Celebrity Health - Cerys Matthews

A photo of Cerys Matthews

A taste of the good life

Liz Parry speaks to musician and presenter Cerys Matthews about her upcoming outdoor festival and her passion for whole foods

Q: What's your philosophy when it comes to healthy living?

Cerys: " 'Sound of body, sound of mind' makes sense to me, However, modern life is full of temptations and pressing commitments – work; (mine has totally erratic and irregular hours and often entails a lot of travel); I'm a full-time mother of a five-, 10- and 12-year-old; I run the house and I'm also a wife – so, often, something has to give, and most frequently it's that session in the gym, or that run around the block. That said, I'm not very good at sitting still, so I keep a certain level of fitness just from day-to-day activities. I think it's just common sense really. Stick to whole foods where you can, don't overeat or eat too late and try to stay reasonably active then Bob's your uncle! I like Joan Collins' fitness regime – apparently she never takes the lift... and that's it!"

Q: Are whole foods an important part of your diet then?

Cerys: "I may compromise on my general fitness levels, which ebb and flow mostly depending on my family and work schedules, but I never compromise on the foods I eat. My mother was a great cook and taught me how to cook from an early age. I am passionate about eating whole foods and would love to levy a tax on processed foods while somehow subsidising fresh whole foods so that everyone can afford to eat healthily. I lived for far too long in the Southern states of America. The situation there is shocking - those poorest in society eat the cheaply available food, but this is riddled with chemicals and refined sugars; so bad for the system. Also, general education levels and awareness of the importance of a good diet is sorely lacking. They also love putting 'seasoning' on everything from ribs to corn to fresh fish, and this seasoning isn't just salt and pepper, it's MSG and other non-natural colourings and flavourings. Once you stop eating 'chemical' foods, ie foods that are lathered in these chemicals or food that is pre-prepared and needs preservatives to prolong its shelf life or to look the least bit appetising, you lose the taste for it as you can feel the horrible syrupy, gloopy chemical feel and taste. It's just not made for your body."

Q: What are your favourite types of foods?

Cerys: "My diet is very straightforward - a lot of nuts, brown rice, potatoes and pulses. Homemade soups like lentil, chickpea and tomato are cheap and make a simple one-pot-wonder served with toast and cheese. I also love home made curry or my version of Japanese food – rice, nori, avocado and cucumber, with miso and wakame. These are the typical meals I make. I love cooking outdoors on a real fire. We also use a lot of quorn as my husband and daughter don't eat meat. I have a tiny little garden where we took up the pavement in front of our house in London and we grow vegetables like chard, runner beans and broccoli. We do have vices though! I love good red wine or craft beer and I'm also a huge fan of sparkling mineral water."

Q: Do you encourage your children to eat healthily?

Cerys: "Yes, we cook together. My daughter is a keen experimenter in the kitchen (though it's a disaster zone after she finishes!) and we eat so healthily at home. It's their norm so they don't really hanker for anything different – they have always been brainwashed out of fast foods and fizzy drinks. I know they are amused when they do eat them, say if they're at a party. But balance is important. You have to enjoy life. Blow outs and exceptions are totally understandable."

Q: Do you find it difficult to eat healthily when you are on tour?

Cerys: "It's impossible. I think I've become so particular about food because I have spent most of my adult life on the road, so I'm always travelling from gig to gig at odd times of the day. Things have got better, with Waitrose and Marks & Spencer in the larger service stations. But when you're out of the bigger cities and when its post-gig time, say 11pm or later, everywhere is shut apart from kebab shops or 24-hour garage service stations where they serve pasties or damp sandwiches. I have grown to hate sandwiches! We used to tour Germany and you'd get käse und schwein flesch – dried up cheese slices and ham on a plate with some solid pretzel-looking stuff."

Q: Tell us about the festival you co-founded, the Good Life Experience.

Cerys: "At its core, it's about reconnecting with nature and acknowledging the joy of the simpler things in life. We live in an increasingly hectic and digitally-connected world, so the festival is a real breath of fresh air. It's a great opportunity for all the family to log off and get together, try some new experiences and enjoy 'real-world' adventures in the great outdoors instead. I co-founded the festival with my husband/manager Steve Abbott and Caroline and Charlie Gladstone, who own the estate where the festival is held."

Q: So what's different about this festival?

Cerys: "On top of the usual music, literature and food line-up, there are heaps of things to learn and try out. For example, you can give yoga, abseiling or even axe-throwing a go, get stuck in to a tug of war, try your hand at leather-working or bushcraft, learn from the likes of adventurer Ben Fogle, or watch demonstrations like butchery and campfire cooking. There's also vintage fairground rides, a coconut shy and helter skelter. Kids will be able to acquire some real countryside skills like learning how to build a campfire and carve wood and this year the festival also has a café for and run by under-14s."

Q: Anything else we shouldn't miss?

Cerys: "Everyone should try wild swimming in the stream and Friday's huge campfire is sure to be a big hit. The fires were really popular with the kids last year; they especially loved being able to pick sweetcorn and then cook it on the fire. Look out for the mass sing-alongs led by me too! It's a great opportunity for some stargazing away from all the light pollution."

Q: What are your plans for the next 12 months?

Cerys: "I'll be carrying on with my radio show on BBC 6 music from 10am to 1pm on Sundays. I've also got my composing debut at the National Theatre for the play Our Country's Good and there's the Good Life Experience of course, so there'll be a few more campfires to enjoy."

The Good Life Experience takes place on 18, 19 and 20 September in the rolling hills of Flintshire, at the estate of New Hawarden Castle in Hawarden, North Wales. Adult tickets are £45, the cost for children aged nine to 16 inclusive is £22.50 and under-eights go free. You can also buy a family ticket for £100. For more information visit www.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk

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