Life

Marie Louise Connolly's top meal? Fish 'n' chips in newspaper – with Champagne

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: BBC health correspondent Marie Louise Connolly

BBC Northern Ireland health correspondent Marie Louise Connolly – I breakfast with my phone

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

What time the alarm goes off depends on whether or not I am on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, but it is usually around 6.45am. I breakfast with my phone as the teenagers are usually still asleep. I never leave home without making the bed – that’s my good upbringing. I am usually out of the house by 8.30 and at my desk by 9am. At that stage, I will have a large mug of tea – the day can’t really start until that happens.

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

Breakfast? Breakfast is porridge, honey and blueberries. If I have time, I will make proper coffee.

Lunch? Soup or Salad and I eat it on the go as I am usually out filming for Newsline. There is always a bar of chocolate kept in my bag for emergencies – it's normally gone by the end of the day.

Evening meal? My evening meal will include chicken or fish. Midweek dinners at ours are usually of the smash-and-grab variety, due to all the extra-curricular activities going on, including football, running, part-time jobs – not forgetting the homework.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, nutrition is important, but as a health correspondent, you’d expect me to say that. We are surrounded by food facts and usually they change weekly, but my theory is, Everything in Moderation. I am definitely eating less bread, cake and carbs, but I love cake, especially with a cup of tea. At the weekend, almost every meal is a treat.

4. Best meal ever?

My best meal ever was a picnic on a beach in San Diego while watching the sunset. On the menu were fish and chips eaten out of a newspaper and shared with my two kids and hubby. There was also Champagne and it was perfect.

Marie Louise Connolly – I’m a member of The Belfast Running Club and that means tramping the roads a couple of times a week

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Yes – Cheddar cheese on toast, sprinkled with basil leaves.

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

I’m a woman – of course I have been on a diet. But no, it didn't go well. I think the best way to lose weight is to shed the pounds gradually. That way they should stay off – in theory.

7. Do you take health supplements?

Vitamins C and D and also evening primrose oil – most women should.

8. How do you relax?

That’s easy – eating out. Usually we keep it local – somewhere very informal and BYO. A good steak, red wine and plenty of chat makes for a good night.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

Definitely tipple.

10. Stairs or lift?

Stairs – except if I’m running late for the studio. There are stairs from the BBC’s backyard, where the television crew cars park, to the newsroom. It’s three floors – take them at your peril.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Most days the brain gets exercised – the body, every other. I run as it clears the head and, most of the time, makes me feel good. I don’t run long distances, usually around five or six miles at a time. I’m a member of The Belfast Running Club and that means tramping the roads a couple of times a week. I run with a great bunch of people who are brilliant at motivating each other, even when the weather is telling you to sit on the sofa. It’s called a 'social run' and that’s exactly what it is. The odd Saturday. I will do the Parkrun. I’m trying to remaster the hoola hoop – yes, it’s back.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Walking. Just move.

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

In reality, I'm probably a six. In my head, I'm definitely a 10.

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

Yes, I have tried acupuncture and, yes, it helped.

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

Between the gym skirt at St Dominic’s and always being second last... hmm, let’s just say that I grew into sport. I detested PE.

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

The fitness 'light' came on after running my first Runher 10k. The backdrop was Crawfordsburn Country Park and the last half-mile is a run on the beach. It was a really warm night and the women were out in force. The craic and atmosphere were electric. Just before the finishing line, there is a torturous hill and, at the end, I was red-faced and gasping. But I ran the race and it was some achievement. I haven’t looked back.

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

Try running – give it a go; go on, you might even like it. I did.

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

My friend, Mary-Jo, who has ditched a career in banking and is now a personal trainer. She followed a dream and took the plunge. MJ is such a positive thinker, exercise bunny and a manic shopper. Respect. It’s also hard not to mention my mum who still looks after us all, including her grandchildren. She has a great attitude to life: Live it – you only get one go.

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

Usually, bed-time is around 11pm. I will try and read a bit before drifting off. Do I get enough sleep? No, like most menopausal women! When I waken, I usually get up and catch up on the soaps.

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

No, probably not. I guess that means I’m having too good of a time now.

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