Being on set with Cheryl Hickey, long-time host of ET Canada, doesn’t feel much like work: she cracks self-deprecating jokes, busts out goofy dance moves, and brings a positive tone to the day.
Because it’s a Best Health shoot, the chatter quickly turns to our favourite (and not-so-favourite) ab workouts. “I have no feeling in my core,” says Hickey. She tells us about how she lost all sensation in her abdomen, a result of multiple surgeries to repair a string of painful post-pregnancy hernias and severe diastasis recti. Despite the loss of feeling, Hickey is grateful: “I can do the normal things I once took for granted: I can pick my daughter up, ski, ride a bike, and eat without pain again.”
It’s this kind of openness that leaves a lasting impression, and it’s made all the more remarkable when you consider that moments before she stepped in front of our camera, she received some life-altering news (but more on that later). Hickey is inspiring — a beautiful TV host who’s spent decades brushing elbows with Hollywood A-listers — and yet she somehow maintains the relatable feeling of a down-to-earth old friend. It’s a quality that’s helped the Owen Sound, Ont. native get to where she is today. “I think it all started with being a kid who loved to talk,” says Hickey. “My dad said to me ‘Do you know that you can have a job having conversations?’ and I remember that sticking in my head.”
With that, Hickey didn’t hesitate to pursue a job in media — heading from a radio broadcast journalism program directly into the workforce. At one of her early jobs as a news station production assistant, she became fascinated with the camera men. Soon, she was staying late, shooting and editing herself into news spots after work, and leaving them on her boss’s desk for feedback. That bold initiative paid off, eventually leading to Hickey gaining her own small soap opera Q&A show to fill a gap in the programming, called Lather Up With Cheryl Hickey. “My dad wasn’t too keen on that name,” says Hickey with a laugh. But she had to push through her nerves to take the leap to being on TV. “When I’m afraid of an opportunity, it often means that it’s the right path so I just said yes,” says Hickey. “We all [have] self-doubt.”
Soon after, Hickey had to push past fear again — her talent was noticed and she was offered a job shooting and reporting from a news chopper for Global. From there, she became a general assignment and crime reporter for the 11 o’clock news and eventually, Hickey landed the dream job she’s held since 2005, becoming the host of ET Canada. “I’ve travelled the world, been engaged and been pregnant twice during my time hosting that show,” says Hickey. “We’re like a family, I feel lucky every day that I get to go in there.”
While her job remains the same, add in two kids, a crazy schedule and her own business to the mix, and her days now look a little different. We chatted about how she stays physically and mentally well, somewhere between playing with her kids and interviewing Hollywood’s biggest names.
How did you develop confidence when you were starting out at ET Canada?
Fake it ’til you make it — I’m still doing that. Every time I have to do public speaking on a stage my palms sweat and I look for the exit. But, if other people think you can [do something], then you probably can.
That’s surprising, as you come across as very self-assured.
I have to work myself up to it. If you continue to look at the things that are wrong with you and the things you don’t like, you’re never going to step out the door. You have to quiet those voices.
How are you able to find balance with your demanding schedule?
I don’t think there’s such a thing. There are days work needs me more and days my family needs me more. Some days it’s really messy. [For instance,] we just covered the royal wedding and it was an opportunity of a lifetime, but I know my daughter really struggled with me being gone for that long. I felt guilty about it, but I also know that this is going to make her resilient, that it’s good for her. I think about my decisions every day and how they’re going to impact people. I’m never not thinking about that.
What motivates you to stay dedicated to your wellness?
My kids, I want to be around for them for a really long time. But even before I had kids, I’ve always been passionate about wellness and health, doing things like researching turmeric; I’m just naturally curious and fascinated by that.
I know you do Pilates twice a week in the Global studio. Why that workout?
Pilates is my go-to, I’m working on my flexibility and all those smaller muscles. But I also do other training, AK Fitness, to work on my muscle tone, which is important as you get older. (Pilates is also a go-to workout for these 12 celebs.)
What does your daily diet look like?
I start my day with apple cider vinegar, lemon and honey and take my supplements: a multivitamin, vitamin D, omegas, probiotics and B vitamins for stress. For breakfast, I eat something with protein, like two hard-boiled eggs, and drink some water. For lunch, I’ll have a salad with a scoop of tuna. As the day takes off from there, I’ll sip on some green tea or water with lemon. In the evening, either my husband or I make dinner and it’s usually a salad with protein. I try not to nibble at night. I just keep it very basic, a lot of fruits, vegetables and protein.
Is there a particular practice that you put into your routine that has improved your sense of well-being?
I think it can get really complicated, but for me it’s really so basic: you have to sleep well, eat well, stay hydrated and manage stress. I focus on checking those boxes. As we get older, it’s also important to know your hormone health and find a doctor who will really talk to you about it, because it matters.
So you always return to that core commonsense advice?
It’s core. And relaxing means putting your phone away. I get down on the floor and I play with the kids or I go hang out with my girlfriends.
Being in the media, you probably are plugged in a lot.
Yeah, and because I have my business (Cheryl Hickey Family), when the kids go to bed I’m busy managing the website and social media accounts. Your mind is just going constantly because of technology. It’s so important to just put [your phone] down and have real conversations and moments with people again.
Why did you start your own business, on top of your busy job as a host?
I started Cheryl Hickey Family, which includes products for babies, and is expanding to include kids, seniors and pets, to look out for the caregivers [in the family]. I wanted to make sure they have a place to go to find things that they need to make their parents’ lives easier as well as making their kids’ lives easier. More people are having children when they’re older, so their likelihood of caring for their children and caring for their parents at the same time is very high.
I know that in your home life your mom has been struggling with multiple sclerosis symptoms. How have you navigated that?
At first, we dealt with it with a lot of tears, fear and frustration but as it progressed, with a lot of determination. We started doing a lot of research about what we could do to help and make her quality of life better. She’s living a good life right now.
You got the news that your dad had been diagnosed with dementia the morning of this shoot, but you still completed the day on set with us. Where does that strength come from?
In that moment, there was nothing I could do for anyone. We knew something was wrong, this was just the final diagnosis.
I was truthfully devastated by the call and terrified about what [the diagnosis] meant. But then I reached out to people I know who have parents with dementia, I read Jann Arden’s book about dementia. If you don’t have knowledge, fear takes over, so I’m learning as much as I can. My sister works with dementia patients for a living so having her there to help us navigate this is a gift. Yes, that night I went home and cried, but we’d also set this whole day up and I didn’t want to let anyone down.
Where does that positive attitude come from?
My mum lives with rose-coloured glasses on, so part of me was thinking: “Okay, now we know what he’s got, now our next goal is to figure out how to help him.” I’m focusing on that.
Sounds like you guys are a really determined family.
We are. My mum’s motto is: “There’s always someone who has it worse than I do, so I need to be grateful.” My sister, brother and I have learned a lot from that. She also meditates, eats really well and [takes] supplements. She is [dedicated to her health] but she also just has a really positive spirit.
Cheryl Hickey’s Workout Whims
We asked our cover girl for her top-of-mind thoughts on exercising.
Morning or night? Morning
Indoors or out? In
Cardio or strength training? Strength
Squats or sit-ups? They’re equally “yuck” but they’re necessary, squats.
Solo or group? I always like to be with a trainer at least, so I guess group.
Want more fitness with Cheryl? Watch our Facebook Live video with the host, where she shows us a few of her go-to core-sculpting Pilates moves.