Gospel singer Marie Lacey: At 61, I could fill a book with my guilty pleasures

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Founder and director of Belfast Community Gospel Choir, Marie Lacey

Marie Lacey, founder and director of Belfast Community Gospel Choir
Gail Bell

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

I am NOT a morning person – I never call meetings or book appointments until after noon. I usually get up around 8am-8:30am and head straight for the kettle and for the first cup of tea of the day which is always the best one. After breakfast I sit in my armchair and take time out to pray. Prayer is the foundation of my day, always beginning with thankfulness. In the Bible, Psalm107 encourages us to ‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His steadfast love endures forever'. I have found this to be true, even in very difficult times. Focusing on the good things in life and being thankful is medicine for the soul.

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

Breakfast? One slice of toasted wheaten bread and one scrambled egg.

Lunch? A sandwich at 12:30pm while watching Loose Women on TV. I only eat high fibre brown bread and keep my sandwich filling to salad, avocado, tomatoes and similar.

Evening meal? I hate cooking and have to confess that most of my evening meals have come from a store. My local delicatessen makes healthy lasagne, chilli and cottage pies so I purchase these because I am confident about the ingredients that are used. Over the past year my husband and I have really concentrated on our portion size which has helped both of us shift some unwanted pounds.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

In November 2017 I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes so I had to take a long hard look at my lifestyle. Although I was already following a healthy eating programme and had cut back on sugar in particular, I was forced to go back to the drawing board and re-examine the hidden carbohydrates and saturated fat in the food I was eating. Thankfully, I have lost three stone over the last six months and am feeling better than I have for a long time.

4. Best meal ever?

This would now be a very, very rare meal for me but it still remains my all-time favourite – medium cooked sirloin steak, chips, sautéed mushrooms and onion rings from Neill's Hill in Ballyhackamore, Belfast.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

At 61 years old, I could fill a book with the list of my food guilty pleasures. I love walnut whips and cream eggs are just heaven.

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

You name it, I tried it. My very first recollection of a diet was in my late teens when I joined a slimming class. I was just 20 years old when I married so it must have been in preparation for the dress. In my 30s I had had my son and gained a couple of stone so became a regular attender at Weight Watchers. By the time I was in my 40s, I was obese. I lost a couple of stone on the Atkins diet but was extremely unhealthy throughout so I went back to Weight Watchers in my early 50s and lost four stone. I felt absolutely amazing, but within six months I had gained it back again. It really is no surprise that years of abusing food and my health resulted in my diabetes diagnosis.

7. Do you take health supplements?

I take multivitamins and vitamin C, as I have convinced myself that it helps protect

me from colds, which are a curse for a singer.

8. How do you relax?

I'm sure people imagine that I listen to a lot of music, but I actually don't. I love to sit in front of the TV and watch a good movie or documentary.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

With the exception of the very odd glass of Prosecco in celebration of something, I don't drink alcohol.

10. Stairs or lift?

Not gonna lie – if there's a lift, I use it and if they start putting seats in lifts, I'll sit on one. I don't like using energy unnecessarily.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I usually do a two-mile brisk walk three or four times per week. I prefer walking in my local park where I'm away from the sound of traffic and I can do a lot of thinking and planning while walking.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Healthy eating and a brisk walk.

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

I would say I'm around five but would love to be an eight.

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

I wouldn't rule out alternative therapy for anything.

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

I loved netball and played in the school team but hated athletics and will never understand why I was tortured and forced to run around the track.

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

My type 2 diabetes diagnosis

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

Cut refined sugar completely out of your diet.

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

There is no one person who inspires me; I find inspiration through lots of people.

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

I'm a late night person, seldom in bed before 12:30am, but I still get a good seven-to-eight hours sleep per night.

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

Yes, definitely. As a Christian I believe that my life is eternal and that a whole new adventure awaits me beyond the grave, so I have no fear of death.

:: Belfast Community Gospel Choir takes to the stage of Belfast's Grand Opera House on Sunday May 27.

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