The pop superstar chats lockdown, her go-to workouts, and the two health habits that changed her life.
Lucky for me, my first IRL celebrity interview since lockdown is pop superstar Cheryl, formerly Cole and Fernandez-Versini.
It’s a hot Thursday afternoon and I’m at the Corinthia hotel in Trafalgar Square to meet her as she joins supplement brand Feel Supplements as their new ambassador.
Feel are a small company – they only launched last year – who sell non-GMO multivitamins made here in the UK. Their website proudly states that they’re the world’s ‘cleanest, highest quality supplements’. It’s a little more than just an ambassadorship, too, as Cheryl has an equity stake in the future growth of the business.
She’s easily one of the most famous British singers of my lifetime, fronting girl group Girls Aloud until they split in 2013 and went on to judge The X Factor for five years. She’s also got some pretty impressive records to her name, becoming the first British female solo artist ever to have five UK number ones, and the British female solo artist with the most UK number-one singles until 2018, when Jess Glynne stole her crown.
I’m not sure what to expect when I meet her, but the soft Geordie accent is still there. Lockdown has clearly served her well, as we go on to discuss, and she’s spectacularly chilled out for a mother to a four-year-old.
We speak candidly about her lockdown – she’s a fan of Mindful Chef pop-in-the-oven dinners – her go-to yoga flows – Bikram, hot and from her living room – and the life-changing health habits that she wishes she’d know about sooner.
She also shares the one bit of advice she wishes she could tell her younger self. Keep reading.
Cheryl: ‘Advice for my younger self? Chill out. Where are you rushing off too?’
A: Thanks so much for meeting me today Cheryl. Tell me about your collaboration with Feel and why you’ve decided to partner with them. What’s unique about them? There are so many supplements brands, right?
C: There are. To be honest, I hadn’t really been committed to supplements until I got pregnant. When you’re pregnant, you have to take them daily. So it becomes part of your daily life, just like brushing your teeth, you take a supplement, you know? It becomes part of your routine.
But before that, I’d always just felt inspired by an initial interview I’d watched or ad I’d seen and thought, oh my god, that looks amazing, let me get them. I’d take them for a week, max ten days, and then life would get in the way and I’d forget them. Then I’d throw them out a year later because they were stale. We’ve all been there.
A: Yep, I’m definitely guilty of that.
C: I’d never really been consistent. Just like you, I’d normally give up, or life just got in the way, or I forgot. I knew I had to be consistent when I got pregnant. I went through lots of different good ones, and then somebody sent me Feel at the beginning of the pandemic.
I never had any idea how many bulking agents and unclean products went into making most capsules. It offsets the benefits, if that makes sense.
During the pandemic, I was calm because I wasn’t rushing around working all day. I had the time, space, and mental clarity to have a routine, so I actually did take them consistently. I was shocked at the benefits.
A: What benefits did you notice the most?
C: It takes time. I think you need to supplement for a good six weeks before you start to notice a shift. They can help with whatever your issue is that you have in that moment – I would have energy dips, I wouldn’t sleep well and I’d wake up foggy. I’d genuinely be waking up tired after hours in bed. I’d be rushing to the coffee machine.
Having the space to be consistent was was a real eye opener for me.
A: So why Feel supplements?
C: The cleanliness, the clean science [of Feel’s supplements]. I just love the fact they have their own algae farm they farm their produce from so they don’t take it from the fish. Isn’t that fascinating? I just thought it was so pure and beautiful.
I’ve been on such a wellness trip [during lockdown], experientially, [that partnering with the brand] just made sense. It made sense that I would move that way and bring the information forward. They’re a small business, they’re just starting, but the fact that we can come together to make it bigger, makes you feel like you’re helping people.
In the winter, we don’t get enough sunlight here in the UK – it’s a scientific fact. Supplementing can have such benefits. You wouldn’t know how good the benefits are unless you consistently tried it.
A: Well, the government recommends you supplement vitamin D throughout winter, people just don’t realise, right?
C: Well, people just don’t listen to the government anymore, do they? We just don’t. So I thought, if we don’t listen to Boris [Johnson, prime minister], we may as well listen to other Boris [CEO of Feel]. (Laughs)
A: They’re quite affordable compared to a lot of supplements, aren’t they?
C: This is another thing. I’ve used a lot of expensive vitamins before in my past, but it’s so unattainable for people that you almost feel guilty for taking them. The fact that Feel supplements are affordable is perfect for me. My friends and family, most of them can’t afford high prices.
A: I think a lot of people – especially in the UK – are put off by health and fitness generally, because everything seems a bit out there or expensive, right?
C: Yeah. I was that person. I was always like (gestures to her assistant), if she tells me to drink dandelion tea one more time, I’m going to throttle her. Not literally, but you know what I mean. (laughs)
Don’t tell me to drink nettle tea. I’m gonna call the doctor! (laughs) I think because I’d never committed to [a health routine that worked for me], I never believed it.
Now, it’s experiential. I’m not just saying, take these vitamins, they might feel nice. I’ve done it. Consistency is the key.
