20 Questions on Health & Fitness: Bill Wolsey

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: well known businessman and owner of The Merchant and Bullitt hotels in Belfast, Bill Wolsey

Bill Wolsey, owner of the The Merchant Hotel in Belfast
Gail Bell

1) Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I get wakened by my daughter most mornings, usually around 6.15am. I check my phone and the morning news then I tend to grab an apple to eat in the car on my way to work.

I have breakfast in what my wife and colleagues jokingly refer to as my 'office' – the window seat in the Cocktail Bar at The Merchant Hotel. I have a pot of coffee and either a croissant or sour dough toast with butter and strawberry jam.

Every other jam flavour is superfluous to requirements – I am a strawberry jam purist. I read the Irish Times every morning.

2) What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

As above, but I allow myself a guilty pleasure breakfast of bacon and eggs on the weekend.


If I'm playing football (which I do three or four times a week), I'll make sure I have a substantial lunch. I eat in The Cloth Ear, The National and occasionally in the Cocktail Bar at The Merchant, so I'll go for whatever looks good – from seafood risotto to steak.

Evening meal?

My evening meal might be home-made chilli, bolognese, chicken and vegetable soup, lamb chops and veg; whatever is tasty and family-friendly. We do try and eat lots of salads and organic vegetables too. My wife's home-made minestrone is a favourite. Our daughter called it "mummy-carrot soup" from an early age as it does feature a lot of chunky veg, including lots of carrots.

3) Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, it is important to me, and there is probably room for improvement in this department. In the warmer months, we try to eat a main meal at lunchtime and enjoy a salad for dinner.

4) Are you a calorie counter?

No. Never needed to be one, thankfully.

5) Best meal ever?

Petra and I had a really stunning meal in a little Italian restaurant in Madrid. The whole meal was good, but I still get misty-eyed about my squid-ink pasta and seafood main course.

Another memorable meal was in a restaurant called Juuls in Amsterdam. Petra took me to Amsterdam for my birthday a couple of years ago and we were advised to try this restaurant. It's a small, unassuming little spot, but the food was really good.

Needless to say, the best meals ever are the ones you share with family and friends.

6) Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Steak, egg and chips.

7) Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

I've never been on a diet. Five a side football is my only diet plan.

8) Do you take health supplements?

Occasionally, I'll take them – this is mostly orchestrated by my wife.

9) Teetotal or tipple?

I'm a minor tippler. I'll have beer and on special occasions and I'm partial to a glass of Champagne.

10) Fruit or fry-up?

Fry-up, but not too often.

11) Stairs or lift?

Stairs – depending on the number of floors.

12) Do you have a daily exercise regime?

As well as my five-a-side football three or four times a week, I'll make very occasional visits to the gym.

13) On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are; how fit would you like to be?

I think I would be an eight, but obviously 10 would be nice.

14) Best tip for everyday fitness?

Do something you enjoy to keep fit.

15) Do you have a memory from school sport / PE days you would rather forget?

I remember winning the Sports Day cup in my primary school, that was a happy memory. I was also part of the North Down County Football team that won the Northern Ireland County Championship.

It was the first time they won it and they've never won it since.

16) Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

No, I have had so many health problems over the years and I'm on so many tablets to keep me here, but none of that has ever really made me change my lifestyle.

17) Best health advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

Enjoy everything in moderation.

18) Who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

Nobody. My attitude to life is that I am grateful for everything I have.

19) What time do you get to bed normally and do you think you get enough sleep?

I'll get to bed around 11.30pm or so, but I'm a terrible sleeper. I’m definitely not getting enough sleep.

20) Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

The older I get, the more I get fatalistic thoughts. Any pain results in thoughts of heart attacks.

But, to be fair, most of the time I am reasonably pragmatic about it. I have a long-term illness and I just get on with it.


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