From jumping into ice-cold water to falling a terrifying 500 feet from a bridge in sub-zero conditions in the Italian mountains, Dianne Buswell calls her time on BBC’s Freeze The Fear With Wim Hof “really quite life-changing”.
The flame-haired Strictly dancer says she’s taken the lessons she learned from the Dutch motivational speaker and extreme athlete – also known as The Iceman – into the rest of her life.
“I feel like I really changed from the beginning. The breathing technique is something I genuinely practise every day now,” says the 33-year-old.
Wim Hof’s technique involves fully inhaling deeply through the nose or mouth (using the belly then chest) and exhaling unforced through the mouth – and repeating it 30 to 40 times in short, powerful bursts.
After the last inhalation, he suggests letting the air out and stopping breathing until you feel the urge to breathe again.
Buswell – who has been named a new ambassador for Müller Corner Creations G’Dairy – does the technique prior to dance shows especially.
“I can honestly say I’ve had no anxiety at all, when [before] there would be times that I would get a little bit anxious. There are thousands of eyes watching you dance – and that can be a little bit overwhelming.
“But I’ve done all my breathing since starting this tour and I’ve not felt anxious out there once. I’ve just gone out and enjoyed every moment.”
The power of the cold – and the positive impact it’s said to have on circulation, metabolism, inflammation, immunity and sleep – has also carried over into Buswell’s everyday routine too.
Now she has a cold shower every morning and jumps in an ice bath after dancing – “I love it. I really look forward to it – before I was like, ‘Oh, there’s no chance I’m doing that – don’t be daft!’”
Viewers were emotional when Buswell (who has been dating YouTuber Joe Sugg since 2018) opened up to other celebrities on the show about struggling with an eating disorder in her early 20s – sparked by body image pressure and enforced weigh-ins as a young dancer – and was warned by doctors of being at risk of a heart attack.
“It was probably about a solid year that it was happening,” the dancer, originally from Western Australia, says. “I was definitely underweight and my body was under extreme stress… [I felt like] I needed to look a certain way and I restricted myself.”
Her illness impacted her love of dancing, as well as her ability to dance. “My body wasn’t coping with the amount of pressure getting put on it.
I was tired, I didn’t have energy, my mood wasn’t there, I didn’t want to dance. Normally, the music would just take me to this other place, like when I’m on stage, I see the joy. But when I wasn’t feeling at my best, I had to act to enjoy it.”
But she says she was “lucky” in a way. Although she saw doctors, she didn’t have to go to a specialised clinic, and with the support of her family, was able to recover.
“I’m very strong-minded [and] realised that I wasn’t happy with how I was feeling and how my body was feeling. My brain was then able to go, ‘I really want to keep dancing and I really want to be strong and healthy’.
I took time off to recover and get my body strong again. I was really lucky in that sense. I realise it’s not the case for everyone.”
Now she says she’s “in a much better place” with her own body image. “I’m really happy now, I don’t judge myself [against] anyone else.
I always just think about me, myself and I, and what my body needs in order for it to feel good. I’m always telling myself that we’re all so different – so I don’t need to look like anyone else but myself.”
And she’s really discovered the power of talking to a professional – even when you don’t have problems. “I’m not afraid to say I speak to a therapist every now and then.
It’s not because I feel like I have any sort of issues, but I think we do yoga to stretch our bodies and we go for massages to relieve tension – but I think it’s good to also work out your brain.”
Even if she has nothing particular to say, “just by talking to her, it’s nice to open up, and there might be something that comes up that you didn’t think would”.
These days, Buswell is “big into self-care”, although she explains: “I used to find it quite a selfish thing, so I never used to do it, but now it’s the most important thing – because if you feel good about yourself then you give other things so much more time and energy, and you have the time and energy to do it!”
She likens her regularly doing yoga and Pilates to going for a massage or a facial – “When you’re relaxed, you really enjoy a massage – that’s how I feel when I do yoga. I light candles, I make it a really nice place – it’s self-care as well as obviously doing good things for your body.”
And acts of self-care can really be anything that makes you feel good. “One of my favourites is going to a market and buying really nice fruit and veg. To me, it’s a form of self-care, because I enjoy the market and shopping for it, and I enjoy getting home, cooking it and making it.”
Her diet is obviously important as a professional athlete. “I’ll try and have some sort of yoghurt every day.
I tend to snack a fair bit when I’m touring because I can’t really cook as much as I want to when I’m on the run. I love rice cakes and almond butter or peanut butter. I love avocado on basically everything, fruits like bananas and oranges, loads of different nuts… I’ve always got a bag of snacks with me.
“That’s part of my thing – I’m the snack queen!” she laughs. “If anyone’s ever-hungry – Dianne’s got you sorted.”
If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, contact eating disorder charity Beat on 0808 801 0677 or visit beateatingdisorders.org.uk.