Singing doctor Ciara Mackey on how she got injured while on basketball subs bench

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: musical theatre star and singing doctor Ciara Mackey

Belfast doctor Ciara Mackey who made headlines in 2017 when she was Michael McIntyre's 'unexpected star' on the comedian's Big Show on BBC1
Gail Bell

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

I am a truly dreadful human being in the morning and have always been that way. I set at least four alarms and have to drag my affronted self out of bed, usually after mucking about on my phone for half an hour. I can’t really speak to anyone for the first hour of being awake. It’s not personal, I swear!

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

Breakfast? When I was doing panto, I came into the dressing room and had tea and a cereal bar while putting on my make-up. I try to drink plenty of water which I find makes singing easier.

Lunch? Veggie soup or a sandwich and whatever chocolate and sweets are lying around the green room. There’s probably a Red Bull downed in there somewhere too, if I feel that I’m flagging.

Evening meal? I love poached eggs and that’s often what I crave after a long day. Breakfast food for dinner is my favourite thing.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

It is important, but I try not to overthink it. I’m trying to eat more vegetables – only the nice ones, though.

4 Best meal ever?

It was in Berlin in a secret restaurant behind a wall that my best friend and I literally stumbled upon. There was a very vague menu – all in German – of entirely vegetarian cuisine. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I’m pretty sure at one point I was eating a cloud made of Parmesan cheese. Just exceptional.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I try not to feel guilty about anything I eat. Food gives me the energy to go about my day and shouldn’t be a punishment or reward. I have a soft spot for cappuccinos, but any guilt is more from a financial point of view when I add up how much money I spend on them.

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

I have, and, sadly, wasted a lot of time and energy focusing on it when I could have been accomplishing other things. It also made me overweight as I would binge eat as a reaction to 'failing'.

7 Do you take health supplements?


8 How do you relax?

I go for a coffee alone, go for a walk or watch a silly TV show.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

A pint and a chat make for a great combination.

10 Stairs or lift?

Stairs. The time will come when you can’t do them any longer and you’ll sorely miss them.

Belfast-based medic Ciara Mackey performs on Michael McIntyre's Big Show in 2017

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I’ve started with a personal trainer and am really enjoying doing resistance work. She doesn’t weigh me and never took out the dreaded calipers. I also took up running a couple of years ago and while I won’t be breaking any records, I find it’s great for my mood.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Lift heavy stuff. You’ll be glad of it when you’re older and can get out of a chair while all your peers can’t. Failing that, do 86 shows of a pantomime.

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 about a six, but I’m definitely getting better...

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

No. There are a lot of people making money off sugar pills and there’s nothing altruistic about it. I’ve no problem with anyone trying things which help them relax, but when they are encouraged to forego actual medical treatment, it becomes dangerous. Western medicine is of course imperfect, but we are lucky to have it. I spent time in working as a doctor in rural Uganda and saw what happened when people didn’t have access to mainstream healthcare.

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

I was never great at sport but always gave it a bash. I was briefly on the basketball team as a truly mediocre player and once managed to get injured while sitting on the subs bench (true story).

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

Yes – I have become more aware of diet culture and its effects on me and others around me. Companies have a vested interest in making us hate our bodies and selling us a product or lifestyle that will not work, and that we will blame ourselves for. If your body functions and you are not suffering ill health, you are very lucky and should use it, regardless of what it looks like. Dance, run, swim in the sea in your bikini...

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

I think we need to be very careful about how we speak to kids and teens about weight and food. I think my advice to everyone, especially young women, would be to be a little kinder to yourself.

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

My elderly patients in A&E who still have a great zest for life. Last year I met a gent in his 90s who’d fallen off a roof chasing a peacock and who couldn’t understand the fuss we were making.

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

Midnight or thereabouts, later if I have a gig, and I sleep very well these days. I’ve taken a bit of a career break from medicine, and so haven’t done any night shifts since August. I have come to the realisation that I’ve been tired for five years – shift work is horrible, no doubt about it.

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

I’m getting there... I’m worrying less. For all of us, some day will be our day. Hopefully you’ve been kind, had a few laughs along the way, and not been trapped in any putrid-smelling lifts.

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