Louise Thompson: 'I really notice the difference to my mental state if I don't exercise for a week'


By Liz Connor

She's the pint-sized fitness guru with over a million followers and some of the most enviable abs on Instagram - but Louise Thompson insists she hasn't become a slave to the gym. "I typically work out three times a week maximum," says the 27-year-old Londoner. "My muscles take a few days to recover, and I don't like to push myself too hard or stress my body out."

Thompson, who shot to fame on hit reality series Made In Chelsea, went through a major lifestyle overhaul back in 2016, after secretly battling with anxiety and panic attacks behind the scenes of the show. She began sharing her fitness and health tips with fans through Instagram, along with her popular 30-second couple workouts, with her personal trainer boyfriend and co-star, Ryan Libbey.

Now, she's built a fitness empire that includes petite activewear brand Pocket Sport (pocket-sport.co.uk), and has documented her mental health battles and subsequent journey to a healthier mindset in a new clean living bible, Live Well With Louise.

The healthy living guru, who recently became engaged while on holiday in LA, says that much of her old anxiety was "driven by bad decision-making and bad choices".

She explains: "A lot of life is down to luck and things that are out of our control, but something we can control is the way we treat our body. I used to disrespect mine - now I don't. I make sure I'm as active as I can be, and also I don't put lots of nasty stuff into my body."

A healthy new start

Thompson, who used to be a regular face on the London party scene with fellow Made In Chelsea cast members, now limits alcohol, has quit smoking, and has "massively" cut down on junk food. "I've learnt what my body does and doesn't respond well to and I feed it accordingly. Now and again, I'll over-indulge, but probably one-10th of the amount I used to.

"Anxiety can take over your life and leave you feeling pretty powerless; it's worse than any other feeling I've experienced and when it chooses to spiral out of control, it feels worse than the stress factors that
caused it in the first place.

"I'm teaching myself to care less about the judgement of others - I know that it'll help me to be happier day-to-day."

The last few years have been game-changing for the reality star. Inspired by her boyfriend's virtuous lifestyle, she's transformed her diet and exercise routine, is feeling stronger than ever and has fallen in love with fitness, after spending years struggling to muster enthusiasm for the gym. The key to staying motivated, she says, is in listening to your body.

All about the balance

"If my mind and body are feeling strong, then I'll do a full-body resistance training session in the gym with heavy weights to break down my muscle fibres," Thompson explains. "Whereas if I'm under time pressure, or if I've been very busy, then I'll practise my own body-weight exercises at home in my living room.

"When I'm feeling tense or stressed though, I will choose something like yoga. I recently discovered something new called 'Yin yoga', where you stay in one position for a lengthy period of time so you can loosen up. I held each position for four minutes and felt incredible afterwards."

Refreshingly, she admits she still has bad days with her mental health, but that making small changes to her lifestyle has played a huge part in feeling more balanced. "I actually still suffer from occasional bouts of
anxiety, even though I'm so self-aware and understand lots about it. It's just the way that I'm hardwired, so I seek new ways to deal with it.

"When I feel like I'm regressing, I remind myself to practise mindfulness, read more, put things into perspective, talk about my worries, write things down, and ultimately remember that I've been in
this place before and got out the other side," she shares.

Fitness as therapy

Fitness also helps her to feel grounded. "I really notice the difference to my mental state if I don't exercise for a whole week, so I try and stay on top of it, even if it means just doing my ab blast routine on my bedroom floor when I'm on holiday.

"I get twitchy and don't feel myself if I don't do anything for a prolonged period of time."

After taking a break from filming Made In Chelsea, Thompson says she's been enjoying travelling over the summer in the US: "Sometimes it's really refreshing to visit a country, and take a break somewhere where I
can walk freely in tatty clothes with no make-up on, knowing that no one is going to shout across the road or tap me on the shoulder."

Marriage, babies and beyond...

She's also celebrating her recent engagement. While hiking in LA earlier, her 28-year-old boyfriend got down on one knee and popped the question, with Thompson confirming their engagement with a picture of the ring on Instagram. The pair originally met in 2016, when Libbey joined Made in Chelsea as her new boyfriend during the South of France series.

"The actual wedding probably won't be until the middle of next year," she says. "I have a lot of work on my plate at the moment, so I don't have a lot of time to plan a wedding! But I am excited to create space to do so - I've already started writing a guest list!

"Ryan is very important to me," she gushes. "He's like family; I look up to him lots and find him a constant source of inspiration. We are very different so we are a good balance; both of our bad traits counterbalance and we meet somewhere in the middle. I always admire the way he prioritises his own health and wellbeing, and he never seems to get fazed by things."

So could children be on the cards soon? "We would like to have a big family - maybe three or four children," Thompson reveals. "Although I haven't really given much thought to the financial implications of having so many! I'd love to have a couple of kids and own a bungalow in LA," she adds - although she has other plans in the pipeline for the future too.

"Hopefully [Ryan and I] will have opened up our own boutique gym, that we're starting to seek investment for. I'd also love to be hosting my own fitness-style reality show with Ryan and other members of my family, where we have some more creative control."

Live Well With Louise: Fitness And Food To Feel Strong And Happy by Louise Thompson is published by Yellow Kite

Catherine Devane