I have to laugh when the lightning pitch for Dr Michael Mosley’s latest New Zealand show hits my inbox.
In his new live theatrical presentation, A Life Changing Experience, coming to Auckland and Wellington in MarchDr. Mosley reveals how to achieve “extraordinary performance leaps” in his discussion of the latest scientific findings regarding weight loss, sleep and mental health.
I had eaten a chocolate bar for breakfast that day and had spent the previous week ogling recipes for cheesecake and roast for Christmas.
“Tis the season for excesses,” I bailed him out by phone on Friday. “Can we be expected to be in top physical shape during the holidays?”
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It’s 9pm in the UK, where Mosley, 65, is based, and he admits he’s been wearing five coats because their radiator broke in near-freezing temperatures.
“To some extent you have to go, ‘this is what’s going to happen’, and you have to plan for January. [instead]says Mosley, confirming that no one is immune — not even him — to being vulnerable to the overabundance of Christmas decadence.
“I love mince pies and things like that,” he says. “I try to keep them out of the house a little closer to Christmas. I have a very sweet tooth. [But] you’re driving yourself a little crazy if you say, “I’m going to eat carrots on Christmas Day.” That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?
Mosley has built a large following and a successful career – books, documentaries, columns and shows – being something of a guinea pig. A doctor by training, he was already a renowned science journalist in 2012 when he discovered he had type 2 diabetes – a surprise, he says, because he was not overweight.
But he had increased blood sugar and fat around his internal organs. He started using food to reverse it, embarking on a 5:2 diet, cutting calories to 800 a day for two days a week while eating normally the other five.
Since then, he has published best-selling books, including The FastLife, on intermittent fasting and high-intensity training; The 8-Week Glycemic Diet to Overcome Diabetes; The Smart Gut Diet; The Fast 800 diet, about fasting; Fast Asleep, about improving brain function and boosting your mood, and in 2020, a book about coronavirus and vaccines.
In his new BBC book and podcast of the same name, Just One Thing – launched during the UK’s Covid lockdowns – Mosley investigates the science supporting, you guessed it, the little things people can do to improve their lives, such as singing, having a houseplant, and spending time outdoors.
Mosley is adept at the kinds of life hacks that many of us may roll our eyes at: cold showers to boost mood and energy, intermittent fasting, macro-based eating, delaying coffee for 90 minutes after wake up, start the day with push-ups. and squats (“The up and down motion seems to be especially beneficial for blood flow to the brain”), and balancing on one leg while brushing your teeth (“Balance is an extremely important part of aging with hit”).
Although drawing some criticism (The Mirror newspaper once called his diet suggestions “ridiculous and alarming”), Mosley says he’s open to contradiction, he believes he has debunked the myths about how we liveranging from, everyone should eat breakfast and five small meals a day, to sugar is the devil and exercise is the solution to weight gain.
He’s studied everything from the placebo effect to the benefits you can get from just three minutes of exercise. He deliberately infected himself with a tapeworm and sent a camera through his intestine.
“I try to keep an open mind about things,” says Mosley. “When people suggest things that I find a bit crazy, I’ll check it out and talk to a group of scientists and sometimes there’s a kernel of truth.”
It draws the line at certain things. He tells me that he – or rather his wife – carried out a torture experiment after no cardiologist promised he wouldn’t drop dead. “That one bit the dust.” Fans asked him to investigate other “completely crazy” things, like time travel, and living off air and sunlight, like plants.
Now he’s obsessed with aging well and will talk to the public about some of his latest research in the area of epigenetic testing – tests that reveal your biological age and how that can be manipulated by things like blood product infusions, or eight-week programs involving all the things we’ve talked about before, like fasting and stress management through breathing exercises.
Chris Skelton/FAIRFAX NZ
Watch Jordan decorate his spicy Christmas cake with candied oranges, cranberries and pistachios. (First published in 2016)
He’s driven by an interest in metabolic health, the markers of our health, rather than weight alone, like blood pressure and blood sugar, and he seems spurred on by how quickly science is changing.
“In 2012, I would have told you intermittent fasting was nonsense, it was for hippies, and there was no real evidence,” he says. “Probably the most important thing I’ve learned in the last decade or more is that there’s so much interesting science going on, like gut microbiome bacteria.
“Ten years ago we knew next to nothing, now it’s prebiotics, probiotics and now postbiotics are the new kid on the block. How incredibly important the microbiome is – those were things we didn’t know anything about.
“It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, the fact that this stuff is constantly moving, getting better, changing, moderating. I love it.”
Back to Christmas. And besides, the New Year, when those wishes to lose weight and be healthier begin to take shape in people’s minds. Mosley’s Christmas strategy is to alternate and substitute. Pile more vegetables than candies on plates and follow each glass of alcohol with a glass of water.
“If you feel like a sweet snack, a handful of nuts will do it instead, or switch to dark chocolate.”
Don’t want to face the scale? Mosley gauges how things go if his wife tells him he snores or if his belt gets tight. He also suggests taking a piece of string and measuring your length, then seeing if your bowel fits within that length. See how long you can balance on one leg. Practice.
And for next year? “To be realistic. [Your goals] should be achievable, “I’ll do it, then”, and tell your friends about it. You must have a plan. You’re more likely to be successful if you’re doing it with someone else, and you need to know why you’re doing it. Later, while transcribing my notes, I realize that I misunderstood “measurable targets” for “miserables”.
Still, “If you usually tell yourself, ‘I’m going to lose some weight,’ you probably won’t.”
It’s all in the name of a quality life, says Mosley.
“I think we are going to live a very long time. Most of us can expect to live to be 84 or older. Most people start showing signs of chronic disease around the age of 60 to 65, people typically live 20 to 40 years of poor health and that sounds like bad business to me,” he says.
“I don’t want to live forever, but I would like to live to my 80s in good shape and then get hit by a bus.”
Michael Mosley’s next speaking tour, A Life Changing Experience, will take place at the Wellington Opera House on March 14, 2023 and at the Civic Theater in Auckland on March 15, 2023. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster. More information available from side events.