Celebrity DJ Neil ‘Dr’ Fox often burnt the candle at both ends during his days as a breakfast show presenter.
But the early starts and lack of sleep combined with the stress of a high profile court case in 2015 took their toll on his health.
Then, three years ago, he found himself with Type-2 diabetes.
Now Neil is determined to reverse the condition by following a strict diet and increasing his exercise levels – and is hopeful that he will be rid of it by Christmas.
“You can reverse it, but it takes hard work, because you need to address a lot of issues,” he says.
He continues: “It’s a mixture of lifestyle, exercise and diet. I’m 59 and I’ve got three beautiful kids and I want to be around a long time.
“I had to accept I decided what went into my mouth. It’s easy to pretend it’s not that big a deal. It is, and I’ve got to sort it out.”
Neil, once a judge on Pop Idol with Simon Cowell, was diagnosed in 2017 and given Metformin, which treats Type-2 by reducing the sugar the liver releases into the blood.
But Neil and wife Vicky began to research other ways of tackling the condition. “She’s a yoga teacher and good with health and nutrition,” Neil says. “Metformin doesn’t cure your diabetes – it hides it.”
Type-2, which raises sugar in the blood, is often linked to obesity, inactivity or a family history.
Many people with it have extra fat around their middle, affecting liver and pancreas function. In recent years several studies have shown sufferers can send the condition into remission by losing lots of weight quickly, typically around 15kg in three to five months.
Diabetes UK ran a series of successful trials which inspired the NHS to pilot a remission programme last year.
Others have achieved remission through the Mediterranean diet or a low-carb one. Up to 60% of people who have had weight loss surgery have gone into remission too.
Neil had unsuccessfully tried a reversal diet before, but in lockdown – when diabetes sufferers were listed as being at particular risk – he decided to cut both calories and carbohydrates.
He says: “I looked at things I was eating as normal and began to have them as treats. I cut out white rice, and bread, white pasta, potatoes, pizza and chips. I’ve also cut booze. I’ll have an occasional beer, but not two or three.
“I’ve been on the diet three weeks and feel much better. If you cut all white carbs, your tummy immediately goes flatter.”
Neil, who lives in South West London with Vicky and children, Scarlet, 19, Jack, 17 and Martha, 13, has also taken up meditation, walked more than 300 kilometres in lockdown and has been cycling most days.
He was 86kg when he began the reversal diet and in three weeks has already lost 3kg. His goal is to reach 79kg by Christmas.
His blood sugar levels have dropped too, from 65mmol/mol to 53. People with levels under 48 are not considered Type-2.
Under the nickname Dr Fox, Neil was one of the nation’s most famous DJs throughout the 90s. He left Capital Radio in 2005 to join Magic as their breakfast show host.
He now believes several factors contributed to his diagnosis. “Sadly it’s slightly in the family – my mother’s got Type-2 and both my elder brothers, although one of them has reversed it,” he says.
“I’d presented a breakfast show for a long time, burning the candle at both ends. You get up at 4.30am, tending not to have got eight hours sleep. No breakfast before you leave home, then you get the munchies at 8am. And what’s open at that time? McDonald’s or sandwich shops, so I’d have a sausage and egg sandwich.”
Neil thinks the stress of his court case had a negative impact too. In 2014 he faced historical sex offences charges and was found not guilty on all charges a year later.
“Obviously stress doesn’t help and I went through a very difficult time,” he recalls. “From the moment it starts you have a huge weight on your shoulders. There’s never a day when it’s not there. Weirdly I actually lost nine kilos through stress – 10% of my weight.”
His diabetes diagnosis came as a bolt from the blue as he had none of the common symptoms, such as thirst, tiredness and a need to pee more frequently.
Neil says: “I’d gone for my annual medical. They said I was on the cusp of diabetes. It was worrying, but probably, like a lot of men, I thought, ‘I’ll get that sorted, no problem’.”
Neil, who left Magic in 2016, is now back on air, hosting the Heritage Chart countdown on Mike Read’s United DJs radio station.
It’s a new start for his career and he is hopeful the remission diet will prove a new start for his health.
He says: “Not being Type-2 by Christmas would be a great present to me and the family.”
- Dr Fox presents the Heritage Chart show, onuniteddj.com, Sundays 1-3pm
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