Stephen Byrne: 'I used to pray that I wasn’t gay'

The Shape I'm In: "I used to feel really guilty if I missed a day in the gym. I couldn’t live with myself and I don’t know where that anxiety came from"
Stephen Byrne: 'I used to pray that I wasn’t gay'

'I started therapy for the first time during lockdown. I’m the biggest advocate for it.' Picture: Naoise Culhane.

It seems half the country has adopted a dog in the past year, including RTÉ’s Stephen Byrne. The radio and television presenter has a 12-week-old Jack Russell running around his feet when he picks up the phone to chat.

“It’s been hectic. I literally picked him up from Wicklow Animal Welfare at 7pm last night. His name is Feidhlim and he’s stunning. I’d be happy to be single for the rest of my life if this dog stays with me,” the 30-year-old says, laughing.

Fostering and adopting a rescue dog has been one of the positives of the pandemic for the Dubliner. Another has been a healthier relationship with the gym.

“I used to feel really guilty if I missed a day in the gym. I couldn’t live with myself and I don’t know where that anxiety came from,” Byrne says.

“I think Instagram really added pressure and the LGBT world can be quite toxic when it comes to appearances as well. I really appreciated lockdown because I couldn’t get to a gym. I’m so happy I don’t have that anxiety any more and it’s all to do with having that time to relax.” 

  • Stephen Byrne is an ambassador for Three Ireland which is introducing a new connected lifestyle experience, now in stores nationwide.

What shape are you in?

I'm in the healthiest shape I’ve ever been in because I’m not going crazy the way I used to. I work out four times a week but I don’t put pressure on myself when it comes to food anymore.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I have breakfast first thing every morning. Oats, a bagel, whatever it is I think it’s so important to set you up for the day.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Pizza and jelly sweets. I think I’ve had around seven pizzas in the last two weeks and I don’t care.

What would keep you awake at night?

Everything. I’m the worst at sleeping. I trace it back to when I first put a TV in my room when I was 17. I would stay up watching it all night. Then I got into making my YouTube videos and would stay up editing those. I’m lucky if I get five hours a night.

How do you relax?

Meditating, watching a movie, or lighting incense. Two years ago I would have said going out, now I just want a bath and a candle.

Who are your sporting heroes?

Growing up it was Robbie Keane and more recently it’s Kellie Harrington. She's amazing. My best friend is related to her partner so we’ve known each other for years. 

What’s your favourite smell?

My new dog.

When is the last time you cried?

A colleague that I had worked with for a number of years passed away recently so I cried when that happened. Before that, I started therapy for the first time during lockdown and there were a few tears. I’m the biggest advocate for it. Even if you think you’re alright, it’s an amazing thing to do.

What traits do you least like in others?

Judgement. I don’t think anybody is inherently a bad person. I think we’re all products of where we come from and there’s a reason we do what we do, to an extent.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I sometimes seek validation from people around me and I’m trying to get better with that. I think it’s a consequence of some relationships in my 20s that didn’t go the way I wanted them to. I used to think I needed a relationship to be complete, but now I know I can just be happy with my dog.

Do you pray?

I don’t. I used to pray when I was a teenager that I wasn’t gay. It’s the only real time I remember praying in my life. It’s crazy to think back on it. I like to think there is something out there though. I’m spiritual, but I’m not committed to an organised religion.

What would cheer up your day?

Just seeing my friends and giving them a hug.

What quote inspires you most?

My best friend is in Soda Blonde and there’s a line I love in one of her songs: 'It takes everything to begin again'. I've applied it to so many moments.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Hawaii or Dingle. They’re the two greatest places I’ve been to.

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