When I first came to Northern Ireland, I discovered the joy of chocolate eclairs

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Nisha Tandon, founder and director of award-winning ethnic arts organisation, ArtsEkta

Nisha Tandon, founder and director of ArtsEkta

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

My alarm goes off at 5am and by 5:15 I’m up, getting showered and preparing for my day. I start by drinking a glass of water and doing a few simple yoga moves, followed up with a glass of hot water and lemon. My focus is then on morning prayers, after which I have herbal tea and a breakfast of porridge and berries with skimmed milk and flax seeds. I aim to leave the house for 7am so that I miss the build-up of traffic and can be at my desk, calm and ready for the day ahead, by 7:30.

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

Breakfast? It’s invariably porridge and herbal tea, with a scatter of healthy seeds.

Lunch? Usually something light such as humous and fruit, or perhaps a salad with feta or quinoa.

Evening meal? Stir-fry, Indian curry with brown rice, salads, fish – I look for foods which are healthy and nutritious, but with a good balances of spices and taste.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Perhaps this is the moment when I have to confess to being a bit more than an amateur cook. When I lived in India I even had my own television cookery show for a time. I like to think I understand nutrition and I always aim for balance in my diet, but I have to admit that it isn’t always easy or convenient to make the best choices. For me, healthy eating is about taking time to think about what you are eating, rather than just dashing off whatever is quickest and eating on the run.

4. Best meal ever?

‘Best meals’ tend to be remembered as much for the company and the occasion as for the actual food and I recall some wonderful gatherings of family and friends, both here in Northern Ireland and in my native India. My favourite meal – at least at the moment – is Moroccan food with its lovely aromatic herbs and wonderful spices.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Marks & Spencer flapjacks with nuts.

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

When I first came to live in Northern Ireland, I discovered the joy of chocolate eclairs with fresh cream, with the inevitable impact on my waistline, so in 1979 I went

on fitness mode with a strict diet to get me back to my normal weight. I have been rather more sensible ever since, recognising that with a petite frame, I can’t afford to pile on the pounds.

7. Do you take health supplements?


8. How do you relax?

I go to the gym and I love to walk, but I also get a huge amount of pleasure from gardening. The great thing is that these are all pastimes which have positive impact on mental as well as physical wellbeing. I am a very spiritual person and I enjoy activities which allow me to create my own sense of inner calm. When it comes to gardening, the fruits of my labour also create an oasis of calm which I can enjoy with friends and family.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

I love my tea, but I’m also fond of a glass of red wine with my evening meals at the weekend.

10. Stairs or lift?

Always stairs.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Yes, I like to do my yoga in the morning and every day I try to fit in a walk of at least 20 minutes duration.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

I have lots of tips – and I do try to follow my own good advice. If your job is sitting in front of the computer all day, then try to take a break every 40 minutes or so and just walk around the room for five minutes. Walk to your meetings if at all possible. And my favourite fitness secret? My little grand-daughter. Playing with her doesn’t feel like exercise at all, but she certainly keeps me on my toes.

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 would give myself eight out of 10 as I am a great believer in maintaining an exercise routine. We can always do more.

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

Absolutely – I do believe in it and will certainly consider it if the need arises. I am blessed with extremely good health and that is something which I really appreciate: as Irish people are fond of saying, your health is your wealth.

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

I wasn’t really a sporty person in my school days but it was compulsory to take sport as a subject, so I opted for hockey and relay racing.

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

No, not really. I hope I haven’t needed such a dramatic change.

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

Stay focused, eat well, sleep well and exercise at least three times a week. And try to make staying healthy a pleasure rather than a chore.

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

My children: they are all very health-conscious and exercise daily.

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

During the week, I try to get to bed by 10.30pm and, thankfully, I have no trouble getting off to sleep.

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

I hope so; I certainly try to live well and be at peace with myself and I think that’s as much as any of us can do.

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