Whether you’re doing Dry January or not this month, it’s always good to reassess our attitude towards alcohol – and rest our livers! Especially as lockdown has seen many of us increase our intake.
Someone who knows this process all too well is MasterChef’s Gregg Wallace. The TV star exclusively opens up to OK! about his former bad boozing ways, and how he’s mastered healthier drinking habits…
When you were a grocer, how much were you drinking?
I’d start before lunch with a couple of pints, then a gin and tonic, moving on to wine in big amounts with the food, and then finishing off with a whisky. But that wouldn’t be the end. Drinking would continue – I’d even go to dinner drunk sometimes.
Then I’d carry on with more. I could do that sometimes for two or three days on the trot. Then I’d just collapse onto a sofa somewhere and sleep.
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Did you drink in the morning?
When you’re trading fruit and veg as I used to, your day starts early. So yes, by 10am I’d be banging on the door of a City pub. The landlord came down in his dressing gown to open up for me, the window cleaner and a drunken lawyer.
It most certainly wasn’t good! At that level I’d have died or had serious liver problems had I carried on.
Were you frightened for your health?
One time I got scared. I was preparing to meet a big customer for lunch, and I’d had a particularly long lunch and dinner the day before. I felt like death. All I wanted to do was go somewhere and die. Yet I ordered a gin and tonic, knocked that back, and felt instantly better. Then I had another one, and thought ‘Oh. This is an issue.’
Why were you drinking so heavily?
I was lonely. At that time, my marriage to the mother of my children Tom and Libby wasn’t good. We had separate rooms. I think I was out hoping to meet someone else. Home wasn’t great, so it was better to get drunk.
Were you worried about your career?
No, I was very professional, otherwise I wouldn’t have had this career. MasterChef hadn’t taken off at that point. By the time it did, I’d got it under control.
You’ve only recently talked about your drinking, was it hard to keep secret?
No, it wasn’t a big confession or something I’d hidden. I’m ridiculously honest. It just hadn’t come up before because no one had asked me. When we’re living through something, we often just carry on. It’s not until we stop and reflect that we realise it wasn’t good.
Were you an alcoholic?
No, but I was a huge boozer. I didn’t think I had a problem. I grew up in a pub culture, alcohol was considered the only social thing
to do. I met friends, girls and business people in the pub. Everything was about alcohol.
What made you sort it out?
I wanted to get fit and lose weight, so started taking my health seriously. Plus seven years ago I fell in love with my wife, Anna, 34 [who is mother to his 20-month-old son Sid Massimo Wallace].
She taught me about moderate drinking, her Italian family have a different approach. She asked me to consider what I wanted to get from the alcohol – that was a revelation.
Now, I understand my state of euphoria is two drinks. People carry on to prolong that feeling. But after five you’re argumentative, after eight you’re crying!
Was it hard breaking the habit?
When you first go out, you feel a little bit fidgety as people start drinking, and you want to do something with your hands and join in. But within an hour they’re starting to not make as much sense.
A bit later it doesn’t look as great. Then at the end of the night you leave feeling fantastic, and wake up in the morning a saint!
You’re looking good on it!
I feel amazing. I’ve lost 4½ stone. I’m 5ft 8in and less than 12 stone and less than 18% fat, and I work out five days a week. I’m fitter at 56 then I was at 26. I want to be even fitter by 60.
GREGG’S TIPS FOR CONTROLLING BOOZE
• Always have a glass of water before you start drinking. Often you’re thirsty, so don’t quench your thirst on a spirit.
• Leave 3-4 days in between drinking to let your body recover
• Download an app to keep track. I use Drink Coach. ‘What you can monitor you can manage’ is a really useful life motto
• After a stressful day at work, don’t ‘unwind’ with wine. I do yoga stretching, meditate or go for a walk to take the edge off.
• Plan your week. I allow myself two drinking nights a week, and never drink just for the sake of it.
• Remember if you overindulge it means excess calories, a puffy face, and not feeling as sharp next day
Log on to Gregg Wallace’s ShowMe.Fit, a subscription website costing £7 per month with exercises, recipes, yoga, nutrition and healthy living advice.