Workaholic Stephen Nolan has revealed that he is to make huge changes to his lifestyle in 2013 in a bid to protect his physical and emotional health.
The award-winning presenter, who is back on our television screens this week for a new series of Nolan Live, says he intends to factor in some ‘me time' this year to avoid 'burning out'.
And though his television show will air this month and again in April, viewers will be seeing a lot less of the 39-year-old, who has shed four stone in less than two months following an “extreme diet and fitness regime”.
Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph ahead of Wednesday night's show, Nolan, who admits he is a ‘man of extremes', also revealed he is house hunting in Santa Monica in California, where he plans to holiday twice a year as part of his new, healthier lifestyle.
“There has been a big change in my outlook to life over the past 12 months,” he said.
“I realise I'm not 20 any more and I know that with my seven-day a week schedule I need to protect myself against burnout.
“I made a conscious decision to actually plan in ‘me time’ in my schedule and that is why I disappeared to America for a month last November.
“It sounds stupid but I could really damage myself if I don't proactively arrange my year — so I force myself to have downtime.
“Luckily, I've found my hideaway on this planet. I think there is somewhere for each of us which is a place away from home.
“For me, it's Santa Monica in the USA. I've been going there a lot over recent times. I am not exaggerating to say that Santa Monica will play a pivotal role in keeping me mentally healthy for the rest of my life. I feel so at ease there and my soul rests as soon as I get there. It is a beautiful, special place. Ive been house hunting in Santa Monica recently.”
Nolan said his plan to retreat to California twice a year was a ‘big step' for him, as work had always come first.
“That's a big life changer for me,” he said. “I would never have blocked off so much time away from work before but I'm definitely starting to see a new me emerge.
“I won't work any less hard than I always do, but I've now got a place where I know I can switch off and be me.”
The broadcaster said he was forced to take drastic action to lose weight after he returned from the States seven weeks ago, tipping the scales at 22st 12lbs.
Suffering pain in his knees and struggling to breathe properly, he embarked on a diet and exercise regime with the help of a new trainer, Fra McCabe.
“Of course I'm still fat, but I'm a lot lighter in a short space of time,” he said.
Nolan, who hopes to be 17st by April, defended his job as a presenter and said his TV show was popular because he kept it ‘real'.
“The Nolan Live television series was a major project for me in 2013,” he said. “The usual suspects came out of the woodwork about my salary and also questioning why someone like me was on TV.
“Think about it — there is a real presenter who is no better than the average bloke in the street.
“I look no better, I sound no better. I wouldn't want to be different than the next bloke anyway.”
And the Radio Ulster and 5Live host also spoke of his sadness at the negative portrayal of Northern Ireland in recent weeks.
“I've been covering the Northern Irish story on the network a lot recently and yes, I get genuinely sad when it becomes clear that some people only ever hear about Northern Ireland when they see another ‘violence-related story' on the news,” he said.
“I have no problem admitting that makes me sad because I believe in our country as much as any of the rest of us.”
When to watch
Nolan Live returns to BBC Northern Ireland this Wednesday night. It has been signed up for two runs this year — in January and April — and its presenter said he is considering further shows. “The BBC has asked me if I can commit to the show so that we can do it in the seasons all year round this year and I'm looking at that now,” Nolan said. “The programme feels like it is has been part of Wednesday nights for a long time and that's a good sign. I need to think very carefully about what happens next. My schedule is already full for 2013 and its only January so it's critical that I'm only working on projects that I truly believe in and that I think will make a difference.”