A: What is the worst health or fitness trend you’ve ever tried? Is there one that you were like, never again?
C: All of them!
A: What was the worst?
C: The Atkins diet, years ago, when I was a teen. I fell for that one. It was Jennifer Aniston telling us all to do it.
A: What does it entail?
C: It’s basically pure fat and protein only.
A: So similar to the Keto diet?
C: You can have vegetables on Keto – Atkins is more high fat, bacon and eggs. You wonder how it’s possibly working, and then you hear people saying eating like that could give you a heart attack and it puts you off. (laughs)
A: Oh god.. not good. What would your advice be to anyone who finds health and wellness overwhelming?
C: Find one thing that you resonate with. Don’t look at the rest. Do your research. If it feels good for you – and sounds good to you – be consistent with it, and then see for yourself.
That’s the only way. The minute you start looking at that brand, this brand, what she said, what he said, you’re going to end up confused.
A: I think we live in a culture where we look at how people live and think we need to eat or workout exactly how our favourite celebrities do, for example. It seems that people don’t know that they need to work out what works for them, you know?
C: Do you know what, Ally, I absolutely agree. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. I look at Jennifer Aniston[‘s diet and workout regime] and say, thanks, but no thanks. Thanks for the advice, but it’s not for me. I still love her.
You’ve just got to workout what works for you. Do you think that sounds good for you? If so, try it – and really try it, consistently.
You’re not going to look back and regret trying something consistently, are you?
A: Agreed. So, aside from supplementation, what other fitness or wellness hacks have genuinely changed your life?
C: Do you want to know my number one? Meditation.
A: What do you use to meditate? Or do you do it all yourself? Do you use an app?
C: When I was first meditating, I used guided meditations, like Insight Timer and the Calm app. But now I do know what I’m doing, I can just go mindless.
A: That’s quite a skill.
C: I know that sounds… (rolls her eyes). I used to be that person that was like, you think I could meditate? I would hear what people were saying, but I never understood.
You just need to really get into it. It depends where you are in your life – some people are just not there in their lives, or aren’t ready for it, or don’t feel like they can, and that’s fine as well.
But there are people looking to change how they feel. They don’t want to feel rubbish. They don’t want to feel tired, have energy dips, or get brain fog. I promise you, meditation and supplementation is what’s changed my life.
A: Has it helped with all of those things you were talking about? Brain fog and the lethargy?
C: All of it. It changes your mood. Do you do a little bit of meditation?
A: I do ten minutes on the Calm app every morning, but I find it hard to do without the app.
C: They’re great. That’s perfect though, because it still takes you to that frame of mind.
A: It’s a mindset shift, isn’t it.
C: Absolutely. It takes you out of what you’re focusing on so that you can calm down. It’s proven scientifically – I love reading what doctor Jody Spencer (a certified health coach at Quantum Health coaching) and Gregg Braden (American New Age author)? It’s the truth. It rewires your brain. It’s not just like you’re sitting in silence for ten minutes.
A: Which at the beginning, I did feel like I was.
C: Again, in the long term, once you get into meditation, if you can do twenty minutes, it’s obviously more beneficial. Jo would say 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night, which I think is ideal.
Obviously, some people just aren’t willing to do it, or don’t want to, or don’t believe it.
A: I think it can be daunting, right?
C: It can be until you do it. It’s like everything, isn’t it?
A: Totally. Meditation especially people go, aah ,it’s unknown, you know?
C: Or woo woo.
A: But it reminds you to be mindful every day, doesn’t it?
C: It totally restructures the way you think. The benefits are endless.
A: I know you’re a big fan of Tracey Anderson workouts – has that changed over lockdown? What are your favourite sweat sessions now?
C: I haven’t really been doing a lot. I had a couple of health concerns at the top of the pandemic so I just calmed everything down and then I never calmed it back up again. (laughs).
I like yoga. I like Bikram, and I like it to be hot as I feel like my heart’s pounding and I’ve done something. You feel like you’ve been stretched from head-to-toe.
There are millions of different types of yoga. I also love Pilates – I haven’t been doing any the jumping around stuff, put it that way.
A: It can take its toll after a while, can’t it.
C: It can do. It fitted into the hectic lifestyle I had, and I’ve shuffled everything around. I just don’t live like that anymore.
A: I slowed everything down during lockdown.
C: Me too. I worked out what’s important – what’s truly important.
A; Have you been spending lots of time cooking?
C: I did at the beginning – and now I get Mindful Chef.
A: What’s your go-to breakfast?
C: I’m not obsessed with breakfast. I do do breakfast, but not every morning. I can have a coffee and be fine until 11am. I’m fine, unless I really fancy something to eat, it just doesn’t even come into my awareness. I know people say it’s the most important meal of the day, but it’s just not in my life.
I like dinner. Dinner’s my favourite meal.
A: Ok, what are your go-to dinners?
C: I do love Mindful Chef. I got so fed up of thinking what to cook, I’d be walking around in circles. I also feel like I’m always cooking toddler food (laughs).
My favourite? I have a really lovely local Thai – I love pad Thai. And coconut rice. My mouth’s watering.
