Model and photographer Penny Lancaster Stewart has teamed up with Nectar to promote this Summer’s ‘Swipe for Sun’ holiday giveaway, which will see the UK’s leading loyalty card giving away a holiday every day throughout the month of July. Female First caught up with Penny to chat about holidays, health and how to get that oh-so-allusive beach body.

Can you tell me a little bit about Nectar’s Swipe for Sun giveaway?

The wonderful thing about it is that everyone enjoys a holiday but not everyone can always afford it. With the Nectar card, basically the more you use your card over the month of July, the more chance you have of winning one of 31 holidays to the med, from Costa del Sol to Cyprus. The Nectar loyalty card gives you points for money you spend with their partner, like Sainsbury’s, and you can use those points on goods to treat yourself throughout the year.

During the month of July, the biggest treat of all is up for grabs, which of course is the opportunity of winning a holiday! I wouldn’t like to say that I spend most of my time on holiday, but I have done a lot of traveling and have been to a lot of places. Holidays form the basis of some of your fondest memories, so I think it’s a great opportunity for Nectar cardholders to go out and take advantage of this generous offer.

To move onto your holidaying habits, where is your favourite holiday destination and why do you like it so much?

There are so many places I have visited which are unusual, but the ones my family and I tend to always go back to are those in Europe, particularly France and Italy. We have a house in France and we love taking driving holidays through Provence, whilst the Amalfi coast of Italy is so beautiful and dramatic. The food, culture and language of these parts are beautiful, and we pretty much go back every year or so.

If you could visit anywhere in the world where would it be?

I like the idea of going to see the ice caps and the polar bears, because who knows how long they are going to be around for? Maybe when my children have children, I will be telling them stories of icebergs and polar bears, which don’t exist anymore, so I like the idea of seeing something so unique.

Where did you visit as a child, is it different to where you go now?

As a child with my family, it would usually be a resort which was geared around families and kids; a beach holiday with lots of entertainment and things for everyone. I happily went on holiday with my parents until I was 18, because we always had such a good time that I didn’t want to venture off and do my own thing. I have very fond memories of those holidays with my brother, mum and dad.

Is there anywhere you wouldn’t like to visit?

I don’t think there’s anywhere I would say, “Oh no, I don’t want to go there” about, because it’s important to always be broadening your horizons. It would be ignorant to say that there’s somewhere out there which has absolutely nothing to offer. Even if it’s somewhere that you would choose to never go back to, how can you have an opinion on somewhere if you’ve never been?

How do you maintain your bikini body?

I think that genetics play a big part. I used to be mad on my fitness – as a child I swam for my county and did aerobics, and I think that your muscles have a memory. As long as you keep an active routine, you can maintain a healthy, fit shape.

Do you still dance since leaving Strictly Come Dancing?

Well I haven’t managed to find a partner as good as Ian since! I do like dancing in general, but I haven’t done any more ballroom since then.

What pressures were you under to be thin when you were a model?

When I first began modeling I was asked to lose weight, but I am 6’1” with quite broad shoulders from swimming, so losing too much weight is unhealthy and I would end up fainting. Plus, I just don’t like that look, I think it’s awful! I much prefer a healthy, fit image, and I was lucky enough to find such a niche in my modeling career, which also proved lucrative for me. There is definitely too much pressure on women today to be a certain size, and especially for mothers to get back to their pre-baby shape, which I think is ridiculous and totally irresponsible, especially when Mothers are trying to breast-feed. Putting the baby’s needs first is more important, which is what I did.

What do you think of modeling agencies today when they encourage people to lose weight?

I think there should be a higher governing body which sets rules and guidelines for modeling, and if a young girl comes along who isn’t the typical shape for a model, then the best advice might be to go and find another career rather than turn themselves into something they’re not.

Finally, what are your views on the size zero debate?

It’s just hideous really. I’m a size 12, and the most important thing is to take pride in yourself, keep fit and healthy, and be conscious of what you’re putting into your body. Try to avoid processed food and anything white - always go for the wholegrain - and drink plenty of vegetable juice and exercise regularly. Just keep a sensible balance, because to spend your life worrying about what people think about you is a very negative way to live. At the end of the day, who dictates that skinny is the way to be? It should be more about being healthy, and not about looking skinny.

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FemaleFirst - Ruth Harrison

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