Health Q&A: Nurse Katherine Walker, who's representing Northern Ireland in Miss World

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Miss Northern Ireland and Belfast paediatric nurse Katherine Walker, who flies to China tomorrow for the 2018 Miss World contest in Sanya

Miss Northern Ireland, Katharine Walker, who works as a paediatric nurse at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. Picture by Mal McCann
Gail Bell

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

Honestly, routine is something I lack due to shift work, but, normally, my morning consists of getting up, showered, changed and on the road for 6.50am – or else 7pm. On my days off, a morning start could be anything from 8am or 12pm. I know this sounds shocking, but I have absolutely no sense of a normal body clock. And I hate to admit it, but I am that person who starts their morning off with a scroll on Instagram...

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

Breakfast? I love porridge in the morning, but I don’t like fruit in it, so I might have some blueberries or strawberries on the side. If I’m not feeling like porridge, I will have peanut butter on some form of bread. It isn’t a day without peanut butter. Or bread, come to that.

Lunch? Lunch is usually a sandwich or a salad. I tend to sway towards vegetarian options, so recently I’ve really gotten into falafel.

Evening meal? Something like pasta, with either chicken or a vegetarian option, or else quiche which I have been loving recently.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Nutrition is pretty important to me. I suffered last year with mouth ulcers and generally feeling fatigued and rubbish. I put it down to lack of routine but I had bloods taken that showed I was seriously low in iron and B12. Consequently, I had to take weeks of prescribed iron supplements and B12 injections. This was a wake-up call, as it was seriously affecting me and feeling low meant I had no motivation to exercise either. Now, I really make sure to get my green veg in and have sensible substitutes for meat.

4 Best meal ever?

For me, anything that includes pesto, cheese and mushrooms; nachos for starter, pesto something for main and cheese board for dessert. I’m a savoury kind of girl.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I have recently discovered pesto olives. This has been a dangerous discovery as I am not above eating a pot designed to serve four in one seating.

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

I’ve never specifically dieted but in the run-up to the Miss Northern Ireland competition I was conscious of eating more greens and cutting out greasy food to, hopefully, make my skin that bit more ‘glowy’.

Miss Northern Ireland 2018, Katharine Walker, who heads to China this week in preparation for next month's Miss World contest

7 Do you take health supplements?

I take a supplement for iron, B12 and folic acid. I wouldn’t recommend pumping yourself full of multivitamins, as natural sources are best, but if you get one that’s suited to you, then they’re a good thing to invest in.

8 How do you relax?

Relaxation for me means a cup of tea, popcorn and a binge on Friends. Or, to clear my head, a walk with a friend, particularly if I need someone to rant to, is always refreshing.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I do enjoy a wee G&T on my nights off, particularly a rhubarb and ginger gin with tonic.

10 Stairs or lift?

Stairs, usually, unless I’ve hit the gym too hard and stairs can be killer.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Being a nurse means I get plenty of walking around the ward in a 12-hour shift but on my days off if I’m not in hockey season I would hit the gym.

Miss Northern Ireland Katharine Walker, who flies to China this week for the Miss World contest in Sanya. Picture by Mal McCann

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Everyday fitness, I think, comes down to small changes, like taking the stairs over the lift. Being ‘fit’ doesn’t mean having rock hard abs or being super ‘ripped’, but if you feel well in yourself, then I think you’re doing something right.

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 my general fitness isn’t too bad, maybe about a 6/7.

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

One of my best friends is a Pilates instructor and that is something I would love to try more of. With shifts, though, it’s so hard to commit to weekly classes.

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

One of my favourite things about school was playing hockey and going on tour but when I was 16 I nearly lost two of my front teeth when I got hit with a hockey ball. I found this really tough to get over and even now I’m still a bit nervous on the pitch.

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

Last year, finding out how low I was on certain vitamins came as a bit of a shock as I had always considered myself to be relatively healthy. It reminded me that you need to pay attention to what goes into your body and not take your health for granted.

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

Make small changes that turn into a habit – that way, it doesn’t feel like a chore.

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

I follow loads of lifestyle bloggers, a lot of whom are from Australia, so I have to remind myself that it isn’t reality for me to get up and go for a morning swim. This year, I will be working closely with ThinkFit, so I’m looking forward to learning some new gym routines as I am a creature of habit in the gym and new equipment scares me.

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

On a day shift, I am up at 6:15, so I try to make bed-around 10:30 or 11pm. Night shift means bed at 9am and I will sleep for as long as my body allows me.

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

Being a nurse, I am reminded daily of how lucky I am to have my health, as flippant as that sounds. But I have a healthy body and I want to keep it that way.

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