I also like Chinese food – I think that’s a childhood thing. Ooh, and Indian. I love all the bad stuff. Once a week or once every two weeks I get a takeaway.
A: We got into such a bad habit of having sourdough pizza every Friday during lockdown. But I guess it’s not a bad habit, right? It’s good for the soul.
C: It’s not a bad habit. It’s only bad if you put a label on it. We’ve got to stop resenting ourselves because we want to eat something ‘bad’ once in a while. Nobody cares. In your mind, you make it such a big drama. Literally, nobody cares.
A: It goes back to what you were saying about the power of a positive mindset, doesn’t it?
C: Everything goes back to the mind. It’s where it starts. Start your day thinking you’ll have a crap day, guess what, you’ll have a crappy day.
I’m still thinking about what my favourite dinners are. Ally, you know what surprised me that I’ve never had before lockdown? Jackfruit.
A: It’s delicious, right?!
C: It goes with everything. You can literally make everything out of it. I’m not vegan, but I like vegan food. There’s some really good fake chickens, like the Beyond meats.
A: Small steps like that are important, aren’t they – we should all be eating a little less meat.
C: I eat [veggie] three, four days a week normally. I only really eat it if my body says it wants too. Otherwise, I just don’t fancy it. It’s just a very natural thing that’s happened. It wasn’t even a conscious shift. I just felt like that.
A: A lot of people had the time over lockdown to address their eating habits, right? What would your advice be to someone’s who’s still yo-yo dieting or stuck in eating habits they don’t enjoy?
C: We’ve got to change that mindset. If you change your frame of mind from, ‘I’m being good this week’ and ‘I ate bad this weekend’. Look at that shame and guilt.
Yeah, you had a pizza. So what? Did you enjoy it? Yes, and the only stopping you enjoying it is that you felt bad about eating it.
No, you didn’t have a good week, you just changed your lifestyle.
I think that’s a really good thing – to shift your frame of mind from being so extreme and putting that pressure on yourself. Just live your life. If you want spaghetti Carbonara, have the spaghetti Carbonara. Nobody cares. You might have a little muffin at the end of the week, but nobody cares.
A: Also, if you care, you end up eating more anyway, right?
C: Yeah, exactly, because you’re depressed about it. We can be very, very harsh on ourselves. And for what?
I had this conversation with my sister-in-law last week. She keeps saying that her jeans don’t fit anymore. I said, ok, get the bigger size. Your wardrobe doesn’t fit – let’s accept that. Get some new ones. Are you happier like this? Does anything else matter? Get the size 27 – no one cares.
A: Oh, I had years of trying to squeeze into the 26. Now, I just get the 27 (laughs)
C: I think through your 20s you struggle a bit with that – trying to fit into an image.
A: Do you think becoming a mum has changed that for you?
C: Yeah. Absolutely. You just realise how little some of the stuff you cared about – and I mean, really cared – actually matters. It just dissipates. Like, I’m going to be forty in two years.
A: When you’ve got tiny human to look after, that becomes the focus, right?
C: Yep – and they’re your responsibility. Their happiness, their wellbeing. You just become second in the family. And it’s for all the right reasons in my case. You think to yourself, oh my god, I really cared about that? Wow.
People say I’ve changed – thank god for that. Is that meant to be a diss? I take that as a compliment. Change is necessary.
A: Will you do back to being as busy as you were before?
C: I’m not doing that to myself again, no. I’m only going to do stuff that makes me truly happy. I think life falls into place when you focus on that intent. Only happiness. Only authenticity.
I’m won’t spend time on anything that makes me feel stressed or nervous. I haven’t got the energy.
A: It’s just not worth it, is it?
C: It’s not. The pandemic actually taught us that. You speak to people now and they don’t want to go back to their normal lives.
I think we’ve learnt a really valuable lesson, as horrible and tragic and despicable as it was, and it brought a lot of awareness and self reflection, for the better.
A: Its self reflection, and working out what works for you, right?
C: And what’s important, and what makes you happy, and what makes you miserable. People are anxious about going back into the office, and they may blaming the pandemic, but it’s not pandemic-related. It’s likely about what they didn’t like about their lives before.
A: Quick fire questions. Who is your wellness inspiration? Who’s taught you the most?
Doctor Jodie Spencer and Gregg Braden, because they just make it make sense.
Tracey Anderson (personal trainer) is amazing. Her whole ethos is about leaning the body out, rather than bulking it. She’s dance-based, and I was a dancer.
Melissa Woods (Pilates teacher) is nice, too.
A: Favourite workout?
I mainly do Birkam yoga online, by myself. That’s my favourite.
A: Go-to coffee order – do you drink caffeine?
C: Do I drink caffeine (laughs loudly). I bounce out of bed and run to the coffee machine.
I always have an oat flat white, with lactose free oat cream and honey. I just prefer it.
A: One bit of advice you’d give your younger self, if you could?
C: Chill out. Where are you going? Where are you rushing off too? Meditate. Sit down. Be quiet.
To check out Feel supplements for yourself, head to their website for more information.