How Rishi Sunak’s new diet keeps him trim – from fasting to kicking the fizzy drinks addiction

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Guy Kelly
·7 min read
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Rishi Sunak in his Stanford sweats earlier this week
Rishi Sunak in his Stanford sweats earlier this week

In his role as guardian of the nation’s finances, the small matter of whether Rishi Sunak is an unstoppable feeder or miserly belt-tightener is still up for debate – and probably best left to colleagues who can count.

What’s less ambiguous is the Chancellor’s policy on his own waistband. In that department, it seems, he’s very much led by data and not dates (though, incidentally, dates are high in fibre and antioxidants), and the data is telling him that nutritional austerity is the best way to go.

“The guy doesn’t really eat much,” a friend of Sunak’s revealed to the Sunday Times this week. “He’ll sustain himself throughout the day with a Granny Smith apple and some cashew nuts.”

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While Boris Johnson is photographed huffing and hawing his way around the gardens of Buckingham Palace each morning like an open packet of Chipsticks in a beanie and posted a moving (quite literally, he decided to walk and talk as if to prove he is capable of motion without losing breath) video this morning about his weight loss, the man possibly vying to be his successor is never seen exercising, yet remains as slender as Flat Stanley.

So, then, how does Dishy Rishi keep his inflation level so low? How does this 40-year-old multi-multi-millionaire teetotaller slip into his designer suits with such ease? Does he not eat out to help himself out? No Sunak snacks? And just how tight is his own belt? Let’s look at the evidence.

Fast times at the Treasury

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According to the aforementioned source close to Sunak, the Chancellor has taken to fasting “once or twice a week”. Whether this is his own small contribution to saving pennies for the nation or merely a health decision is unclear, but civil servants at the Treasury must know all about the 5-2 diet by now, given one of Sunak’s predecessors, George Osborne, responded to imposing austerity on the nation by generously shedding two stone during his time in Number 11.

Intermittent fasting is very much in vogue. Everyone from the Kardashians to Gwyneth Paltrow endorses it (just recently, the Goop empress wrote the foreword to Intuitive Fasting, a new book from her preferred diet guru, ‘natural medicine’ doctor Will Cole), while Johnson himself is said to have adopted the 16:8 method: where daily calories are consumed within an 8-hour window.

Sunak’s chicken broth dinner and meagre daily snacks – an apple and some nuts sounds as if he’s preparing for a gruelling Oscar-bait role – certainly suggest he’s following a strict regime, but given he does not drink alcohol, did he have any vices to start with?

A severe Coke habit, kicked

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In a word, yes. “I’m a Coke addict, a total Coke addict,” Sunak told some schoolboys in a video that resurfaced on Tuesday. In the brief moment between this admission and his realisation, we all wondered whether this was a historic moment in politics, akin to Bill Clinton admitting to smoking (but not inhaling, remember) marijuana in an Oxford pub.

Sunak, we thought, a former City banker, of course! So that’s how he stays so trim, energetic, and borderline jittery in his 14-hour working days. And on the day before Boris Johnson was to announce a clampdown on middle class drug users! Such honesty, so brave, but it’s one rule for…

“Coca-Cola addict. Just for the record. Just to be totally clear. I am a Coca-Cola addict. I have seven fillings to show for it.”

Oh, right. Yes, instead of his preferred Coke being a pure-grade Mexican variety, the Chancellor meant a fizzy drink. But seven fillings is a lot, so he must have gone through gallons of the stuff in his youth.

“I now have one a week. I’m only allowed one a week now. No Diet Coke. No Coke Zero. Never any Pepsi.” Strip an addiction to cans of Coca-Cola – which contains 139 calories from a massive 35 grams of sugar – from your diet, and you’re bound to see weight fall off. Especially if you replace it with cashew nuts.

Pedalling to success

A Peloton rider Pelotons their way through a class - Peloton
A Peloton rider Pelotons their way through a class - Peloton

Unlike his boss, Sunak is a purely indoor exerciser, meaning the public never sees him with a hair out of place.

“I check my phone, do a news scan, then depending on how energetic I’m feeling I’ll either do a treadmill, Peloton or some gym class. I do that, see my kids and then generally I’m at my desk at 7.45am,” he revealed last year.

He reportedly tries to complete a high-intensity gym class and a run every week, but “I hate running outside. I prefer the treadmill; the treadmill’s my thing.”

It was the £1,750 Peloton that caught the headlines. Once the preserve of time-poor, bank balance bulging hedge funders, lockdown has meant the exercise bikes – which come with a 22-inch screen to enable users to take part in live-streamed video classes from home – have soared in popularity. At one point last year, there was a two-month wait for one.

But users swear by them and, like graduates from Oxbridge or Ivy League universities (Sunak, incidentally, went to both), you can always recognise an addict by the fact they’ll have told you about it within three minutes of your meeting them.

Clothes that make the man

sunak walking in downing street - Stefan Rousseau /PA
sunak walking in downing street - Stefan Rousseau /PA

You need only look at his Instagram page – or his preference for digitally embossing his signature on everything bar his own forehead, or his “Hey, I’m just kicking some ideas around in my hoodie” behind-the-scenes Treasury photographs, or just his £180 Bluetooth coffee mug – to know that the Chancellor sees presentation as important, no matter the cost.

As my stylish colleague Stephen Doig wrote this week: “In days gone by, the besuited likes of Norman Lamont and Kenneth Clarke would rather be seen in fishnet stockings and suspenders than their gym kit. But Sunak’s a different, 21st century beast entirely.”

Even the casualwear is all about image. The usual uniform of an off-duty Tory involves dreary Cameronian blue polo shirts or tweed, but Sunak prefers fitted hoodies, collegiate sweaters bearing his alma mater (told you he’d find a way of telling us), and tracksuit bottoms. He’s fit, the intended message reads, he’s modern, he’s dynamic.

Rishi Sunak at the top of the stairs yesterday - Reuters
Rishi Sunak at the top of the stairs yesterday - Reuters

And so it is with his suits. Despite the Treasury attempting to deceive us this week by placing him on a staircase like Robin the Frog, at sea level Sunak is in fact the same height as Emma Watson – which is a curious comparison, but I’m going with it.

Elongating a slim 5ft 6ins frame requires carefully nipped and tucked suits, skinny ties, well-fitted shirts (Sunak’s come from Italian shirting brand The Travelling Artisan) and the right shoes. Keen observers of the Chancellor will have noticed that his trousers often appear slightly too short, as well, giving the impression that his legs are a little too long for them.

Think that’s an accident? Then you underestimate Brand Sunak.