Her body is aching in places she never knew existed, she's averaging just a couple of hours sleep a night and the terror of performing is as real as ever. But ask celebrity chef Nadia Lim if she's having second thoughts about her decision to compete in this year's Dancing with the Stars, and the answer is an emphatic "no!"
"It's the biggest challenge I've ever taken on," she tells. "I'm not a dancer, I'm not a performer and I'm definitely not a natural athlete, so I couldn't be further out of my comfort zone. But I'm loving learning a new skill and even though it's hard, I am having fun. And that's the most important thing. There's no point doing anything if it's not fun!"
But it's an exhausted Nadia, 33, who answers the phone for our chat at 7am the morning after an elimination episode. Even though she's fighting a nasty cold, has pulled her oblique muscle and hurt her ribs, the show must go on – she's already in the make-up chair preparing to film a My Food Bag promotion, before she has to rush to meet dance partner Aaron at 9am for their daily six-hour rehearsal session.
Add to the chaos her two darling boys Bodhi, three, and River, seven months, and Nadia admits the word "busy" doesn't come close to describing their household at the moment.
"It's a bit insane," laughs the food star, who also has the pressure of another cookbook due in just a few weeks.
"The timing is terrible, but I've always been someone who dives in at the deep end. I want to be able to look back on my life when I'm 80 and think I did some cool things."
While Bodhi goes to daycare and River has a nanny-share arrangement around the corner from their Auckland home, Nadia admits the juggle is only working thanks to the kindness of her mum Julie and husband Carlos' mum Virginia, who help out a lot. And despite their crazy schedules, she and Carlos, 33, do their best to be home between 4pm and 7pm each day.
"That's our family time and it's something we try hard not to compromise on," she says. "The kids always come first."
Watch: Nadia Lim on the surprising reason her husband knew she was the one. Article continues below.
Nadia's even managing to keep up breastfeeding little River, but she admits being sick last week pushed her to the brink.
"I've realised I'm one of those people who bottle up my feelings when I'm under pressure or feeling stressed. I always try to hold it together. But I really should turn on a tear-jerker movie soon to let it all out, otherwise I might explode!"
She credits dance partner Aaron Gilmore for being the most amazing teacher, confessing after a few weeks of feeling a little out of her depth, she's beginning to understand his language. While she'd love to win, she says it's a matter of taking one week at a time.
"I'm just happy to get through each week," she admits. "I have to pat myself on the back because this is a huge thing for me. I'm a cook, not a dancer, and I still feel utterly terrified with every live show!"
But Nadia and Aaron have become such great pals that she even took him along on a family holiday to Fiji recently! After signing up for the hit Three show, Nadia realised the timing of rehearsals would clash badly with a surprise tropical holiday planned for her mum Julie's 60th birthday.
"I realised Aaron would just have to come with us!" she laughs. "It was actually good – he got to know the family and we all had a lot of fun."
While the rest of the family – including Nadia's brother Jason, 29, and sister Jasmine, 27 – relaxed on the beach, Nadia and Aaron headed to the resort restaurant, where they cleared away the tables and chairs for a few hours' dance training each day. In the evenings, the 60th birthday celebrations continued.
"Mum was really happy – she had no idea we were planning it. We turned up at her house at 6am and told her to pack her bags! It was awesome."
Nadia and Julie share a close bond, which has only deepened since her dad Ken passed away in 2014. She says she's incredibly proud of her mum.
"She is very resilient and she's become super-adventurous," shares Nadia. "She went camping on her own in Africa for a few weeks and does a huge amount of charity work in Cambodia. I find that really inspiring."
Nadia says Julie was "born to be a mum", and she tries to apply her mother's compassionate approach to parenting.
"She always puts everyone else first."
But with that, Nadia has to run – Aaron is waiting and she doesn't want to let him down.
She's also keenly aware that her participation in DWTS is helping her chosen charity, Garden to Table, which has reported a huge upswing in interest since she started dancing. The scheme places gardening and cooking programmes in schools, giving kids the skills to grow, harvest, and cook nutritious food.
"It makes all this hard work worthwhile," says Nadia.
"I believe every school in the country should have this because learning how to produce and cook your food is an essential life skill. Just imagine the difference it could make to so many families and our future generations."
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