I never thought I’d say I was excited about turning 40,” laughs Amanda Byram. “But do you know what? I really am!”
You’d never think the woman who breezes into the FIT shoot bang on time, make-up free, looking radiant and dragging an enormous suitcase behind her up two flights of stairs is about to hit this milestone age, but she is, and with boundless energy and enthusiasm that could only be the result of an enviably healthy lifestyle.
She’s running straight from our shoot to present an award at the IFTAs before flying across the pond to her adopted hometown of London to attend the BAFTAs the next day. Such is the life of a glamazon, but the Castleknock, Co Dublin, beauty is quick to implore that she wouldn’t be able to do it had she not knocked boozing on the head recently.
On first impressions, she is stunning. Lithe, strong and toned, she barely looks 30, let alone 39, yet upon hearing her training routine, I quickly realise that there is no secret to how she looks — it’s a combination of hard bloody work, great genes and careful eating. Years in LA honed her figure and mindset, but Amanda recalls that she’s always been a fitness fanatic.
“I was an athletic kid, and I enjoyed school sports, but I was never the best, and as I’m very competitive, I’ll pack something in if it’s not working and move on to the next! However, I have clear memories of wearing leg warmers and dancing around to Jane Fonda. I’ve always been into the aerobic element; something clicked with me and fitness at a very early age.”
However, her body hasn’t always been a temple. “When I was about 16, I basically went through that teenage phase of thinking I was fat. But unfortunately I went to the extremes, to the point where it was almost dangerous. I’d drink three weight-loss shakes a day and eat a packet of popcorn, and I lived like that for about a year. I was totally uneducated about fitness and diet.
“I had started modelling and didn’t win a competition I’d been told I had to win, or I’d never make it. I’d had a knock, and my tail was between my legs, so subconsciously I thought the only control I could have over myself was my weight.
“I didn’t eat enough and I exercised to the max. I was so painfully skinny, utterly miserable and completely obsessed. I used to be in tears thinking about my next meal.”
But first love and success proved a tonic for Amanda, who began to get healthier once her modelling career took off in the 1990s.
“I wised up a little bit, started eating more, and then I was known for being voluptuous and for having boobs. At that stage of my life, diet didn’t really figure, but I was getting away with it because I was young.”
Moving to LA really kick-started her new life. “My huge passion for fitness started in 2004. I was living in LA, working and doing quite well, and I did a shoot for Stuff magazine. I remember thinking, I want to look really well in these photos. So I hired a trainer.
“My body shape changed completely, even though I was eating so much food. It was the first time my brain correlated that I could eat lots, train and still look fit.”
Amanda realised where she’d been going wrong in terms of re-shaping her body, as she’d been expecting to change the way she looked and felt by just doing cardio.
“I used to pound the bike out of it, and the treadmill, but my weight still plateaued, so I started weight training, which I now love. “I switch it up a lot with my fitness regime, to shock my body into doing different things. I used to work with a winning formula, but now I’ve realised your body needs change.
“I work with a trainer three times a week — a 22-year-old ex-marine! He’s hardcore, because that’s what I like. I also do reformer Pilates twice a week, because that’s key for a leaner body and strong core.”
As well as all that, Amanda feels the benefits of getting outside and running too. “I love a good run. I go to Hyde Park, and if I’m away in Sydney, I’ll run the coast. I run now for mental health though; cardio clears my head.
“I spent years pounding the treadmill and the beach in LA, and I’ve got bad knees because of it, so my message would be don’t overtrain. Don’t negate all the good that you’ve done. Train smarter, not harder. When you’re approaching 40, your bones are not something you want to be messing with at all!”
Amanda reminding me of her age jars, as it does not compute with the woman in the leotard with rock-hard abs and waist of a teen.
“People think I must be absolutely crazy with my lifestyle, and then in the same breath they’ll go, ‘You look really well for your age!’ “But I’ve learned you can’t have one without the other. My lifestyle reflects how I look. I feel better now than I did at 30. But I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary. I eat more than I’ve ever eaten, and I don’t miss anything.” Still, she’s not without her vices. “Oh, definitely chocolate,” she admits. “If I had my choice, it would a mud pie or a malted shake from Eddie Rocket’s or a bar of Dairy Milk, or some cheese. The naughty stuff is fine every now and then.”
I have a feeling that her version of “now and then” and mine are pretty different, but at least it’s comforting to know that having a Byram-esque body doesn’t come easily, even to a beautiful creature like Amanda.
This article originally appeared in Fit Magazine available every Thursday with the Irish Independent