'My son Alfie has really helped me to be less body-conscious and isn't worried whether his Mummy has a six pack or not'
Actress and fitness fan Catherine Tyldesley talks to Gabrielle Fagan about body image, working out to keep stress at bay and how a tragedy encouraged her to get parents swimming with their children
Former Coronation Street star Catherine Tyldesley may appear to have it all - success, fabulous figure, super-fit personal trainer husband Tom Pitfield and adorable four-year-old son, Alfie - but she's as down-to-earth as it gets.
"I make a point of not airbrushing any of my Instagram posts," says the straight-talking 35-year-old. "I think we have a responsibility to keep it real.
"In reality nobody's perfect, but you see all these people somehow looking constantly amazing in their posts. I have to remind myself that it often isn't what it seems and we don't need to keep making comparisons."
The actress, who played feisty barmaid Eva Price on the cobbles for seven years until she left last year, believes our obsession with perfect bodies isn't healthy mentally.
"I just saw this app where you can run your fingers over your body and take yourself down from a size 14 to a size six in the blink of an eye to see what you'd look like. Really! Is this what we want to do to ourselves?" she exclaims.
"I'd like to see a movement where we all go: 'You know what, I'm enough just as I am'."
Motherhood has made her more relaxed about her own body image, she admits. She's battled with her weight in the past and at one point was a size 22. "It was a turning point when I was 16 and got puffed out just going up a flight of stairs," recalls Tyldesley, who eventually shed five stone before finding fame on Coronation Street.
"Now I have a child I've got him to focus on, instead of dwelling on me, which is quite liberating. Alfie's really helped me be less body-conscious.
"I'm just like any other woman, where my jeans feel tight at times, or once a month I go up a dress size and feel rubbish about myself. But Alfie loves lying on my squishy little belly, isn't bothered whether Mummy has a six pack or not. He just likes Mummy as she is."
Tyldesley has just become the face of On The Beach's 'All-swimclusive' campaign, to get parents swimming with their children.
According to a survey, 68% of parents avoid taking a dip due to appearance factors such as low body confidence and feeling uncomfortable in swimwear.
"How sad is that?" says Tyldesley. "I've been bigger myself and it can make you self-conscious, but there are all shapes and sizes out there in the pool and on the beach. It's really not like Baywatch!"
Far more important than worrying about looking perfect, she adds, is enjoying swimming with your children.
"Kids need to be confident and able to cope in water. My dad was 10 when he witnessed one of his friends drown, so my sister and I were taught to swim really young. We took Alfie to the pool for the first time when he was six weeks old."
Tyldesley recently finished filming new BBC One comedy Scarborough, by Benidorm creator Derren Litten, in which she stars with Jason Manford. "It's warm, genuine Northern humour. I've always had a flair for comedy - I'm currently writing a comedy script - and love making people laugh," she says.
It was a sharp contrast to her previous role in Channel Five crime drama 15 Days, which was "quite dark" and required a Welsh accent. She's delighted she's getting the variety she craved in her acting career, and relieved she's not been "typecast" after so long on Corrie. "It was a hard decision to leave Corrie," she admits.
"It's got such a special place in my heart and always will have, it's like my second home, and if the time and the story line was right, I'd go back. But I came into this business because I love variety and that's what I wanted to explore. I look at someone like Sheridan Smith, who's done theatre, TV, film and singing, and that's what I'd love."
Off-screen, fitness and health are a major part of her life - she and husband Tom have an Instagram account, @thepitfields, dedicated to healthy living (Tom's currently one of the fitness experts on ITV's health series, Eat, Shop, Save). The couple had a whirlwind romance (they'd only been dating for four months when Tyldesley fell pregnant) before marrying in 2016.
"It was very quick but it just felt super natural and right. I felt like I had known him all my life and I could absolutely relax and be myself with him. He's the least showbizzy person - he didn't even know I was in Corrie when we met," she says.
"I can be the more stressed out of Tom and me, but he makes me more chilled. He's very laid-back and very, very funny.
"Not only that, he's a great dad, super tidy, can cook, and is brilliant at his job. I really feel I've hit the jackpot.
"Alfie's got his dad's sense of humour, he says he wants to be a comedian when he grows up, and even if I'm in a bad mood, half an hour with those two peas in a pod will cheer me up."
Limiting time on her phone and social media plays a big part in looking after her stress levels and wellbeing too.
"Of course I have to stay in touch for work but for a long while now, I've been really disciplined about using my phone. It's made me feel so much more relaxed," she says.
The On The Beach research also found that 79% of parents spend up to six hours a day looking at their screens while on holiday.
"If I'm with Alfie, I'll turn my phone off so he's my focus, and we'll put our phones away when we're out as a family and just check them at the end of the day.
"It's so important to properly focus on kids and have real eye contact - not just one eye on the phone and one on them. I don't want him to grow up and say, 'You were always on your phone'."
Tyldesley started meditating two years ago.
"It's really had a positive impact on me and being able to switch off is a life skill. Stress can have such an adverse effect on health. I'm starting to teach Alfie breathing exercises, as you can't start too young."
While she works hard to stay fit, she says: "It's not a hardship because it's such a de-stresser for me to work-out in the gym. I do weight training, HIIT and lots of swimming and walking.
"In the past, I did fad diets - which aren't sustainable and just make you miserable - but now I'm passionate about good nutrition. We eat healthily and try to eat from the land.
"Our guideline is: If it's run, swum or grown from the earth, we eat it. We don't eat processed food and I love making comfort food and family favourites but using healthy ingredients."
Looking to the future, her philosophy is simple: "I've always lived by the motto: 'If you can see it, you can dream it, and if you believe it, you can achieve it'.
"I hung on that through all the years of dreaming of being an actor and singer. I just count my blessings and take each day as it comes nowadays. If a script looks good, and I like the character and it works for us as a family, I do it.
"There's lots of jobs I've turned down because it didn't work for us as a family. We're a team, but we make things work and make the right choices together."
Tackling the rise in swim shyness, On the Beach is offering customers the option to take part in a complimentary #AllSwimclusive session before their holiday. For details, visit onthebeach.co.uk/all-swimclusive