Cliff Richard: How I Stayed Healthy Over 50 Years of Showbiz

By Kay Goddard

London Daily Mail, December 13, 2008

Sir Cliff Richard has a cold. The doctor has advised him to go to bed for three days but the 68-year-old is having none of it.

'My diary is full and I have a major tour to finalise,' he says of the next few months spent in the UK. 'They should start treating me like an old man,' he chuckles about his management.

'Two days on and then a day off so I can go to bed, watch the telly and take a Lemsip. It's easy to pick up germs at a concert at this time of year. If I wake up with razor blades in my throat, I know I've caught something.'

This year Sir Cliff celebrates 50 years in the business and he shows no sign of slowing down. He is the most successful pop star this country has produced and the only artist to have had a No1 record in each of five decades from the Fifties to the Nineties - and he has had two Top10 hits so far this decade.

'Age is not an issue if you are lucky enough to have good health,' he says. 'I've never had any major problems and spent no time in hospital.'

That said, Sir Cliff recently went for an MRI scan after a doctor said his cholesterol was too high. 'The results were fine - my lungs, kidney and heart are functioning perfectly. I have the tiniest amount of furring in the arteries but that is normal for a man of my age. The specialist told me to go away and think of something else that might kill me and work on that.'

It is little wonder that his own health is now on his mind. Last year, Sir Cliff's mother Dorothy Webb died aged 87 after developing dementia in her 70s.

'It was painful for all of us,' he says. 'At first we thought she was just belligerent, as mothers can be, but then it became obvious to the family that something was wrong. My sister Joan was a real hero and looked after her. Enlarge Cliff Richard montage

'I built a bungalow in the garden of Joan's house. Whenever Mum needed help, Joan was there and I thought, "Fantastic, we can all rest easily," but then Joan rang one day and said, "I can't do this anymore."

Mum was wandering in the village. It was then we realised that although we never wanted to put her into a home we had to succumb to that, as she needed care 24 hours a day.

'I could have given up my career and said, "Thank you, showbiz" but... so we got her the best care we could, and although the last years of her life weren't perfect, she didn't know anything. The process of life is to die and Mum had as much dignity as we could offer her. But we felt we lost our mother long before she died.'

Mortality is something that Sir Cliff does not dwell on, although he admits that when he reads about the longevity of his career he thinks, 'Oh my goodness, this is getting near. I am halfway past my time.

'Then I heard that 60 is the new 40 so I am making 70 the new 50. If you can prolong your life and hold off death for a while, why not? It is what I try to do. I would like to play tennis for my 100th birthday and I will.' Cliff Richard's health tips

If he is in good health, with excellent levels of fitness and a lean figure, it's because he puts the hard graft in.

'I play tennis three times a week with a pro who runs me ragged but quite often tells me to stop for a minute,' he says.

As for supplements, he takes a daily Centrum multivitamin, a dose of lecithin - made from soya beans, meat and eggs - which he is convinced keeps his cholesterol under control and which experts claim helps prevent the body's ability to form fat, and drinks a glass or two of his own red wine, Vida Nova, produced at his vineyard in Portugal.

He has also spent two years following the Blood Type diet. Created by natural therapist Dr Peter D'Adamo and first outlined in his 1997 book Eat Right 4 Your Type, it is based on the theory that blood type determines which foods we should and should not eat.

According to D'Adamo, each blood group is unique and reacts adversely with certain food types that can cause health problems. It's been a hit with Hollywood and British stars alike, including Liz Hurley and Martine McCutcheon.

D'Adamo suggests that blood type O, the most common in the UK, should follow a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Those with blood type A, such as Sir Cliff, find it difficult to digest red meat and dairy, and blood type B benefit from a combination of diets from both blood types O and A. Blood type AB can eat a combination of types A and B.

'I don't like calling it a diet but a healthy eating plan,' he says. 'All the diets I have followed in the past, such as the Hay Diet, have meant cutting down on food. This is the opposite. It's about healthy eating and it suits me.

Sir Cliff has a chart pinned up in the kitchen that tells him what he can and cannot eat. 'I can eat protein such as fish, turkey and chicken, and carbohydrates such as rice. But I cannot eat wheat or dairy.

'I've heard about people with cancer and the first thing their doctors usually advise is to cut out wheat and dairy. Why wait until something is wrong before changing the way you eat? So I don't touch milk or cheese or eat anything containing wheat.'

He has a substantial breakfast every day. 'I mix yogurt, oats and vanilla-flavoured soya milk and it's fabulous.' For lunch he usually has eggs but if having a sandwich he uses spelt bread, a wheat alternative, and in the evening he has a protein meal.

