Losing weight had as much to do with wanting to fit my clothes as getting healthy

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Young At Art CEO Eibhlin de Barra

Eibhlin de Barra is the director of the Belfast Children's Festival

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

I usually waken at 7am and it's a case of up, shower and out – oh, and I have to feed the cats. I like to be in the office early and would normally be at my desk at 8 o'clock.

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

Breakfast? Breakfast will be a glass of orange juice – I know, I know, no breakfast, it’s terribly bad for me, but I really find it hard to eat first thing on a working day. At weekends, though, and on holiday, I love a leisurely breakfast, nearly always including a poached egg and good coffee.

Lunch? It varies; something along the lines of a fruit salad, natural yoghurt and granola (more suitable as a breakfast, but at lunchtime it really sustains me throughout the day); or a salad.

Evening meal? This is definitely the most important meal of the day for me as I really enjoy cooking and I love sitting at the dining table with my husband discussing our day. No television is allowed in the kitchen or dining area. I love making south-east Asian style curries and Italian food. Our two twin boys have moved to universities in Britain, both are in first year, so I haven’t quite got used to scaling down the amount I cook and I still seem to be dishing out meals for four.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, but I wouldn’t say I'm fanatical about it. It’s important to look after yourself and eat well, but it’s also important to enjoy food – not just eating it, but preparing it too – so, for me, it’s about finding that balance. I aim to find the best ingredients and use them well.

4. Best meal ever?

Oh, this is a tricky one. I think when you think of memories of the best meals, they are also closely connected to the people you have shared them with and that becomes as integral to the experience as the food. When the boys were 10, we did a family tour of Vietnam and Cambodia and some of those meals really stand out, particularly a banquet we had on a Chinese Junk in Halong Bay in north Vietnam. We also really enjoyed the street food on that trip too. When going on holiday, as well as seeking out the cultural highlights of a town or country, we also love exploring the local cuisine and finding those hidden away gems of local restaurants and bistros.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?


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

Not so much of a diet but I did make a concerted effort to lose a little weight a couple of years ago, though it was more of a matter of reducing snacking and treats and exercising more often. I’ve never been one for fad diets.

7. Do you take health supplements?

Fish oil and vitamin C.

8. How do you relax?

Cooking – I love to be at home planning and preparing meals for family or friends. The kitchen is very much the centre of our house.

9. Teetotal or tipple?


10. Stairs or lift?

I try not to avoid exercise, so stairs, unless I'm heading to the 12th floor.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

No, I have to admit, not at the moment. Lately, it’s been so busy that finding time to exercise has been difficult, so I’ll have to get back into a healthier routine. I would like to get back to the gym three times a week and I also like to go for a good walk at the weekend.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Eat better, exercise more.

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

I think I'm currently about a seven. I would like to be higher.

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

I haven’t, but I wouldn’t discount it.

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

I enjoyed sport at school; I played hockey and enjoyed athletics, but I was very into drama and music and that tended to take over. And singing lessons seemed to be scheduled over games periods.

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

A couple of years back I started to not fit my clothes so well, so I did something about it and got back to my target size. But that was as much to do with the fact that I really liked wearing some of those clothes as much as a lifestyle change. You do feel better and have more energy when you exercise regularly.

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

My mum was a great believer in 'a little something of what you fancy does you good'. It’s all about balance.

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

Again, it would be my late mum. She was very fit and active into her 80s. She played golf and walked and had a great positive outlook on life and I think that positively is good for the soul.

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

Normally, around 11-11:30pm and I would get 6-7 hours' sleep but during the festival the days are long and I would often wake up during the night thinking about things that need to get done. I don’t feel stress but that’s a stress indicator for me.

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

Yes, I think I do; ageing doesn’t worry me, it’s just part of the journey. I don’t mind the idea of getting older but I do want to try and stay healthy to enjoy life. But, as Mum would say, 'If it’s for you, it won’t go against you', so I think you’ve got to embrace each day and enjoy it, as you never know what’s around the corner. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, we get one shot at this, so enjoy it.

Eibhlin de Barra is chief executive of Young At Art and organiser of the annual Belfast Children's Festival which last weekend celebrated its 20th birthday

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: