20 Questions on Health and Fitness: Roisin Foster of Cancer Focus NI

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: chief executive of Cancer Focus NI, Roisin Foster

I practise yoga very badly but I enjoy it and feel relaxed and virtuous afterwards, says Roisin Foster
Gail Bell

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

I’m a morning person. On a working day I’m up at about 5:45am, do a few yoga stretches, hop in the shower, get dressed and downstairs. I usually make lunch for my husband and son and sort laundry before breakfast. I’m up first so I breakfast alone most days. I live in Scarva, outside Banbridge, so I like to try to get on the road early. I leave home about 6.45am so I can get to Belfast, get an early walk in Botanic Gardens and be at my desk at 8-8:15am. I lie in until about 8am at weekends and we take the dog around Clare Glen before breakfast.

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

Breakfast? Usually yoghurt, home-made granola and fruit – whatever is in season. I’m all about plums at the moment when our two plum trees are in overdrive, which happened this year.

Lunch? I usually prepare a salad at home in the morning or have soup in the winter which I've made at the weekend and frozen in batches.

Evening meal? I enjoy cooking and this is our main family meal together. My husband Ian and I have four children – but only two at home at present. We eat vegetarian two or three times a week and eat fish or chicken with red meat maybe once a week. I do a mean mango chicken and a very edible roast vegetable lasagne.

3) Is nutrition important to you?

It is very important and I have always felt a huge responsibility for making sure my family eat well. I don’t really like bought-in food. I get a lot of stick for this in work – I can't remember the last time I bought soup, but my kids yearn for Heinz Tomato – sacrilege.

4) Are you a calorie counter?

Not really. but I struggle to keep my weight under control. I’m following the NHS 12-week plan and it's been working well for me.

5) Best meal ever?

We just had our first ever holiday in the USA – our first holiday as a couple since our honeymoon in 1984. We did a road trip from San Francisco down the Pacific coast. We walked miles around San Francisco and on one evening we happened on a Peruvian restaurant at happy hour. We ordered tapas to share and in true American style the portions were the size of a main meal. There was a selection of calamari, chicken and a quinoa salad – all beautifully cooked and presented and helped along with a fine cocktail. I’m not sure if it was the atmosphere, the holiday feel or the cocktails, but it was a most memorable meal.

6) Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Ice cream, without a doubt, especially Italian ice cream.

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

Not a diet as such – I don’t like my choice and freedom being curtailed – but the NHS plan seems to work for me.

8) Do you take health supplements?

Not at all – I eat lots of fruit and vegetables, ensure we all get enough protein and spend as much time as I can out of doors.

9) Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple – but only at the weekend. I’ve developed a bit of a taste for daiquiris and mojitos which is not good news, but I limit myself to a couple of drinks at the weekend.

10) Fruit or fry-up?

Fruit – although I make a cooked breakfast at the weekend. I bake traditional bread like wheaten, soda bread or pancakes and we have a sit-down brunch.

11) Stairs or lift?

Definitely stairs. I tend to be a bit claustrophobic and avoid lifts unless where I want to go is 20 floors skywards. Anyway, it adds to my steps on the phone and ups my chances of beating Ian at the end of the day.

12) Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I try to walk at least an hour every day. I also practise yoga very badly but I enjoy it and feel relaxed and virtuous afterwards.

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

If 10 is Usain Bolt. I’m a one, but I’m probably not too bad for someone turning 60 this year. I could certainly be fitter, but I wouldn’t want pursuit of fitness to dominate my life.

14) Best tip for everyday fitness?

Little and often. For those who aspire to everyday fitness I recommend the Public Health Agency’s 10,000 steps a day. This won’t ever get you fit enough for a six-pack or to run a marathon, but it will make a difference.

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

All of it! I hated PE at school, from the smell of the changing rooms, the big green PE knickers, to the sore, red legs on the hockey pitch.

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

A relative just lost over eight stone and looks amazing. He has inspired me to improve my own health.

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

Eat anything you want, so long as you make it yourself, from scratch.

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

There are many people I greatly admire for many reasons. I admire Rory McIlroy for his golfing talent, but also for being true to himself. But emulate? I’m not so sure. I think I’ve lived long enough to have the confidence to live my life my way.

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

It’s a personal triumph if I get to see News at Ten until the end. I’m usually in bed before 11 during the week, maybe a bit later at the weekend, especially if we have friends over.

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

You can’t work in an organisation like Cancer Focus and not be very aware of your own mortality. While more people now survive cancer than die from the disease, we still have worryingly high mortality rates. I’ve lost some good friends over the past few years. I don’t really fear death, but I do fear ill health. That’s why I’m taking active steps to reduce the risks.

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