6.45am I'll get my daughters Claudia and Ansley up and have porridge, fruit and homemade ginger tea which is easy to make; let ginger pulp, a squeeze of lemon, hot water and honey ferment for 48 hours and you get delicious dynamite. I grew up on a farm with constant cups of tea on the go but I never took to it. If travelling I soak oats the night before with raisins and a mandarin and take it with me. I lost three stone (19kgs) in the past few years and anticipating when you are going to need fuel and when you are likely to make bad choices is key. Twice a week I do cardio and strength training using my own bodyweight at home starting at 6am. We converted our garage into a gym and have mats, a bench and some TRX ropes. My wife joins me and it's a good time to chat.
1pm I aim for salad with some protein. I cut out bread once I realised what was going on it was tripping me up. Suddenly I was losing the mayo and butter etc.
11am/4pm I'll have individual portions of biltong, dried fruit and nuts with me, snacking during the day to match my energy output. Dr Catherine Norton, who I work with at the University of Limerick through our high performance leadership programme, helped me realise that portions were a problem for me. I would help myself to a second portion without thinking, or eat the whole bag of nuts.
6.30pm A favourite is cod or salmon with Jamaican seasonings, potatoes and broccoli. We would have meat twice a week. Weekends will be more casual – lentil soup, omelettes and a roast if we visit my mum. We eat healthy most of the time but will have treats such as ice-cream. I think another way to keep the weight off is a balanced attitude to less healthy food. If you can eat nutritiously 80 per cent of the time it allows you to indulge a bit.
My eldest daughter Claudia was recently diagnosed with a paediatric autoimmune disease called PANDAS,which is related to strep infections. This requires periodic use of antibiotics to control infections so gut health is important for us as a result. If she is in the hospital, I could be in overnight. With the long night ahead it’s difficult not to choose a big dirty lasagna and the vending machine. People will always be vulnerable to diet setbacks – otherwise we would all be lean. It’s accepting this and starting the next day afresh that will bring you to good health. The diet app trackers are great but no technology is going to help you when your willpower is in shreds.
9pm Night-time I have a tendency to snack so have to be careful I only eat a couple of squares of dark chocolate and not the whole bar. I have cut down a lot on alcohol and will only drink two or three units a week, with the occasional big night. I sleep better now after taking a tip from Arianna Huffington to pick a time at the end of your day when all electronic devices are removed from your bedroom. Previously I might wake at 4.30am, have a quick check of the phone and then find myself an hour later reading about the Red Sox.
– In conversation with Mary McCarthy
By Dr Conor Kerley, dietetics consultant, lecturer at UCD and Technological University Dublin
Ginger is thought to have anti-inflammatory compounds and is good for digestion as it soothes the intestinal tract. Coffee may also protect against inflammation if ginger tea is a bridge too far.
Variety and guts
Giving up bread can be a reliable way to cut calories; mayo or butter can quickly double the bread calories. Not everyone needs to give it up though, just pick wholegrain and chose sensible fillings. Enda says he has salad with protein but does not say what type. He should ensure a wide variety of foods so he will be less likely to feel deprived. Also more variety in our diet means more variety in our guts, this is very important if taking antibiotics. Enda’s family should aim to eat one new vegetable every week. For snacks, apples are particularly rich in pectin which is good for gut flora.
Spuds and attitude
Enda should keep the skin on his potatoes for extra nutrients and fibre. Nobody is able to stick to the healthy script all the time and it is how we react that is important. As Enda suggests starting each day afresh is a useful mantra to have and will ensure you get back on the wagon, and not get disillusioned, after the diet setbacks.