Reverend Richard Coles opens up on his health problems and diet
“I danced like a walrus with spasms,” laughs the broadcaster and former musician – who was knocked out of the popular BBC series in the second week.
But when you take into account some of his health ailments it is admirable that Richard, 55, lasted as long as he did, even if his efforts were more comedic than commendable.
“I have arthritis in both knees and tinnitus in my ear,” says the vicar, who found fame in the 1980s as one half of the chart-topping pop duo The Communards before finding religion.
“The arthritis came up when I did my Strictly medical but I had already suspected all was not well.
“My knees were creaky and I had pain sometimes.
“My right knee in particular doesn’t like going up and down stairs.
“Now I’m trying to do a bit of cycling to keep them flexible.”
The tinnitus came on out of the blue in his 40s.
“It is very common for people who worked in pop music to end up with tinnitus in their 40s and 50s,” he explains.
“It’s like a constant whistling in my ear, more on my right side.
“It has different levels of intensity but I’m quite good at not noticing it unless I’m very tired or run-down.”
Despite his early exit Richard credits Strictly for making him more active than he has been for the last couple of decades.
“It’s the most I have done for my fitness in years.
“I lost a stone even though I was on the show for just a short time.
“You do four-hour workouts every day but it’s so much fun you don’t realise it’s a workout.
“I was absolutely knackered though.
“The lower back and knees felt it very much.”
He admits it’s not just his dancing that needs work.
“My diet is poor.
“I would love to be thinner and lighter.
“I would like to do the 5:2 diet, where you eat normally for five days and fast for two.
Richard Coles found fame in the 1980s with Jimmy Somerville when they founded the duo The Communards
“But I never manage the fasting days.
“The problem is that I love food, cooking and eating.
“I love pasta and my idea of a single portion would probably feed a family of four.
“I’ve reached the point now that I can’t do that and not pay the price.
“I have too many calories coming in and not enough going out.”
Richard may struggle with diet and exercise now but things could not have been more different when he was in his 30s.
“I used to cycle at least 100 miles a week.
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“My bike was my mode of transport but I would go on rides too,” he says.
“I also went to the gym three times a week.
“So I was in reasonable shape even though I did smoke which wasn’t so good.
“I never put on weight so could eat like a pig and always remained skinny.”
But his weight gain started when he gave up smoking at 45.
“I immediately porked out and life got really busy and I found it impossible to keep up my fitness.”
While he may not be the fittest he could be, one thing Richard is mindful of is his mental health after battling depression in the past.
“I had two severe episodes, one as a teenager and the other in my late 20s.
“I think that I will always be vulnerable to it but I am much better at handling it now and don’t fall into the hole like I used to.
“I avoid it by not getting involved in any addictive behaviour I did in the past, such as taking drugs.
“One of the ways I would try to escape negative feelings was by trying to anaesthetise myself with recreational drugs.
“But all you’re doing is delaying dealing with the reality.
“And of course my religious faith helps too, the feeling that it will all be all right in the end.
“And it usually is.”
The Reverend admitted his performances on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing left a lot to be desired
While Richard would like to keep up dancing, he admits he’ll find it difficult to squeeze it into his schedule.
“I did do one dance class afterwards but realistically I just don’t think I have enough time,” he says.
That’s probably little surprise as Richard is a lot busier than your average vicar.
As well as being the parish priest for St Mary’s Church in Finedon, Northamptonshire, where he lives with his partner David and their four dogs, he is also a writer, co-presents BBC Radio 4’s weekend show Saturday Live and is a familiar face on TV panel shows.
While he still counts himself as being relatively lucky with his health, one thing he keeps a keen eye on is his blood pressure.
“I had an episode with high blood pressure last year.
“I had been working quite hard and not taking care of myself.
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“The first main sign was that my tinnitus was getting more intense.
“It turned out my blood pressure was ridiculously high so I had to go on medication.”
Thankfully he was able to wean himself off his tablets within three months.
“I started walking a lot more and managed to get my blood pressure under control quite quickly.”
As a whole, Richard tries not to worry too much about getting older and says: “I’m probably more content with my life now in my 50s.
“What I’d like to do in a few years’ time is semi-retire and spend more time walking the dogs, being with David and in Scotland which I love.
Richard Coles started suffering from tinnitus in his 40s
“I never used to make plans but now I have clearer plans than I’ve ever had.
“It gives a direction and purpose I’ve not had before.
“And maybe then I’ll finally get time to practise my dancing.”
Bringing In The Sheaves: Wheat And Chaff From My Years As A Priest by Rev Richard Coles is published by W&N in paperback at £8.99.