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Your Health: Secret of how party girl Penny looks so glowing when she gets up at 4am...carrots.

Byline: SHARON COLLINS Health Correspondent

FOR a woman who loves to party and still gets up at 4am, Penny Smith is positively glowing with good health. Her luminous complexion is tinged with an alluring orange giving the impression she's just come back from the beach.

But her hectic lifestyle leaves little time for the outdoors - and her glorious colour isn't down to fake tan or hours on the sunbed...it's all due to carrots.

"I'm addicted to carrots," says the GMTV presenter. "I'm afraid I do have a slightly orange glow about me. I have just eaten three carrots, with two pieces of toast, for breakfast this morning.

"I have a doctor friend who says it's not good to eat so many carrots, and I do try to cut down, but I'm a carrotoholic."

Penny, who usually gets through about five or six carrots a day, even indulged herself with a three-course carrot meal at her recent birthday celebration.

She treated herself and guests at Zilli's in Notting Hill, London, to a feast of carrot soup, followed by scallops with carrots and finished off with carrot cake.

Carrots are one of the richest sources of beta carotene, some of which is converted by the body into Vitamin A. While beta carotene is not toxic, over-consumption of carrots can cause colouring of the skin, a condition known as xanthosis.

But it doesn't seem to be doing Penny much harm. She goes out every night of the week, even when she knows her alarm will sound at 4am.

"I have quite a stressed life and I do more than I ever should," admits Penny. "I can't remember the last time I had an early night. In fact my New Year's resolution is to have one early night."

One thing that allows Penny, who is single, to keep partying is that she doesn't touch alcohol during the week.

"I'm one of those dangerous types who doesn't drink for weeks on end and then falls over after three glasses of wine."

Penny has to get up early five mornings a week. "It's the hour when most people die. Just when everyone is at their lowest ebb, I have to get up. But I am the quickest dresser in the world. It takes me only 12 minutes, and I'm at the studio by 25 minutes past four."

After each show Penny returns to her West London flat by 10am where she goes back to bed for four hours.

"Sometimes I go to bed three times a day and it can get a bit confusing. I am often heard to ask, 'What day is it today?'"

But Penny's social life will take a bit of a dent over the next few weeks because she has some serious reading to do early in the New Year.

As one of the judges of the Whitbread Book Of The Year on January 23, she has eight books to get through in three weeks.

Maybe that will help her to take things easier for a while. However she is determined nothing will get in the way of another of her great passions beside carrots...and that's yoga.

Penny says it has revolutionised her life since she started doing it four years ago.

"I do my yoga three times a week for 90 minutes, usually in the afternoon around 4pm," she says. "It de-stresses me, and since I started doing it people have said how well I look. They also think I have lost weight. I haven't actually - I just stand better.

"I got into it in a rather odd way. It came about when I went for a massage by a lady called Diana Holland.

"While we were talking I told her how my exercise routine had dwindled to just playing tennis at weekends and running when I could.

"I missed playing squash competitively. It was hard to find anyone who was any good during the day because they were at work and I was too worn out to play evening matches.

"Diana said she was also a personal trainer and practised yoga. I told her firmly I wasn't interested in yoga but I fancied having a personal trainer.

"Over the weeks and months she snuck in lots of yoga moves until one day I realised the yoga bits were the ones I really enjoyed doing.

"I'm exactly the sort of person who benefits from yoga, having quite a high stressed life and I was terribly inflexible - I couldn't even touch my knees, yet alone my toes.

"I was fit and into power games which are good for the lungs and the heart but I couldn't bend and stretch.

"I used to get aching knees and found that it took me ages to get to sleep but ever since I've done yoga I've slept better, I hardly have colds - which I used to be plagued by - and my general health and wellbeing has just got a lot better."

Penny's age is reported as anything from 37 to 43. So what's the truth? "Well I'm certainly not 43, and I'm saying 37 because I refuse to get any older when people I know are older than me are getting younger.

"On the basis that it doesn't really matter, I'm sticking with 37."

Does she feel time is ticking away if she wants to have children some day?

"If the circumstances are right and it happens, it happens. But I've never had a desperate urge to recreate little replicas of me, and there is no one special in my life at the moment."

One thing that Penny is planning is a hike in the Himalayas in Nepal next year with her best friend Mariella Frostrup.

The pair have already done a five-day trek together in Peru to raise money for the Children's Society.

"It was great fun," says Penny. "I nicknamed Mariella the Mountain Goat because she raced up and down those hills while I was such a gas bag. I talked to everybody, meandered about, sat down to look at the view and pitched camp.

"Mariella and I did no preparation whatsoever and we were fine. She does power yoga too. I think we're both quite fit. We went on holiday to South Africa a month ago and we hired a yoga teacher while we were there."

Like many women, Penny has a constant battle to control her weight - she is 5ft 7in and ideally nine-and-a-half stone.

"My weight has been up and down like a yoyo over the years," she says. "If I look at a very small canape, I can feel my hips swelling.

"If I need to lose weight I try to stop eating periodically - not fasting, but I tell myself I don't need 18 meals a day.

"I don't weigh myself on the basis it makes me fat. If I have lost weight, I go and eat and if I have put weight on, I go and eat because I am depressed.

"If my trousers feel tight then I think, right I'm going to be sensible and I cut out things like mince pies. The good thing about the job I do is that it means I have a good routine. When I wake up at 4am I don't feel like a huge great scoff. I take a soya yoghurt, a banana and sometimes a bagel with me to the studio to eat about 5am.

"Later, when I get up at two or three, I'll have my lunch which is usually a bowl of home-made vegetable or organic soup."

Penny is not vegetarian but she doesn't eat much meat. She says she adores sweets like jam rolypoly and apple pudding with custard.

"I care about my health more now than when I was 20," she says. "Now I feel the need to exercise, and I know how vital it is. I'm about to go running to shed all of the Christmas excesses. I run for 45 minutes - about five miles."

Penny, who used to date comedian Rory Bremner, was married at the age of 26 to journalist Tony Birtley, who is now remarried and lives in America.

"I like being single," she says. "It's very good fun and it keeps me healthy because I'm not forced to do anything that I don't want to.

"I can go out, stay up late and drink too much if I want. It's nice, I like that part but it's got its downside too. It can get a bit lonely - but I can lie and listen to some music which is nice.

"Single life is not something I necessarily chose, but it's been extraordinarily good fun."

She's hoping it will be lots of fun tonight too when she celebrates the New Year with a group of her closest friends.

- Penny Smith's Power Yoga by Telstar Video Entertainment is released on January 2, price pounds 10.99.

By DOCTOR

MARK PORTERTHE reason Penny's skin has turned orange is due to the yellow pigments, called carotenoids, contained in carrots.

Beta carotene is one of these, but it is not harmful to the body in fit and healthy people.

It is not the same as Vitamin A, which if too much is consumed is very toxic and can lead to liver problems and even death.

However, I suggest Penny eats organic carrots because carrots in this country can contain a lot of pesticide residues.

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GLOWING: Penny Smith thrives on late nights, early starts, yoga and carrots
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 31, 2000
Words:1584
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