'I can eat more now than I've ever eaten and I still can't put on a pound. My waist measures 30 inches, the same as 30 years ago. And my weight is 10st 7lb. I do miss a good Indian curry, but if you are going to try to enhance your diet, it will mean giving up something you love to eat.

'But then you have to ask yourself, "Do I want to live a little longer?" Yes, I do. So I try not to miss anything. Good eating is not the only way to stay fit but you can help your body by feeding it the right food.'

Looking young, or trying to stay looking young, is not always a blessing, according to Sir Cliff.

'It is a stressful thing now. I know I cannot possibly be the Peter Pan of Pop because I don't look 18 any more. I can try to look good but I can't compete with Brad Pitt. He is young and great-looking. All I can do is make the best of what I've got.

'People say the Press is obsessed with the way I look but not as obsessed as I am. But I do believe people who age well think and act young. I still feel 18 inside.'

So how does he view the way he looks now, for example, compared to in his 30s? 'I loved the way I looked then,' he says. 'I hardly ever saw a bad picture of me. Nowadays I don't like to see myself. TV lighting can be very harsh and people often say to me these days, "You look better in real life."

'When I go on stage I have to show off a little and dress up. You have to be slim for that. I often dance with people who are not even 30. I have to compete with them so I have to look a little like them. But I am extremely fortunate to have a metabolism that works and an ageing process that is slower than normal.'

It's a process that Sir Cliff has tried to suspend in the past with Botox, although he was not impressed with the results. 'I know it works for some, but not for me,' he says. 'I did all the exercises they suggested so the Botox spreads around and I lost a few furrows - but my eyebrows dropped and I didn't like the look.

'But I'm not against a nip and a tuck in the future. I am getting to the stage where I will have something done. I wouldn't want a whole facelift, but just little bits,' he says laughing and pointing towards his eyes.

As he heads for six decades in the music industry, Sir Cliff - he was knighted in 1995 - remains unscathed by it all. Unlike with many of his peers, there have been no drugs, alcohol binges or scandals. His sexuality remains an enigma but even that has been shrugged off by him and his fans.

He is also fortunate not to have faced any major health crisis apart from a back problem but he credits regular games of tennis for easing any further worries and cutting out orange juice for getting rid of his kidney stones

'A few years ago I suffered from kidney stones,' he says. 'I was in a lot of pain. Mum was seeing an alternative health practitioner at that time and he suggested I stop drinking orange juice. I haven't had another kidney stone since.'

Sir Cliff was 22 when he first had back problems. 'I would be immobilised for days. I'd lie on the floor and crawl to the bathroom. I saw a specialist who said I had two choices - stay immobilised or get more active. So tennis came into my life.

'For years, I always wore a belt --which protects against injury by supporting the lower back and also serves as a reminder to keep the spine in the right position during exercise - similar to the ones weightlifters wear. Then, four years ago, I was in Barbados when Virginia Wade - who has a place near my home there - asked if I wanted a game.

'With a Wimbledon champ? Of course I did. I'd forgotten my belt, so I played without it. There were no repercussions and since then my back has been good. When I overdo it on stage and it gives me a little gyp, I calm down, sit properly, stretch out on the floor and do my exercises and it goes away.'

Like most singers, Sir Cliff suffers with his vocal cords. 'I had a problem on the last night of a tour,' he says. 'Adrenaline got me through but the next day I couldn't talk. To sing for two-and-a-half hours night after night while dancing puts a huge pressure on the cords. And because I use my voice so much it becomes the most vulnerable area.'

Apart from his strong family roots, Sir Cliff believes his Christianity has kept him physically and mentally fit. Studies have shown spiritual belief can boost your health and, according to a recent American study, increase your life expectancy.

'I made a major step forward in my life when I became a Christian in 1966. My faith keeps me sensible and in my place. It allows me to philosophise and question things.'

Sir Cliff has homes in Barbados, New York and Portugal. He is also joint owner of Manchester's Arora International Hotel. When he is at his Surrey home he still pops into his local Waitrose in Weybridge and doesn't have bodyguards.

'I don't see myself as a recluse,' he says. 'I have a few close friends, people around me whom I can trust. Everyone needs that.'

Next year, aged 69, Sir Cliff will again take to the stage with The Shadows, the group that propelled him to fame. The reunion will be followed with an 11-date tour. He still gets excited and nervous about the public reaction to his shows.

'While there is an audience who will come out on a cold December night to see me, why should I give up?

'But I don't want to lose my dignity. I know when I have sung badly and if it happens once or twice, I will recognise that and say to myself that this could be the last time.'

Reviewed and revised on: 01/12/2023      
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