The party girl who cleaned up

The party girl who cleaned up: Hedonist turned wellness guru Davinia Taylor tells Kerry Potter why she swapped Bollinger for ‘biohacking’ (the health trend it’s going to be hard to escape this summer)

  • London’s former party It Girl Davinia Taylor tells YOU about her upcoming book 
  • READ MORE: Davinia Taylor, 45, slips into a skimpy black bikini in incredible comparison snaps

Davinia Taylor went to a rave recently. Part of North London’s notorious Primrose Hill party posse back in the day, she was at the event to mark the 40th anniversary of The Haçienda, the Manchester nightclub she used to sneak into when she was a schoolgirl in Wigan.

‘There were tons of people on pills and I got goosebumps from the music,’ she says. But unlike many of her fellow ravers, she was stone-cold sober, as per the past 14 years.

‘I was in the car by 11, driving home. Best of both worlds – having a great night but then still getting up early the next day. That element of smug because I’m one of the ‘wellness people’!’ she grins.

How things have changed. It feels surreal to be chatting about epigenetics and regenerative farming with the former Hollyoaks actress best known for getting hammered with Kate Moss and Sadie Frost and who famously bought Noel Gallagher’s Supernova Heights house in 2005.

But here we are. Following battles with alcoholism and overeating, the 45-year-old has turned her life and health around, and written a new book, Hack Your Hormones, which offers advice on how to harness the various hormones that influence sleep, mood, eating habits, energy and stress levels, and follows 2021’s It’s Not A Diet, which sold 60,000 copies. Taylor also has one million Instagram followers and hosts sold-out health seminars – a friend who attended one says her fans, largely other midlife women, hang on to Taylor’s every word.

The former Hollyoaks actress was once best known for getting hammered with Kate Moss and Sadie Frost. The pair pictured in 2007

‘I’m relatable,’ she says. ‘I’m divorced, I’ve lost my mum, I’ve got kids all over the place [she has four sons by three different dads], I load and empty the dishwasher three times a day and I’ve got so many laundry washes on it’s a joke. Life can get overwhelming.’

She finds balance via ‘biohacking’, a currently fashionable practice that involves making small changes to your lifestyle to ‘boost’ your biology for improved health. 

Some of those things are sensible, some a bit silly, as we’ll see.

She warns me when we first sit down for a chat at her publisher’s office that she has ‘verbal diarrhoea’.

Subsequently, she doesn’t draw breath for over an hour. Extremely tanned and extremely slim, she’s sweary, forthright, witty company and seems to have ants in her navy Serena Bute pants (and matching waistcoat). She is the kind of fitness freak who does walking lunges along the platform while waiting for a train (and posts it on Instagram). ‘Believe it or not, this is me calm,’ she laughs.

When it comes to health, she has the zeal and patter of a 1960s evangelical preacher, at one point fixing me with her blue eyes and heckling me about my diet. 

‘You’re funny about meat? What? You can’t say a plant-based meal is superior to steak!’ she booms. And on it goes. By the end, I feel as if I’ve been caught up in a tornado.

She is not, she assures me, the new Gwyneth Paltrow. She has a range of supplements called WillPowders but will not be flogging ‘weird candles’ or ‘dumbbells that cost 30 grand’.

‘I’m the antithesis of Gwyneth!’ she says. ‘I’m a failed actor, for a start. And I definitely didn’t consciously uncouple from my ex.’

She’s referring to Dave Gardner, sports agent and David Beckham’s right-hand man, who she was married to from 2003 to 2010. When they divorced, Gardner, who went on to date actress Liv Tyler, won full custody of their son Gray, now 15, due to Taylor’s struggles – she’d previously been in rehab several times, taking a few years to get sober. ‘It was brutal. But you have to park it. You can’t rewrite history.’ Has she had difficult conversations with Gray, whose custody she now splits with Gardner, about that period? ‘No. All he cares about is how Man United are doing. He doesn’t give a s*** about my history. I’m irrelevant, I’m just white noise.’

OK, so not Gwyneth, then. But she does come from wealth; the only daughter of multimillionaire loo-roll businessman Alan Murphy. And she is a self-styled health guru with no relevant qualifications, advising other women on how to live their lives. 

Davinia, pictured healthy and sober, started researching the world of hormones when one of her sons was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and she suspected she had it, too

Davinia left London for rural Lancashire during lockdown. Pictured with cold-water therapy expert Wim Hof in 2019

Need better sleep? 

Try Davinia’s all-day hormone hacks to improve the quality of your slumber

In the morning

  • Get some natural light. Stand outside or stick your head out of the window as exposure to daylight stimulates the release of the hormone cortisol and will help get you aligned with your natural circadian rhythm. Cortisol gives us energy and drive for the day, so we want it when we get up, not when we’re going to bed.
  • Take off your sunglasses when not in bright direct sunlight as these can get in the way of your eyes’ light receptors and trick your body into thinking it’s night time.
  • Have your breakfast later. Keeping your body in a fasting state for as long as possible will stimulate cortisol release in the morning.

