Keeping Fit

Diana’s superb figure and generally glowing appearance did not come from nowhere. It required much effort, careful eating and a lot of self denial and willpower. But the royal look she wanted demanded no less.

Diving in the swimming pool of a Brazilian hotel in 1991

By 1985, when she was 24, Diana had virtually remade herself in a new, svelte and much more elegant image. Five years earlier, when she became Prince Charles’s fiancée, no one could reasonably have called Diana fat. A little plump maybe, but then she seemed to be still at the ‘puppy fat’ stage. Size 14 for a girl of her height was not out of the ordinary. Had Diana remained just another pretty girl, size 14, would probably have done very well. But as soon as she became the fiancée of the next king, Diana was set to be a public figure who would be putting herself on constant show. Diana, therefore, began a campaign to get herself into shape for the job that awaited her.

By the time she married, she had fortunately shed her favorite schoolgirl foods, four bowels of cereal for breakfast, shepherd’s pie and baked beans, all of them stuffed with calories. Later, Diana graduated to a more discriminating diet; quiches, soufflés, jacket potatoes, sorbets and salads. Though not strictly vegetarian, as was supposed at one time, Diana avoided red meat and pork, preferring chicken, seafood or fish. Fruits and vegetables were always on the table and she liked pasta.

There were many stories about Diana chasing food round her plate with a fork and not eating at official luncheons or dinners. Diana, it appears, disliked being watched or photographed eating. At official meats, of course, people constantly stared at her, so there seemed to be no escape. Diana had to talk to her neighbors and others at the dinning table and the double act of eating and speaking was difficult for her. She found a way out of these problems, though. She ate beforehand at home, in private, before attending formal meals. This lone meal would be light, but filling and enabled her to watch her intake. She also avoided the fattening perils of lavish state dinners. Alcohol served at such meals was not a problem, though. Diana rarely drank, preferring natural mineral water. A lot of calories were saved that way.

There is great deal more to a good figure than dieting. Exercise is its handmaiden and Diana was the first royal to go in for regular workouts. Time off at the gym had another benefit, too. It was a chance for Diana to unwind from the stress of public engagements. This is probably why she herself called her exercise routines ‘pamper Diana days’. The routine was hardly a soft option. Normally, Diana took three 30 minute sessions a week of vigorous exercise.

A 1993 photograph of the Princess exercising at Chelsea Gym in London

At home, she was said to keep a treadmill for walking two miles a day. Aerobics played an important part in Diana’s exercise agenda. As did jogging. When in London, she was fortunate to have the big expanse of Kensington Gardens close to her home in Kensington Palace. She could frequently be seen, though she often went unrecognized, jogging along the paths at a good steady pace at around nine in the morning. She did not jog alone. One or other of her bodyguards used to go with her and he had to jog, too, in order to keep up.

Like all good fitness fans, Diana had a substitute for jogging if rain spoiled her outing, an extra two mile walk on her treadmill. Jogging was also part of her day when she was in the country, at Highgrove House, where the grounds offered her privacy and her bodyguards could rest. Highgrove had its own swimming pool and provided Diana with more valuable all over exercise. In London, she used the pool at Buckingham Palace. When at Sandringham, she used to slip away for a swim at the local leisure club. When abroad, she was known to use any suitable pool which had sufficient security. Majorca, where Diana holiday with the Spanish royal family, afforded her plenty of opportunity. So did Necker, Richard Branson’s private island in the Caribbean.

The royal yacht Britannia had its own swimming pool, too. Wherever she was, Diana would swim 20 or 30 lengths, of both breaststroke and backstroke. As if all this were not enough, Diana added dancing and sports to her regime. She had been fond of dancing since childhood and admitted that it was almost an ‘obsession’ with her. That included tap and jazz dancing and ballet. Until she grew too tall for it, Diana had wanted to be a ballet dancer, but even then, her interest did not wane.

In 1983, she was said to have taken six weeks of lessons under the aegis of Dame Merle Park, Principal of the Royal Ballet and director of the Royal Ballet School. Ballet training helped Diana cope with the strain on her back from lifting children at the Young England Kindergarten, where she had worked.

‘Pampering Diana Days’, as she called it, included visits to health clubs and health farms, massages using aromatherapy oils, facials and a skin care routine from the USA, which apparently involved splashing her face with water sixty times a day.

Reference: Diana: An Extraordinary Life, a tribute magazine in 26 issues. Published in 1997.