Make-up artist Nuala Campbell: My body doesn't react to food the same way as most people's

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Nuala Campbell, make-up artist and wig designer

Nuala Campbell
Nuala Campbell

Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I'm rather spoiled: I get wakened up each morning with a lovely cup of tea which I drink while staring out into the beautiful Killinchy countryside.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

I go through stages of intermittent fasting, then being addicted to sourdough toast.


My husband makes me up a fresh box of fruit every morning for me to have for lunch. He knows I'll probably just skip lunch if I don't have something to hand.

Evening meal?

When I'm working on a show, for example, the upcoming Tosca, I usually prepare a few easy-grab meals from the fridge that I can eat in the green room. With high-energy shows like that, you need to be mentally and physically prepared, so a quick and well-balanced meal is imperative.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

I'm probably the easiest person in the world to sell supplements to. If someone tells me taking a flower that grows on a certain rock on the Himalayas only one day a year is going to give me more energy, I'd have it bought before the sales pitch had even finished.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I have suffered with conditions like Endometriosis and Polycystic ovaries since I was a teen, and I have recently been diagnosed with a rare brain deformity, Chiari Malformation.

The result of a lifetime on hormones, pain medications and countless surgeries, unfortunately, means that my body doesn't react to food the same way as most people's. It's a constant battle, but if I'm not on my game, I could have two stone put on in a month, easily.

One diet plan I rely on heavily and get great results from is The New You Plan. It's a low-calorie, high-protein meal replacement plan and it's the only thing that ever works for me.


Weekend treat?

A day to myself where I can stay in my pyjamas and there is no pressure to actually do anything.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

When I moved to the country two years ago, I found myself fortunate enough to be living in a little pocket of heaven. It finally gave me the space to be able to build my own at-home gym.

Every day I will try to do something. With my health, short bursts are better that an hour spent lifting weights.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

If you're not into gym culture, just trying to move your body in some way each day is a worthy goal.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

My school never really offered many sports opportunities outside of cross-country running or netball. Neither of those appealed to me, so I signed up to a trampolining club outside of school and, despite my school not even having a trampoline, I went on to win competitions while representing my school – and they didn't even know.


Teetotal or tipple?

Depends if you get me on a show night or not – I'd say somewhere in the middle.


Stairs or lift?

If I am at a good point with my health, I'll take the stairs. I've learned in recent years to conserve my energy even for the most basic of daily tasks, so if I'm not doing great, I'll just take the lift and not even feel guilty about it.


What book are you currently reading?

Currently, I'm listening to Menopausing by Davina McCall and The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss.


Best Netflix?

Ted Lasso was such an easy-going, heart-warming and funny watch.

Ted Lasso – Season 2: Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso, Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard and Nick Mohammed as Nathan Shelley

Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

That I settled into the 'chill' life immediately when we got that 'Stay At Home' message.


Any new skills or hobbies?

During lockdown, I took up embroidery of all things, and absolutely loved it. It was like meditation for me.


How do you relax?

A spa day every six weeks or so with my best friend. It is just the thing that's needed to reset mind and body.

NI Opera's Tosca is coming to the Grand Opera House next month

What are your goals for 2023?

I love working in theater, and I have had the pleasure of working so much of this year in this creative part of my job. I'm delighted to be the make-up and wigs designer for Northern Ireland Opera's Tosca, which is on stage at the Grand Opera House this September.


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

I'm a total insomniac and rarely get enough sleep. I go to bed around 10pm each night with good intentions, but don't fall asleep until about 2am or 3am.


Biggest gripe or regret?

I'd have saved myself a lot of pain and turmoil if I had learned that it was OK to say 'No' at an early age.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Absolutely. Priorities for a 20-year-old versus a 40-year- old are very different. The 20-year-old me would rather have cut off my own leg than move out into the middle of nowhere in the countryside, whereas now I just crave the peace and quiet.


Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event – changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I've always been very aware of my own mortality. Suffering with ill health since I was around 13-years-old taught me to take opportunities in life when I can.

My recent diagnosis and surgery for Chiari Malformation has really forced me to look at ways of slowing down and focusing on the little things that make me happy each day.

:: Nuala Campbell is make-up and wigs designer for Northern Ireland Opera's upcoming production of Tosca at Belfast's Grand Opera House, September 9 to16. See for more info.