At lunchtime

  • Eat fermented food and good fats. A healthy gut microbiome will support your levels of serotonin, the happy hormone that then turns into melatonin, the sleep hormone.

In the evening

  • Wear blue-light-blocking glasses when using electronic devices as this sort of light makes your body think it’s daytime.
  • Eat bananas at night not in the morning. Keep them and also other tryptophan-rich foods such as oats, lentils and sourdough to later on in the day. Tryptophan is the amino acid that turns into serotonin then melatonin.
  • Dim the lights: your brain will produce melatonin in response to the darkness.
  • Try a cold shower. This will trigger sleep- supporting parasympathetic hormones.
  • Tape your mouth shut with micropore tape. Breathing through your nose reduces snoring and night-time waking.
  • Don’t watch adrenaline-pumping films at 11pm – you’ll be up all night!
  • Avoid alcohol – even a small amount will impair sleep. Try L-theanine instead – an amino acid that boosts serotonin. I take 400mg before bed.

In fairness, she puts in the hours, poring over medical journals and interviewing the likes of highly respected genetic epidemiology expert Professor Tim Spector on her podcast. Many of her tips are accessible and backed by research – getting daylight into your eyeballs early in the morning to help reset your body clock for better sleep, for example. But not all: I was surprised to read she says nicotine patches can help improve focus and recommends herbal remedy kava kava as an alternative to alcohol, despite it being banned in the UK.

‘We can’t cotton-wool everyone,’ she shrugs when I ask whether it’s responsible advice. She admits that she will go to extremes in the pursuit of wellness. Will she try anything? ‘Yes! I’m ever inquisitive.’ The worst thing, she says, was a kambo ritual involving a shaman, frog sebum, uncontrollable vomiting and being burned with a joss stick.

Taylor started researching the world of hormones when one of her sons was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and she suspected she had it, too. Some studies have suggested a link between the condition and low levels of dopamine, the reward hormone that drives cravings.

‘The penny dropped – I realised I’d always sought out dopamine.’ That’s why, she believes, she was such a hedonist throughout her 20s

‘I wasn’t drinking to block out trauma – I had a lovely happy childhood.’

It was all about chasing the buzz – something she now does via running, caffeine and listening to pumping house music. This new regime helps her to focus and be productive.

Is there a danger, though, of replacing overeating or alcohol excess (in rehab she was advised to swap booze for sugar and subsequently put on four stone) with an addiction to wellbeing?

She doesn’t seem like the kind of person who can do anything in moderation – ‘I don’t want to be beige,’ as she puts it. That’s not going to happen, she insists.

‘I’d worry if I wasn’t getting enough sleep, wasn’t in a positive mood 80 per cent of the time or was cutting out things that are normal. But I’m not. I had a Chinese takeaway at the weekend.’

Part of her quest for optimum health stems from the death of her mother, Lynne, from breast cancer ten years ago. For the first time Taylor quietens and her eyes prick with tears. ‘She loved being a grandmother. She got to hold Asa and a couple of months later she was gone. That kills me.’

Taylor left London for rural Lancashire during lockdown with her partner of a decade, Matthew Leyden, 44, their sons Asa, nine, and Jude, seven, and her son Luxx, 11, whose father she doesn’t talk about publicly (‘Gagging order! He’s not famous, though’).

She’s glad she hit rock bottom early in life and got her act together by her 30s, she says: ‘My kids have a mum they can rely on.’

Leyden is a calming influence, a hardworking builder. She met him on the Manchester party scene as a teenager and they reconnected when he worked on her house. I wonder where her drive to build the wellbeing brand comes from – she is, after all, an heiress.

Davinia famously bought Noel Gallagher’s Supernova Heights house in 2005. Noel pictured leaving the place in 1997

Davinia was once part of North London’s notorious Primrose Hill party posse back in the day. Stock image used

‘I have outgoings you wouldn’t believe! Having four kids is very expensive’. Her self-made parents, she points out, both came from the same council estate in Liverpool and instilled in her a strong work ethic. ‘I need to sustain an income for myself. It’s not in me to just sit back.’

As for her old glam gang, some drifted away when Taylor got clean. ‘It happened quite organically. You just have to distance yourself for your own preservation. I keep in touch with a few of them and am still really good friends with Sadie and Meg [Mathews].

Meg was fundamental to me getting into wellbeing. But my friendships are maintained mainly by WhatsApp at the moment. My kids need me morning, noon and night.’ What about Kate Moss? ‘I’m friends with her but we’re not on WhatsApp. I wish her well, of course, because she’s had a ferocious time as well. But that sort of fashionista thing doesn’t rock my world at all. I find it hard to get dressed up these days.’

Indifference to fancy frocks may be one of the reasons why she’s not yet married Leyden. ‘That’s another admin thing we still need to do. It’s, like, do I have to organise a wedding? I’m not really a party person.’

Um, are you sure about that?

‘Ha, people assume I am, but I have been sober for longer than I drank. I don’t think I even liked parties

– I just drank to make them bearable.’

This is an edited extract from Davinia Taylor’s Hack Your Hormones (Orion Spring, £14.99)*


Source: Read Full Article