Celebrity Health – Thea Gilmore

Image of Thea Gilmore © Pål Hansen/www.palhansen.com

Thea Gilmore chats to Liz Parry about how she follows a healthy lifestyle

Singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore is set to release her seventeenth album this month and will also be embarking on a UK tour. A prolific musician, she was a teenager when she released her first album, Burning Dorothy, in 1998. Here, the 39-year-old mother-of-two talks about her keen interest in healthy living.

Eating healthily while on tour is tricky, for sure, and cooking whilst on the road is near impossible. It is gradually becoming easier as more focus is being given to healthy lifestyle choices. The rise of veganism is having an incredibly positive effect on what is available on the high street or – something that’s probably more pertinent to me – what’s available in motorway service stations! It’s also really heartening to see more room being made for fresh fruit and veg and healthier fast food.

My rider will always request either a meal cooked in the venue (we usually ask for veggie as it suits most of the touring party) or a buy-out so we can find our own food. It’s always a real treat when the venue opts to cook for you though. We had an amazing gig in Bridport on my last tour where they cooked us the most incredible veggie chilli. Such a lot of love and care went into it. It makes you feel completely different when you walk on stage than if you’d had to spend an hour trying to find a takeaway that wasn’t loaded with grease or MSG.

When it comes to my everyday diet, usually a good quality sourdough toast is my go-to for breakfast, though I have been known to eat salad for breakfast if I’m hungry! There’s likely to be a shot of espresso somewhere along the line as well.

Lunch will usually be salad or green veg, sometimes with fish. I’m a complete chilli and garlic addict though, so if I can include them in anything I’m cooking, they usually find their way onto my plate as well.

At dinner time, I have two kids, so it can be a bit of a battle. They love their veg, but they’re not too keen on mixing things, so while they’ll eat a plate of broccoli, they don’t like to mix anything else with it. My house specialties are my veggie chilli and a green veg pasta that is groaning with garlic. It’s always a spectacular triumph when we can all sit down to the same meal together and I’m usually pretty safe with those two.

My diet has changed considerably in the last few years. I used to follow a pretty tight, high-protein pescatarian diet. A few years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease (a type of auto-immune disease that affects your thyroid hormone production). Diet affects it quite profoundly as it has a habit of severely depleting your vitamin and mineral levels as well as playing havoc with things like weight and hair. I ended up having to start eating meat again as my ferritin levels wouldn’t rise at all.

I was told that restricting carbs was terrible for people with Hashimoto’s as they need the energy for the body to convert thyroid hormones. So I happily reintroduced pasta into my diet and felt immediately better. I am someone who has always struggled with see-sawing weight, but since reintroducing carbs, I am at the lowest weight I have ever been in my adult life. It wasn’t a deliberate effort, but a side effect of my diagnosis and trying to get myself healthy again. It goes to show that there isn’t a magic bullet that works for everyone. Everyone is completely unique and has their own set of nutritional requirements to be healthy. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to learn that lesson!

I’ve noticed that, as I get older, my craving for and response to sugar has really changed. Generally, I don’t think about sweet stuff and on the odd occasion that I indulge, I feel pretty lethargic and grotty afterwards. It really does have a dramatic effect on me, so I don’t really go there. Processed foods are the same. I’m not evangelical about it but, again, if I have a day where, for whatever reason, I have to rely on processed foods or too many sandwiches if I’m in the studio, I find my body completely craving a plate of vegetables. I’m steadily beginning to listen to my body for a lead on what I should be eating. Learning to listen to those signals is the biggest favour you can do for yourself, I think.

I’m vitamin D deficient because of the Hashimoto’s, so I take Nordic oil with added D3 every day in the morning. I have to be really careful about the time of day I take supplements because certain ones can interfere with the uptake of my thyroid medication. I also can’t take the standard NHS-prescribed thyroid meds (Levothyroxine) and have to take natural desiccated thyroid under endocrinology supervision. It’s all a bit of a nuisance, but it keeps me well!

I love to swim and practise yoga. Both are calming to me, which I really need. A sort of physical focus that stops my whirlpool brain for a short while! I have tried meditation in the past and found it impossible to properly quieten my mind, but if I’m doing yoga, it naturally forces me to adjust my focus which is incredibly helpful to me.

My latest album is called Small World Turning. It’s been a tough and turbulent time in the world over the last couple of years and people’s resilience has been wearing really thin, I think. The album is a sort of response to that and to the extremes that have arisen as a result of things like Brexit and the Trump administration. I am always terribly saddened to watch human discourse disintegrate into shouting and name-calling. The world and people’s opinions are a vast rainbow of colour and very little good can come from seeing everything in black and white. So, it’s an album of stories and people – and I think it’s my best.

As for the future, I’m always looking towards the next album, though this time, I might have a radical change of direction. I’ve also begun to write a book – at the grand old age of 39! It will probably never see the light of day, but it’s a great process to immerse yourself in.

Thea’s latest album, Small World Turning, will be released on 17 May and she will be touring from 15 May. To keep up with her latest news, visit www.theagilmore.net or follow her on Twitter: @theagilmore

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