20 Questions on Health and Fitness: Nichola Mallon

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Nichola Mallon

Early riser – SDLP assembly member for north Belfast Nichola Mallon
Early riser – SDLP assembly member for north Belfast Nichola Mallon

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

It's usually a 6.30am start each day, even weekends, thanks to my one-year-old daughter. I keep trying faithfully – and to date unsuccessfully – to get a 10-to-15 minute lie-in, but, with her impatience, she’s not a fan, so it’s a matter of getting up and going downstairs to feed her breakfast, followed by her bath. Then it's a mad dash for me to get ready and out the door to work.

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

Breakfast? Weetabix

Lunch? Usually a wrap of some sort and usually with ham, tomato, pickled gherkins and mustard, of course.

Evening meal? I’m a one trick wonder when it comes to cooking, so thankfully my husband does most of the cooking in our house and dinner varies widely, but pasta chorizo dishes are a favourite.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, I try to eat healthily and have a good mix of food groups. I also try to avoid snacking in between meals but late at night, crisps can be my weakness.

4. Are you a calorie counter?

No – I’m lucky I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I very rarely eat desert.

5. Best meal ever?

I've been lucky to have had a lot of really good meals, but what really makes a memorable meal for me is not just the food, it's the company. As a family, eating out is our way of all getting together and catching up with each other, so my recipe for the best meal ever is great family craic over an exquisite fish dish.

6. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Salt and vinegar crisps.

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

I’ve never followed any of the fad diets as I find the more I try to give up food, the more I think about it and the more I want it.

8. Do you take health supplements?


9. Teetotal or tipple?

After a nightmare of a week I think everyone deserves a G&T – with lemon and ice.

10. Fruit or fry-up?

I’m not a full fry-up fan. But I am partial to a bacon soda now and again.

11. Stairs or lift?

Stairs always, it's my only form of daily exercise.

12. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I’ve never had a daily exercise regime, but before my baby was born I would have exercised two days a week at either a spin or conditioning class and then tried to do a Saturday park run. Up until a few weeks ago I’d been using the baby as a respectable cover for my laziness but I’m now trying to get back into exercise with the weekly park run in the Waterworks. I would really recommend park runs as a friendly and fun way to get into exercise.

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

I’d guess a 6.5. If you are asking for my fitness pipe dream – it's to run a marathon one day.

14. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Try to fit exercise into what you are already doing, like taking the stairs instead of the lift or parking a little bit further away from your destination so you walk that little bit more.

15. Do you have a memory from school sport / PE days you would rather forget?

Being humiliated year after year at the sports day shot-put competition. I've no idea how I qualified. I barely came up to the waist of the other girls competing and naturally they annihilated me every time.

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

It wasn’t a health epiphany as such, but I realised that even though I may detest the thought of doing exercise, I always do feel better physically and mentally afterwards.

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

Everything in moderation.

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

That would have to be Dame Mary Peters, not only because of all her dedication, discipline and achievements as a sportswoman, but because of the way she carries herself through life. She’s an amazing lady and a timeless role model.

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

I can’t keep my eyes open past 11pm. I love my sleep and I’m told I become very cranky when tired, so I do try to get as much sleep as I can, if not for me, for the sake of others.

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

Yes, because no matter how much I worry, it's like paying your taxes – it's going to happen. My attitude is, 'Why waste time and energy worrying?' I’d rather use my time eating crisps and sipping a G&T.

:: Nichola Mallon is an SDLP MLA for north Belfast; she served as lord mayor of Belfast in 2014-15, the first female nationalist politician to hold the position.