I go on a diet most Mondays… Ann McGregor answers our 20 questions on health and fitness

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce

High flyer – Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce CEO Ann McGregor, a big fan of the outdoors
Gail Bell

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

I get out of bed around 7am, depending on our event schedule – sometimes it can be 6.30am or earlier. Invariably, I spend 10 minutes scanning the morning headlines on my phone, then three or four newspapers and Twitter. I am lucky that my husband brings breakfast upstairs which I eat while getting ready.

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

Breakfast? Breakfast is always coffee and a slice of toast.

Lunch? Lunch tends to be eaten on the hoof. I mostly have bran flakes if I am in the office, but if I’m having a meeting over lunch, I will have fish.

Evening meal? – I'm a creature of habit and put food together rather than start from scratch, but an evening meal might consist of pasta with lots of chilli or else a Thai green curry or fajitas. Sometimes it's simple roast chicken and I always use a good local butcher for our meat.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

I like a balanced, healthy diet, but this is not an area that I focus on much.

4 Best meal ever?

I like simple meals. It is hard to beat a fish pie from Ginger or crab linguine with chilli from James St, Belfast.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Always Marks and Spencer black pepper crisps.

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

I go on a diet most Mondays… sometimes I stick to it, often I do not – unless I have a particular goal, such as my daughter’s wedding.

7 Do you take health supplements?

I don't take supplements, but I take a Benecol [yoghurt] drink every day.


8 How do you relax?

I relax by walking, reading or just going out and about with my husband, Paul. Each Saturday we like to visit a different restaurant and find craft beers. There are so many wonderful restaurants in Belfast now and it is a pleasure to discover new ones. On holidays, we walk a lot and recently toured the Norwegian Fjords where the views of glaciers were stunning.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I like a tipple... I sometimes drink vodka and coke, as it was the first drink that I was ever introduced to. Now, however, I am partial to a gin or a glass of wine.

10 Stairs or lift?

I'll take the stairs if my destination is not more than four floors up.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I don't have a daily regime, but I exercise about twice a week. I tend to work erratic hours during the week, so weekend exercise is best for me.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Listen to health advice and 'Everything in moderation'. I would also say, use the stairs and walk to meetings when possible. Balance is important in everything you do.

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

I'm probably about a seven – I'm sure everyone would like to be a 10, but that takes a lot of dedication. I am content enough at present with my fitness level.

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

I spent a week last year at a health spa near Westport. It was a total detox of the mind (no phones, no iPads, no TV and no newspapers) and also the body, through diet and fasting, combined with daily exercise. At the end of the week, I discovered that I hate wheatgrass to the point of gagging; that I need a little luxury to get through the pain – and I need to be able to get away from the people who take it all too seriously!

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

I was active at school and have positive memories of playing hockey as centre forward or right wing. I could run then, but not any more – I hate running now. A cycle or a walk is my preference.

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

Thankfully, no. However, I recently lost a close family member which made me realise that you should live for the moment, enjoy the pleasures in life now and focus on your health and your family, as that is all that really matters.

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

Recently, we have being focussing on wellbeing for all our NI Chamber teams and we have also provided personal business coaches to some staff. I am very resilient and self-reliant and until this started last year, I never had a coach nor considered training in areas such as mindfulness. I am now a true convert and would encourage others to be early adopters. Leadership can be lonely and mindfulness advice and coaching really help.

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

My mother inspired me in her attitude to life. She was happy to be with her family, saw the good in everyone and was never negative. A positive and generous mind is so important. I have no real role models in sport but, as a trustee of the Grand Opera House in Belfast, I admire the wonderful performers that visit the theatre. In my eyes, a talented dancer is sublime.

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

I get to bed around 10.30/11pm, but not to sleep – I unwind by watching programmes on my iPad with headphones on. I like dramas such as Dicte, The Bridge, This is Us, Line of Duty and Bodyguard. I was particularly thrilled to have the creator of the latter, Jed Mercurio, at our President’s Banquet at Belfast Waterfront in November.

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

Yes I do; I am a realist, but I would like to stay around as long as I am fit to enjoy time with my wonderful family.

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