Dr Michael Mosley: why his death will touch so many millions of us

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It’s so obvious to see why the grief is so intense nationwide at the passing of TV and radio presenter Dr Michael Mosley.

He was, quite simply, the most likeable, approachable, chatty, friendly and unstuffily natural man. Those were the qualities which came across in his every broadcast; those were exactly the qualities which came across if you had the great pleasure to speak to him – as I did in three or four interviews in the past few years.

The last time we spoke, we chatted via Zoom in early January. He was sitting in a thick overcoat in his kitchen. He was experimenting with going without heating. And that was what made him so interesting – and indeed so charming. He was always thinking about the ways in which we can improve our lives, that endless search for the Just One Thing that would make a difference. His was an inquiring mind, but his was an utterly realistic approach. It had to be Just One Thing that was within our reach. That was the whole point of it.

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I certainly adopted three or four Just One Things after speaking to him. He made you think and he made you challenge yourself, but he did never so in a spirit of castigation or shaming. It was always done in the sweetest spirit of encouragement. His was a “you can do it” approach to improving all aspects of our well-being. And that’s why his memory will live on. There are literally millions of people who are making those small but significant, attainable and yet important changes to their life style and feeling the benefits on a daily basis because of him. Michael Mosley was someone who made a difference – and he did so with a likeableness all his own.

Dr Michael MosleyDr Michael Mosley
Dr Michael Mosley

I last interviewed him in January when he was touring for the first time ever with his wife, Dr Clare Bailey, more than 30 years a GP, with his brand-new stage show EAT (Well), SLEEP (Better), LIVE (Longer!). As I said to him, it was difficult to think of a more appealing title. It’s a wonderful legacy to leave.

Michael’s point, he told me, was that he thought we really are quite bad looking after ourselves. “I really do think we are,” he said. “And I think we are under the illusion that we are generally healthier than we are. I have got this series going out on Channel 4 on the secrets of your supermarket shop and I ask a family how healthy their shop is and then I ambush them in the supermarket and look at what they are buying. I think the thing is that we're pretty good at forgetting the bad stuff, and I think it is because we have a natural optimism. We tend to go ‘Oh that's just a little bar of chocolate. That doesn't count.’ But it does all add up and I think also people do exaggerate how much exercise they do which you can test and then you can see that they haven't done anywhere as much as they thought they had. I do think we are good at kidding ourselves!”

For Michael, the tour which came to Guildford and Eastbourne, was so much more fun for the fact he was going out on the road, for the first time ever, with his wife: “She's been a GP for more than 30 years and we've been married for more than 35 years but this is our first show together and I just think it's going to be great fun. The great thing is that Clare will be doing some cooking. She's one of the UK's most popular recipe writers and she's got a new book coming out on treats (The Fast 800 Treats Recipe Book: Healthy and delicious bakes, savoury snacks and desserts for everyone to enjoy, released on April 25), ways you can turn your treats into healthier food. So Clare will be doing some live cooking which will be a challenge.”

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Part also of the fun was the fact that though they were united in their views on the subject, they were inevitably very different people: “Clare is slim and always has been since I met her at medical school 43 years ago. She is more of a greyhound whereas I am more of a Labrador. If someone puts food in front of me, I will eat it and I think the temptation is a difficult thing.

“I think what this is about is changing the mindset and so we'll be talking about some of the simple tips and tricks that you can learn to help you. I really got into this ten years ago when I discovered that I had type 2 diabetes and since then I've explored different ways of keeping the weight off but I will also be talking about some of my favourite tips from the podcast I do called Just One Thing, but really the key is to maintain the healthy habits.

“Obviously weight is very important but a more reliable test is measuring your waist and knowing that your waist needs to be less than half your height. Blood pressure is also very important and I would certainly invest in a blood pressure monitor which you can buy online or at the chemist’s pretty cheaply. If you're over the age of 40 then there is a chance that you will have high blood pressure and equally if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes you really ought to be thinking about testing.”

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