Mor­bid obe­sity and sore knees helped morph the tele­vi­sion chef duo the Hairy Bik­ers into the Hairy Di­eters, writes Marie Claire Digby

Mor­bid obe­sity and sore knees helped morph the Hairy Bik­ers into the Hairy Di­eters. The af­fa­ble duo talk food and friend­ship with Marie Claire Digby

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE -

‘ Hello dar­ling, how are you?”

Hav­ing won me over within min­utes of meet­ing them, Si King and Dave Myers, aka the Hairy Bik­ers or Hairy Di­eters ( de­pend­ing on which TV show or book they’re pro­mot­ing), are now be­ing ut­terly charm­ing to the hordes of fans who ap­proach them as they are hav­ing their pho­to­graph taken in Mer­rion Square.

“They pay our wages. You’ve got to be re­spect­ful of that,” says King, the blond biker, while dark- haired Myers agrees. “It’s a good feel­ing, though.”

The pair first met in 1995 when both were work­ing on the set of a TV drama­ti­sa­tion of a Cather­ine Cookson novel in New­cas­tle, King as a sec­ond as­sis­tant di­rec­tor and Myers in the make- up and pros­thet­ics de­part­ment, and bonded over a shared love of mo­tor­bikes and good food.

Al­though they be­came friends quickly – “He in­vited me for Sun­day lunch and sold me a bike as well as giv­ing me roast lamb,” Myers says – their pro­fes­sional part­ner­ship and ca­reer change evolved grad­u­ally.

While Myers was work­ing on a fea­ture film in Canada, and King was an as­sis­tant di­rec­tor and lo­ca­tion man­ager on the Harry Pot­ter movies, in their down time they hatched a plan for a pi­lot TV show.

Mo­tor­cy­cles, Food and the Search for Nir­vana, as they called it, never made it into pro­duc­tion, but The Hairy Bik­ers, a much catchier ti­tle that they say popped up as the sub­ject line on an email and just stuck, was com­mis­sioned by BBC2, and they were on their way.

“They gave us a one- hour pro­gramme, and we went to Por­tu­gal,” Myers ex­plains. The for­mat – part trav­el­ogue, part cooking show, with the two lads rid­ing their bikes – proved pop­u­lar with view­ers, and they have been on screen con­stantly since, most re­cently in last au­tumn’s The Hairy Bik­ers’ Mediter­ranean Ad­ven­ture.

They are in Dublin to pub­li­cise their lat-

We thought, They’ll send us off to explore di­ets around the world – we could go to a health farm, we could do it posh. But no, they said it had to be with real peo­ple, so they sent us to a ladies’ aer­o­bics class in Pre­ston

est book, The Hairy Di­eters Make It Easy, and are look­ing ap­pro­pri­ately trim, hav­ing each lost three stones in a three- month pe­riod in 2012, in the process spawn­ing a lu­cra­tive weight loss off­shoot to their cooking and travel shows and books.

“They’re kind of in­di­vis­i­ble,” King says of how the biker and diet projects work to­gether. “We’re two mid­dle- aged men with a weight prob­lem, so we kind of have to take the rough with the smooth.”

What prompted them to take the diet route? “We were mor­bidly obese,” Myers says can­didly. “I’d hit 18 ½ stone (‘ and I was nearly 20’, King in­ter­jects) and we were start­ing to get old be­fore our time. I’m 10 years older than Kingy, but we’d both be­gun to shuf­fle, the knees were sore ...”

A diet show and book was sug­gested “and we thought, yeah, that’ll be great,” Myers says. “They’ll send us off to explore di­ets around the world – we could go to a health farm, we could do it posh. But no, they said it had to be with real peo­ple, so they sent us to a ladies’ aer­o­bics class in Pre­ston.”

Since fac­ing up to their spread­ing mid­dles – Myers had a 49in waist and King says his girth was 52in – they have sold more than 2 ½ mil­lion diet books. Their first, How to Love Food and Lose Weight, ousted 50 Shades of Grey from the top of the bestsellers charts in the sum­mer of 2012.

King has a par­tic­u­lar rea­son to be thank­ful for that first foray into weight loss. In early 2014 he suf­fered a brain aneurism and un­der­went emer­gency surgery. “It’s a good job you did the diet, oth­er­wise you’d be dead by now,” Myers says starkly, but King agrees. “I def­i­nitely would, with­out a shadow of a doubt.”

He made a full re­cov­ery “with no deficits”, and puts his sur­vival down to be­ing fit- ter and lighter than he had been, and bet­ter able to cope with the ill­ness. In the years since their diet book de­but in 2012, the pair have put on weight, lost it, and for the most part kept it off. And now they’re promis­ing to “make it easy”. How does that work? “You’ve got to hit it re­ally hard when you need to lose quite a lot of weight, but then af­ter that, it’s about main­tain­ing it, and about it be­ing sus­tain­able,” King says. “For the diet books, the whole ethos is that the food is full of flavour, re­ally sat­is­fy­ing and in­ter­est­ing. Food that you re­ally want to eat, that hap­pens to be less calorific. We sim­ply wouldn’t com­pro­mise on that.” “We wanted to write a book that would help us in our quest, a book that we would want to buy,” Myers adds. Their aim is to pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion through recipes that don’t re­quire a lot of in­gre­di­ents and are quick and easy to make – and work, every time. “For each book in the diet series, as with every other book, we go through a huge process of test­ing the recipes, mak­ing sure they work. We know peo­ple are in­vest­ing time and money and are cooking for peo­ple that they love out of a book that we’ve been priv­i­leged enough to pro­duce, so it has got to be right,” King says.

To­gether The Hairys, as they are known in the in­dus­try, have writ­ten more than 20 cook­books – “that’s more than 2,000 recipes” says Myers, who is a for­mer Celebrity Mas­ter­mind win­ner and was a con­tes­tant on Strictly Come Danc­ing.

They write the books to­gether, in per­son. “We get to­gether and just shout, don’t we?” King says. They have also cov­ered thou­sands of miles on their mo­tor­bikes, and spend more time to­gether than many mar­ried couples. Their cam­er­aderie is al­ways ev­i­dent on screen, but are they still friends off screen, too?

“Yeah, of course,” King says. “We’re very trans­par­ent – what you see is what you get. Quite apart from the dou­ble act that ev­ery­body sees on the telly, which is dead hon­est, it’s the crack that we would nor­mally have. We’re re­ally good mates and broth­ers, re­ally.”

So no room for artis­tic dif­fer­ences? “No, it’s busy enough as it is and we are great friends. Why make it any harder? We in­stinc­tively know if we need to give each other a bit of space and time. It’s just how the re­la­tion­ship has de­vel­oped over the years. You get the sig­nals and you go, ‘ Oh yeah, got you man, no prob­lem’.” The Hairy Di­eters Make It Easy, by Si King and Dave Myers, is pub­lished by Seven Di­als, £ 16.99

PHO­TO­GRAPH: NICK BRAD­SHAW

“We’re re­ally good mates and broth­ers re­ally.” Si King and Dave Myers in Dublin.

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