Richard Dunwoody: ‘I was obsessed with weight control. Now I don’t count calories’

My Daily Diet: the former champion jockey (55), motivational speaker and adventurer on his favourite food

7.15am Milly, who is four in November, gets me up, and I have coffee with my girlfriend Olivia before she does the school drop-off. We moved to Madrid last year; we were spending so much time in Spain it made sense. A real pleasure for me is going out for breakfast and to sit down with a Spanish newspaper. I can speak the language much better now but find reading easier. The sports pages I understand pretty well though I'll struggle a bit with the opinion pieces. I always order a café con leche (coffee with milk) and some toasted bread with crushed tomatoes.

10am When I retired in 1999, I was looking for new challenges and I embarked on some mad expeditions, which I tried to link with charity fundraising. I have dialled it down, though it's important for me to remain fit. I go to the gym twice a week and run a lot; I would usually do a local 10km race a couple of times a month or the odd half-marathon. When you are a jockey, the enforced weight control means you get obsessed, you just can't avoid it. I was lucky I had no problems when I retired, and I enjoy my food and don't count calories. After exercise I'll have another coffee and some biscuits, or an occasional chocolate croissant, before working for a few hours.

3pm Olivia will come home for lunch and we would have some of her tasty chicken soup, or it could be fish soup, and a brown bread roll. Once or twice a week we go out for a plate of calamari to share, bruschetta with either anchovies or tomatoes and we will both have a couple of small glasses of beer. I'll spend the rest of the afternoon working. I do some motivational speaking for Niall Wood's company Navy Blue Sports Management. I can get nervous, but once I am into my stride I enjoy giving people an idea of what it's like at Aintree under that kind of pressure or describing my 700-mile ski trip to the South Pole in 2008. I also lead three or four walking tours a year for Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel. I love travelling and enjoy immersing myself in the customs, history and geography of a new country so I can share this with the clients. I'm off tomorrow to lead a group on a walking tour in the Caucasus and then I'll take a group in Kazakhstan for a 10-day cultural tour.

6pm I pick up Milly up and we hang out for a few hours. In Spain, children go to school from three years of age and can stay in till around 6pm which makes it easy for both parents to work. I honestly don't know how people manage in Ireland with school out so early. Milly eats earlier than us (she is currently really into chickpeas) and we eat around 8.30. We recently discovered slow cookers so we might cook some chicken in that and have it with a big salad. The fresh produce is so good here. We also love to have lamb chops, and sometimes pasta, washed down with a glass of wine.


10.30pm Milly goes down around nine. Exhausted, Olivia and myself will treat ourselves to a gin and tonic – the Spanish gin Larios with slim-line tonic – before turning in about 11. Forget winning the Grand National when your three-year -old kicks off it can really take it out of you. I was 51 when I became a father, and it was a shock to the system, but I'm glad I waited. In my younger years I was driven by so many things I needed to achieve; I would not have had the time to focus properly on her. Now I'm not as stressed out and I can give her my full attention. I love spending time with her, though she gives me a run for my money. Right now Olivia and I feel very, very lucky.


Dietitian and lecturer Dr Conor Kerley

Protein boost Richard's breakfast and morning snack are low in protein so I'd recommend he adds some nuts, or nut butter to his toast and biscuits.

Watch the alcohol Richard doesn't count calories, which is refreshing to hear, and he is right ; if we are eating mostly healthy foods we don't need to focus on calories. Remember a small glass of beer is one unit, a small glass of wine is one and a standard G&T is one. Recommendations suggest men should have 14 units a week, or less, as well as a few alcohol-free days.