June 18, 2024

Bailey co-wrote all but the first of his diet books and the pair were working on a book about mental health. “I think that’s a really interesting and topical area,” he continued. He spoke about the importance of having a “sense of purpose”, particularly as you age. 

“I just made a series called Secrets of the Superagers which took me round the planet visiting people who were remarkably young for their age, biologically. And one of the things is having a sense of purpose. There’s a lot of research showing the benefits of giving your time, getting together with friends, that sort of thing,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of men cultivating friendships when they retire. “Men are not so good at forming relationships, on the whole,” he said, “And when they hit retirement, they suddenly realise they’ve got no friends,” he said. Explaining he didn’t want to go the way of his father, he said, “My dad, when he retired, basically sat on the sofa and watched sport and that was incredibly bad for him.”

He said he was also helping Clare with an online parenting programme Parenting Matters. “It’s relevant for parents and also grandparents on how to improve relationships,” he said. “It’s funny because a lot of these skills you learn for kids are exactly the same skills you need for work colleagues.”

The couple had recently toured the UK together on a theatre tour titled Eat (Well), Sleep (Better), Live (Longer), promoting physical and mental health and he was looking forward to taking it to Australia and New Zealand, with her, in 2025. “Clare is game for doing this stuff and it’s great fun going on tour with her, much more fun than doing it myself,” he said. 

He also reflected on his unusual career trajectory and how, having read philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford, he retrained as a doctor, then pivoted to the BBC where he worked behind the camera, before finding fame as a much-loved TV doctor and nutrition writer. 

His mantra, he told me, was to always say yes to things, to see where it took him. “I never know quite where it’s going to go.” 

His television programmes, including Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, as well as his diet books, would change the lives of thousands of people. One of his best-known books, The Fast Diet, co-written with journalist Mimi Spencer in 2013, was – in his words – “regarded as being fringe and a bit mad” at the time. Yet it sold an estimated 1.5 million copies and popularised the intermittent-fasting movement; he would go on to release further books, including The Fast 800, together with an online programme and various protein bars, shakes, soups and vitamins all under the brand.

“It was all wholly unpredicted and unplanned and opportunities just arose,” he continued. “What I say to my kids is when an opportunity is right, say yes, and when they ask you, ‘Can you do this?’ you say yes, because you never know; it can lead you off into unexpected directions. You shouldn’t be afraid of change.”

Michael also had a successful podcast called Just One Thing, in which he discussed simple changes that can improve health and longevity. It was being filmed for a TV show; the presenter said he had been motivated by the loss of loved ones. “Two of my close male friends have died in recent years from undiagnosed hypertension, from strokes,” he said. “At least half of Brits over the age of 50 have a degree of hypertension, raised blood pressure. Unless you’ve had it measured recently, you’re not going to know. You can buy a kit from a chemist or online – blood pressure is an absolutely crucial thing,” he said.

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