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Although she can’t live without sourdough and lager or follow long-term diets, Samantha Cameron was determined to shed the three quarters of a stone she put on over lockdown. She has a fashion brand to front and a website to grow, with an increasing number of videos on it featuring her.
Isabel Spearman, her old ally from Downing Street, who used to help her with styling, to the rescue.
It was Spearman who guided her towards a tweaked version of the 5:2. Instead of existing on 500 calories two days a week, Spearman, who’s also shed a significant amount of weight, advised her former boss to raise the ceiling to 800 calories.
“That’s really quite do-able,“ says Cameron. “It means missing breakfast, two days out of seven. I’m a breakfast person. But if you can make it ‘til midday, then you can have two eggs, as much salad as you can eat, plus balsamic vinegar, which despite being sweet, contains very few calories. Then in the evening I’ll have a piece of salmon and a packet of tender stem broccoli.” She runs, not always as diligently as she’d like. “At weekends when I’m still in my leggings at 3pm my family starts teasing me about how I haven’t done my run”.
Although she’s tried various diets in the past, Cameron was not a practised calorie counter. “I have a very greedy husband who has cooked constantly through lockdown, and even if he hadn’t been, deprivation wasn’t on the menu. Everyone in the country was stressed enough”.
Keeping an eye on her carb intake, snacks and alcohol consumption five days a week and restricting herself to 800 calories on two days did the trick. “I all the weight I put on during lockdown in less than a month. Going to bed knowing the next day I could have my sourdough, butter and marmite and a cup of tea for breakfast got me through. It’s about finding the best plan for you psychologically”.
We’re sipping (calorie free) coffee in the sunny open plan living area of the Camerons’ London home in North Kensington – a quiet, leafy street of gentrified red brick Victorian houses. A hardbound copy of David Cameron’s memoirs has place of honour beneath the Vitra bookshelves. Nancy their 17 year-old daughter revises in the next room.
Next to Cameron are two rails of clothes – the reason I’m here, to preview her Autumn Collection, before it becomes available to buy in a couple of weeks. The raison d’etre of her brand was to offer women modern clothes they could wear to work without, as she puts it, “looking too corporate or feeling like a freak if they went out for a drink after work”. It’s instructive to see how its DNA has altered after 16 months of WFH. “There are far more separates than previously,“ she says.
Jamie blazer (Grey check), £390, Tatum trousers (Grey check), £270; Eva jumper, £190, Sawyer skirt, £170, all available from mid-July at Cefinn
“We’re finding customers want a wardrobe of flexible looks. There isn’t a separation for most people now of work clothes and home clothes, because the two blur. So we’ve got tiered midi skirts you can wear with a medium weight knit, or a tailored jacket.” Trouser suits are back big time, and so, she tells me, “based on what stockists are ordering from us, our skirt suits”.
She has floaty dresses too with shirred waists – in lip patterned silks and a washable recycled polyester that feels like silk. They’re all designed to be slim yet forgiving. Discreet elasticated panels are inserted at the backs of trouser waistbands are going down a storm. She wasn’t the only one tucking into Marmite and sourdough during lockdown.