Dr Clare Bailey looks like the sort of doctor who doesn’t cut corners – her make-up-free face is bright and ageless, she’s as marathon-runner slim as she was in her 20s. You couldn’t even begin to guess how old she is.
But short cuts are very much part of her life. They have to be, given the length of her to-do list: she’s a practising GP, mother-of-four, runs a parent coaching website and is co-author of the bestselling eating plan Clever Guts, with her husband, the doctor and journalist Michael Mosley. She has also written two cookbooks, including The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet Recipe Book. And as of this week, she adds YOU magazine health columnist to her rounds.
Up to now, Michael has been the better known of the couple, fronting TV shows such as the BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor and the 2012 Horizon documentary Eat, Fast and Live Longer. He reversed his type 2 diabetes by combining a low-carb Mediterranean-style diet with intermittent fasting and introduced the nation to the 5:2 way of eating with the bestselling book The Fast Diet.
Clare describes him as the natural frontman, while she is the behind-the-scenes pragmatist. It has been the dynamic of their relationship ever since they met more than 30 years ago at medical school in London. ‘We feed off each other really well and it’s a lot of fun. Michael looks at the academic side of things and I put it into a workable format from my experience with patients,’ she says.
So who better to bring YOU readers the latest science-backed health and wellbeing issues with a real-world spin than Clare? She grew up in Wimbledon, Southwest London, in a medical family: her father is a retired GP, her mother was a child psychiatrist and her grandmother was one of the first women to go to medical school. She always wanted to be a GP and took an additional BSc in psychology to support her chosen career. ‘Alot of what a GP does involves complex emotions and supporting people in difficult times,’ she reflects. Later, as a working mother with three boys under the age of four, she took a parenting course at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. She is developing her ‘love and limits’ approach via face-to-face and online coaching courses.
The fact that GPs can only give us ten-minute appointments now is something she finds ‘very frustrating’ as a professional. In her first column she writes about how you can get the most out of those all-important ten minutes. Over the coming weeks, she’ll be going under the bonnet of our everyday health concerns, from diabetes to depression to how to make fitness a habit, as well as managing mental health and the menopause.
On the subject of the menopause, what’s her view on HRT? ‘There were a lot of scares about the risks of HRT but we have much more information now about how to use it – and the dose is tiny in comparison to the pill,’ she says. She’s been on HRT herself for five years and has noticed ‘a huge difference. If there aren’t any significant reasons not to, then take HRT. It’s about quality of life.’
Clare is also passionate about a healthy Mediterranean-style diet as powerful preventative medicine. ‘Easily half of the conditions we see in any GP surgery have a significant dietary element,’ she says.
And with that, she’s off home to Buckinghamshire to take Tari, her King Charles spaniel, for a 15-minute jog. For Clare (who’s about to turn 58, by the way), it’s all about keeping it real and doing what works.
How Clare stays fit, healthy – and happy
Skin defence My diet is low in sugar and starchy carbs as these bind to proteins, damaging the collagen in skin. I use a neutral emollient, Cetraben, as a moisturiser, plus sun cream, and I try to get at least seven-and-a-half hours’ sleep.
Fitness regime I run for 15 minutes, including sprinting, two or three times a week. On Saturday mornings I try to go to an outdoor fitness group and a yoga class. I practise mindfulness somewhat randomly.
Sanity saver Walking the dog with Michael in the evenings.
Ultimate breakfast One piece of toasted wholemeal or seeded sourdough bread with butter and a scraping of Marmite, two scrambled eggs and chilli flakes.
5:2 or the Clever Guts diet? As I don’t need to lose weight, it’s Clever Guts for me. I like the variety and the fermented foods.
Top supplement I used to take fish oil tablets but am changing to seaweed capsules for good-quality sustainable nutrients and omega 3.
Interview by Victoria Woodhall