Paul Stafford: As a footballer, I make a great hairdresser

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: award-winning Belfast hairdresser Paul Stafford

Paul Stafford – I consider myself a modernist in the sense that I rarely look back and am only interested in the new
Paul Stafford – I consider myself a modernist in the sense that I rarely look back and am only interested in the new

1. Up and at it ­– what is your morning routine?

I set my alarm for 6am... I rarely get up before 7.30, but I like a little warning. My wife, Leisa, will bring up a coffee and that starts my day off properly. The kids and Leisa will be gone by nine and then I'll get ready, while answering emails at the same time. I'm usually in the salon between 9.30 and 10am. I'm a night bird and like to stay up until my eyes give up – I do all my research, correspondence and catching up late at night.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for…

Breakfast? For breakfast I'll have a smoothie made with berries protein powder, maybe some peanut butter and a strong coffee; I'll have eggs if I have time.

Lunch? Lunch is usually an omelette or chicken salad. I try to drink lots of water but sadly I also drink too much coffee.

Evening meal? For evening, I'll cook (I do the cooking) a tagine or paella. I'm good at Indian, Thai, Spanish – anything that's quick and healthy – and we always eat together as a family.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Nutrition is very important to me; I eat regularly and try not to skip meals. I avoid starchy foods like bread and pasta, but fill up on proteins and veg, though every now and then I'll have a burger and chips or a Chinese takeaway meal.

4. Are you a calorie counter?

No, I don't count calories, but I'm very aware of portion sizes and am pretty strict about my diet.

5. Best meal ever?

The first time I tasted Thai food in Bangkok was amazing. I'd had Thai food before but this was something else. But I would say the best meal I'd ever had was when we visited a young chef's restauraunt at Helen's Bay in the early 90s; the food was incredible and, in between courses the chef would send out little plates of all types of things I'd never heard of like squab and venison – pretty common nowadays but back then both were unheard of. The chef came out to join us for a drink and then drove us home. Where else would you get that kind of service? Michael Deane and I became firm friends and I was best man at his wedding to a great client, and friend, Kate Smith.

6. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I love Christmas cake. I don't drink anymore, so the boozier, the better.

7. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

Yeah, I was on the Atkins diet when that was the thing. I got bored and decided instead to live my life not denying myself anything, but being moderate.

8. Do you take health supplements?

I go through phases but rarely stick to anything for long.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

I stopped drinking alcohol about seven years ago for personal and health reasons. I'm glad I did; my life has never been better, family-wise, career-wise and in relation to my own personal happiness.

10. Fruit or fry-up?

I mostly eat berries or the odd banana or apple, but at the weekend, I love a good old Ulster fry.

11. Stairs or lift?

For as long as I'm able, I'll take the stairs.

12. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I try to train or exercise at least five times a week. I love running and that's my main exercise, but I have a personal trainer to help me with the heavy stuff, so I mix it up. I've done a few marathons and I have set myself a challenge to do another before I'm 50 – preferably New York City or London. I've trained regularly since my early 30s when I noticed I'd started putting on weight and I became addicted – I'm quite an obsessive person so when I get into something it's usually serious.

13. On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are; how fit would you like to be?

I would say I'm pretty fit, but not very flexible. I'm about a seven. How fit would I like to be? Fit enough to do a marathon in under three hours, 30 minutes!

14. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Find something you enjoy and stick to it. The reason people hate the gym or running is understandable, but a brisk walk can lead to a jog.

15. Do you have a memory from school sport / PE days you would rather forget?

I always wanted to be a footballer and could never get on the school team. On the last game of the season I came on as a sub and let a goal in (I was a goalkeeper ). I really never got over the humiliation of that and never played football again. As a footballer, I make a great hairdresser.

16. Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

I had a pretty hedonistic time in the 80s and 90s – it was a great time, opening salons, travelling the world and doing amazing things and there was a lifestyle that went along with that. I see pictures of myself at my wedding and I looked bloated, pasty and wasted. How I managed to talk my wife into going through with marrying me is still a mystery. Shortly afterwards, I had a complete change of lifestyle, started running, eating healthily and tried to live a cleaner life. It didn't entirely work out that way, but that's another story.

17. Best health advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

If it's become a struggle, physically mentally or socially, then it's not going to improve without change.

18. Who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

I don't try to emulate anyone, but I admire the spirituality of Vidal Sassoon who made our industry respected as a craft and an art form. He was articulate, charismatic and a creative genius and he came from the toughest of backgrounds without resentment or bitterness. He also shared his knowledge freely with everyone; his legacy is our passion for what we do.

19. What time do you get to bed normally and do you think you get enough sleep?

I usually go to sleep about 2am. I read endlessly – I've usually got three books on the go at any time. I'm a knowledge junkie and I need the details – I don't need much sleep really, as I love my life and want to get as much of it as possible. One of the things I like about having to travel so much is the time you get on a plane to read or write.

20. Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

I'm not frightened of dying, but I'm in no hurry. I've come to terms with my life and am pretty happy with it. I take my praise and criticism with equal measure and try not to dwell on either for too long. I consider myself a modernist in the sense that I rarely look back and am only interested in the new. I have a huge appetite for new ideas and creativity I'd like to think I'll be like that until the end.