hoping to slip in a family holiday to the South of France and, if possible, tease out of the producers who the next line-up of contestants will be.

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Tess has spoken about being mum to growing girls

"We're trying to get names out of them because they have a few in mind. There's always a wish list and they will start confirming them one by one. "So many celebrities have said to me they would love to do it," she says. "And I always say, 'Well, come on then – chances are you'll love it more than you'd ever imagine.'"

Tess Daly is fronting the Scholl tights campaign to reveal her stylish secret to feeling light on her legs all day and night with new Light Legs Compression Tights in 20 Denier (in nude and black). For more information visit scholl.co.uk

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