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Me and my health: former Newcastle United footballer Paul Ferris on his lifestyle

 

Healthy outlook: Paul Ferris
Healthy outlook: Paul Ferris

By Linda Stewart

The 54-year-old former Newcastle United footballer, from Lisburn, is an author and the CEO of health and fitness company Speedflex. He is married to teacher Geraldine (52) and their children are Conor (27), Owen (22) and Ciaran (18).

Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?

A: I exercise three or four times a week at Speedflex. Each session lasts 30 minutes. It is a high-intensity interval training session and gives me a total body workout and a great cardio workout. I also walk in the hills around where we live on those days I'm not training.

Q: What is the worst illness you've had?

A: I suffered a heart attack six years ago aged 48 and I have hereditary heart disease. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago. I have had my prostate removed and undergone hormone treatment and radiotherapy. Which is worse? I don't recommend either!

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I have followed a plant-based diet for the past three years. I have an inability to process cholesterol and keep it down. Apart from what my body produces, the only other source of cholesterol is found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy etc. Before my heart attack, I think I ate enough chocolate for two lifetimes. Now I sometimes just sniff it! Yes, I know that sounds, and indeed is, a bit weird, but I can't help it. Once a chocoholic, always a chocoholic.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: Vegan junk food. It's amazing how much of it there is out there. Try searching 'accidentally vegan food' on the internet. Unfortunately, there is much more junk there than you would imagine.

Q: Do you drink and smoke? If so, how much?

A: I have never smoked, and I no longer drink as much as I would have in my youth. I share a bottle of wine with Geraldine on a Friday night. If she is pouring it, then I drink less. If I'm pouring it, I get half!

Other than that, if I have a meal out with friends, then I have a drink as part of that experience. My days of knocking back several pints in the pub are long gone. I have had a couple of prolonged periods where I've been teetotal and I've enjoyed great health improvements from that. I've looked and felt better and always lost a bit of weight. It does make a trip to the pub a little less exciting. My friends also tell me that I am too boring when I'm totally sober. I think that is a little harsh, myself!

Q: Do you take any supplements?

A: I take vitamin B12 because of the plant-based diet. I have also recently started taking vitamin D3 on the advice of my doctor as I am borderline deficient. Lack of sunlight and a plant-based diet are the likely causes.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I write for a hobby. Most of it never sees the light of day, but I really enjoy the process. I also love to read. I am passionate about my music and love going to live gigs.

Paul Ferris running with Alan Shearer
Paul Ferris running with Alan Shearer

I also seem to spend a lot of time shouting at politicians on my TV talking nonsense or blatantly lying on the major issues of the day.

My granddaughter Isla is two years old. Spending time with Isla and watching her grow has given me as much pleasure as anything else I can remember and has become my favourite hobby.

She has very quickly become the centre of our universe. I used to listen to new grandparents going on about their grandchildren and I would think they must have lost their minds. Now I have to stop myself from being worse than any of my friends ever were. I am thinking of getting one of those American bumper stickers which reads: 'If I'd known grandchildren were this good I'd have had them first', but I don't want to upset my boys!

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I sleep very well. As I'm getting older, staying awake is more of an issue.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: Having both heart disease and cancer, I worry more about not getting old!

Q: What is your go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: It's pretty simple really - exercise and fresh, unprocessed food. My trouble is following that lifestyle as well as I should. I know what I should be doing but have a very bad habit of telling myself I deserve a treat. Then I end up having more treats than healthy food. It's a work in progress.

Paul Ferris's autobiography, The Boy on the Shed, published by Hodder & Stoughton, £20, recently won the 2019 Telegraph Sports Book Awards Autobiography of the Year. Paul will be speaking at the Open House Festival in Bangor this Friday at 8pm. For details and tickets (£12), visit www.openhousefestival.com

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