Cathy Kelly: To relax, I read or watch Modern Family with my three dogs sitting on me

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Best-selling Irish novelist Cathy Kelly

To relax, Cathy reads or watches Modern Family "with her three pet Jack Russells all trying to sit on her at the same time"
Gail Bell

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

On school days, I wake at 6.25am, get coffee, read in bed (I wake up early to read) and then get up to get everyone else up. Myself, my sons, my husband and our three dogs – I feed them before I sit down or else they are outraged – eat together. I don’t check electronics generally until 8am and then properly when I sit at my desk at 9am. I used to occasionally check emails at night until I read that doing so is like drinking a double espresso.

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

Breakfast? Porridge and green juice my husband makes with kale, spinach – you name it – and one coffee. I snack on nuts and seeds during the day as I have discovered that this type of protein-system works for me.

Lunch? Oatcakes, almond butter, hard boiled eggs. Yeah, I love sugary, carb things, but at this age, I have learned what gives me energy and what drains me. That said, sometimes I hit a low when I am really up against a deadline (I write a book a year) and I have been known to buy Lucozade...

Evening meal? I’m pretty much vegetarian, so I cook one thing for everyone else, then have something 'salady' or grain-based, with feta cheese or fish.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Very. I’m a small person who burns energy, moves quickly and somehow, heavy carb diets with a lot of sugar don’t work for me. I love sugar in coffee, but I drink, perhaps, two or three cups of coffee a day, one decaf, and that cuts the sugar.

4. Best meal ever?

A couple of years ago in Florida, the four of us were in a teeny restaurant down the Gulf, and I had angel fish, and I don’t think I have ever eaten anything as exquisite. I like pizza too. Sitting in a cosy, non-fussy place with my family or friends pretty much sums up a good meal for me.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

A Twix. I am always racing, so it is scary how often I am hungry when shopping – fatal. I can buy a Twix as I grocery shop and have it eaten before I get the car out of the car park.

6. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

I had a go of the 5:2 once, but did it without the aid of the book (this is very 'me') and thought I might pass out by night-time.

7. Do you take health supplements?

My vitamin D is always in the toilet, so I need supplements. I take all the usual suspects – Q10, krill oil, all the Bs, magnesium, selenium (for arthritis) and anything else I read about that pings in my head.

8. How do you relax?

I like crafting but sometimes I’m too tired to even crochet. Mainly, I read or watch Modern Family with the three dogs all trying to sit on me at the same time. They are Jack Russells, so this is possible.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

Rarely drink. Keeps me awake.

10. Stairs or lift?

Always, always stairs. I try to do them two at a time.

11. Best tip for everyday fitness?

When I was 17, I had a summer job where I cycled around 12 miles a day to get to work – six uphill – on a very old bike. This taught me how fabulous it is psychologically and physically to feel fit and toned. I have never forgotten it. I don’t cycle any more, but I walk.

12. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

In an ideal world, I would do lots of yoga as I LOVE yoga, but generally, I do Pilates classes on a reformer machine once or twice a week. I love it: it’s fast and 'wow', it’s incredible for helping with aches when you work at a computer. My husband walks the dogs more often than I do, but I love walking them in the woods. I try to do 10 minutes of yoga at home after the school drop off. I am very Duracell bunny. I need calm.

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

I’m pretty fit, perhaps six, but would love more time to workout more often.

14. Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

I adore acupuncture, which I have had all over me and the only place it hurts is in the fleshy bit between thumb and forefinger. That said, I love reading medical biographies and think medical science is just incredible. I have a friend who’s had a lot of cancer and complete strangers often tell her she shouldn’t be putting chemicals into her body. I have seen people who have turned their back on medicine with cancer. Not pretty. Coffee enemas in South America are not going to cure cancer. I go to the doctor first.

15. Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I was captain of a hockey team – possibly because I was reliable. I loved hockey; not saying I was any good at it, though...

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

A malignant melanoma when I was in my late 20s made me stay out of the sun and use factor 50. It's certainly also why my Vitamin D is so bad.

17. Best health or lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

Listen to your body. We are all different.

18. Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

My friend, the writer Emma Hannigan, who has had cancer 11 times, is utterly inspiring in her attitude to life during her cancer battle. With humour and courage, she keeps going. That's what life is about, really.

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

I never get enough sleep – I sleep horribly. I try to get to bed by 10.30 but then I start to read.

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

Yes. I want to be here for my sons. But we all live, learn and then die. My philosophy is: make peace with yourself, step inside yourself, as Jung says, and enjoy the simple pleasures. I also believe in euthanasia.

:: Cathy Kelly's novel, Secrets of a Happy Marriage, is out in paperback this month.

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