Life

Nuala McKeever on the benefits of yoga, Tai chi – and patchwork quilting

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast comedienne and actress Nuala McKeever

The many faces of Belfast comedienne and actress, Nuala McKeever
Gail Bell

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

No two days are the same in my life, so routine isn't something I'm familiar with. I get up either when the alarm goes off, if I've got a job on, or just whenever I happen to waken up – if I'm working from home. I have homemade granola usually for breakfast and wondered recently why I wasn't losing weight – then I realised I was eating more than twice the recommended portion size of cereal every morning. The correct amount is basically two spoonfuls, so I now eat it very very slowly....

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

Breakfast? I have homemade granola with almond milk and a cup of tea.

Lunch? I don't do regular lunch but if I'm having something it's usually my mother's soup (Go, Patsy!) or a sandwich made with wholemeal bread and peanut butter.

Evening meal? Something with loads of veg – I got a craving for leafy greens recently and I'll have at least four or five different vegetables along with some protein – tofu or Linda McCartney sausages or homemade spag bol. I don't usually have spuds or pasta any more.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, of course. I became vegan two years ago and I try to eat well to give my body what it needs. I stopped eating junk seven months ago and have seen great improvements, even though shifting excess weight is hard work.

4 Best meal ever?

Too many to mention... Christmas dinner usually tops the list.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I've given up so much I hardly know what pleasure is any more! I don't drink and I don't really eat sugar at all, so my treats are salt and vinegar rice cakes and cocoa and orange Nakd bars. I love potato crisps but had to stop eating them as I was up to one huge bag a night last winter. A real guilty pleasure now would be a crisp buttie.

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

Five years ago I asked my body to tell me what it wanted. I stopped drinking, cut out most carbs and ate loads of salad every day. I lost two stone in 16 weeks and felt great. Then, I slowly started eating buns again, on the basis that I could afford to eat something dodgy because I'd lost so much weight. Eventually, the weight went on again and after menopause it is very hard to shift. I think fad diets are a con – just work out what's making you over-eat, if that's what you're doing. I believe over-eating is always a substitute for something that you feel is missing in your life. Feel good about yourself – self-love is the best diet.

7 Do you take health supplements?

B12 is necessary for vegans, so I take it. I also started iron and other vitamins, but I keep forgetting to take them.

8 How do you relax?

I practise sitting meditation and also yoga, Tai chi, patchwork quilting and walking. These are all things that help take me out of my busy head and into the body.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I only drink on long-haul flights or when I'm out of the country. So, in four years I've only drunk alcohol maybe five times.

10 Stairs or lift?

I don't have a lift at home, so I take the stairs! If it's more than three flights, definitely the lift.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

No, but I have a daily thinking regime that I should have an exercise routine. I have damaged my foot and walking is very difficult now and I miss walking by the river. Yes, I know I ought to do more exercise, but I don't.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Walk.

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

This year I've lost fitness due to not walking so much, but I'm not too bad – probably six or seven.

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

Yes, lots of times and I have a massage every month. My brother, John, is Northern Ireland's leading Shiatsu practitioner (Japanese Accupressure massage) and he's great. I've also had reiki, kineseology, reflexology, basically, all the ologies. And I see a healing woman a few times a year who has helped me massively with emotional healing. I feel very blessed.

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

I've managed to blank all that out of my memory...

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

I ran a half-marathon after only training for 16 weeks. I'd only run six miles before that and, on the day, I ran 13.1 miles without stopping. If I can do that, I can do anything and if I can do that, anyone can. I used the BUPA Run-walk training programme – it was magic.

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

Be kind to yourself. And, 'Leave the car behind, give the bus a go'.

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

My friend, Mary T, walks every day and is literally a walking inspiration.

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

I go to bed early but put the light out late most times. I'd sleep for nine and-a-half hours no bother. I love my sleep.

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

Sometimes I do. I get that it's inevitable but there's a lot I'd like to do before I leave this world. Since my partner's death five years ago, death is very present to me and I think it's something we could incorporate more into our life in general. Instead of idolising youth, we could accept ageing and dying as natural and celebrate the great things that come with all the changes in life.

:: Nuala will be on stage with her new stand-up show, Letting Go or Losing It at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, from Nov 7-11 before going on tour in the new year.

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