Calum Best on health and wellbeing: I'm not going down the Mother Theresa path, but...
Once famed for his party-boy antics, Calum Best has been on a long journey of self-improvement. The son of one of Belfast's most famous sons tells Gabrielle Fagan why he's never felt better
AROUND a decade ago, Calum Best decided to turn his life around. For years following the death, in 2005, of his world-famous footballing father George Best, who'd battled alcoholism, the reality TV star struggled with his own demons, admitting to 'wild' times when he was drinking, taking drugs and partying to excess.
In previous interviews, Best talked of the moment, aged 28, when his mother, Angie Best, was so concerned for her son that she returned from America to live in the UK – recalling how "we were walking down the river. She tried to put her arm in mine and I felt really uncomfortable. I was ashamed of what I got up to. The demon that was drinking and doing drugs every day for years had taken over my brain. Luckily, I switched out of it and thought: 'This is not the way for me'."
Now 37, Best is a passionate advocate for health and wellbeing and living his best life. Here, he opens up about what makes him tick, how he feared his life would end prematurely during his troubled years, and what drives him on...
Are you in a good place in your life right now?
"Totally, I feel like I'm going from strength to strength. My pursuit is health, fitness and happiness, and my lifestyle is about training so I can improve my mind and body.
"I've literally spent 10 years evolving and bettering myself, getting away from all the nasty stuff that was in my life and focusing instead on the good stuff and being in touch with my spiritual side,
"There were points where I was fearing for the dark side. I remember sitting with my mum at one point when I was in my late 20s and telling her I really was fearing for myself, and didn't know what age I was going to make it to. To say to your mother, 'I don't know how much longer I've got' – the poor woman must have been mortified.
"Luckily, I snapped myself out of it – I know how that story ends and it's not a nice one – and so I chose the goodness path. I'm always going to have a bit of rebel in me, I'll always be my father's son in ways – but at the same time I'm very much my mum's son and she's been a health nut for as long as I can remember."
How would you describe yourself now?
"I'm a people person, quite positive, quite cheeky, and a bit of a smart-ar*e at times! I'm not saying I'm any sort of guru or a saint, because I'm not, I'm still a youngish lad, I still enjoy this life, I'm not going down a Mother Teresa path, but now I'm just trying to do what is best for me and others.
"I don't feel I will slip back to those old ways. I enjoy waking up without a hangover, I enjoy going to the gym and being productive. Why the hell would I go back to not doing any of those things?"
What were the key turning points for you?
"Apart from my mum coming back to the UK – I'd not been in a family environment for years, which I needed – the starting point for me believing in how the universe works was when I was at an all-time low years back, and I said to myself: 'I want to change'.
"As soon as I legitimately meant it and had conviction in my head, the universe gave me an opportunity. Making the documentary Brought Up By Booze (2009), where I talked about my feelings of having an alcoholic parent, was healing and helped me with the grieving process, and I've connected with charities and am a patron of Nacoa (The National Association for Children of Alcoholics)."
You've been on shows like Love Island and Celebrity Big Brother – would you do another reality TV show?
"Never say never. For me, it was a learning process. We know a lot of reality TV is car crash television, and some of it is actually terrible to watch. But I had to earn a living and it gave me an opportunity to express what I was feeling. I've been on TV for 20 years, so if the right thing came along, who knows?"
Do you feel grown up?
"There's no doubt I feel more grown up than I did before. I lacked a lot of self-belief for years because of all the s**t I went through, not really knowing what my role was in the world, or what I was meant to be doing. I feel more confident and comfortable nowadays. As you get older, you care less about what people think, and you care more about what you've got to do to make yourself feel right.
"I grew up in the spotlight, and all the nightlife and the naughty side I experienced when I was younger was well documented. Even three years ago, I would never have been able to talk about health and wellbeing because I would have worried people would go, 'What's he going on about, we know him for his other antics!', but now I have the confidence to speak about those sort of things."
What's been your toughest physical challenge?
"I climbed Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, which is nearly 5,000 metres above sea level, for charity and it was definitely the toughest thing I've ever done. I just assumed because I keep myself fit, it wouldn't be a problem – in fact I was so ill-prepared!
"You're dealing with the physical strain, the altitude, the fear, and my brain kept saying: 'You cannot do this, you will not be able to do this'. There were sheer rock faces, ice walls, and at one stage we hiked for seven hours and I struggled to breathe because of the altitude.
"Negotiating the narrowest ledge with a drop of thousands of feet, I thought, 'Why am I here? I'm actually going to kill myself'. People have died trying to climb it. The adrenaline rush at the summit was something else, and the experience was amazing, scary and incredibly worthwhile all at the same time."
How do you look after your health?
"At 37, I'm the healthiest I've ever been, in my mind and my body. I'm very active, go to the gym every day and use weights. I play football three times a week and I do a lot of fitness classes and spin classes as well.
"I eat well, although I'm addicted to sugar and I still enjoy a drink here and there, so I'm no saint. But overall, my life is based on pursuing a better version of myself and improving all the time."
How do you look after your wellbeing?
"I use mindfulness, which is a constant practise of thinking, 'What can I do to help others, what can I do to help myself?', and, 'How can I be more thoughtful and mindful of others and myself and practise gratitude?'
"I'm trying to practise meditation but I'm not great at it. It's so hard to clear your mind and not get distracted. I've just been to an amazing, isolated retreat in Bali, where you train really hard with an ex-military instructor, explore amazing places like natural pools, temples or zip-line down mountains, and every day, meditate (see Fifthelementescapes.com).
"I found it so calming and at the end, it even leaves you feeling euphoric, so it was mind-blowing and I'm hooked. I also enjoyed yoga there and I'm going to incorporate more yoga into my life from now on."