‘White bread is an indulgence of mine but surely my 10,000 steps balance this out?’

Daily Diet: Lorraine Higgins (40) director of strategy and public policy at MKC Communications

Lorraine Higgins: ‘I am partial to dark chocolate and don’t drink alcohol during the week but might have a glass of wine at the weekends’

Lorraine Higgins: ‘I am partial to dark chocolate and don’t drink alcohol during the week but might have a glass of wine at the weekends’

 

6am I’m a complete news junkie and within seconds of waking I’ll be on the websites with Morning Ireland on at 7am. I don’t have a complicated diet – I’ll have porridge with maple syrup and coffee. If really hungry I might instead have orange juice, a poached egg and wholemeal toast.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth

9am A friend gave me a present of a Fitbit, I’m not sure if that was a veiled message, but it has certainly resulted in me walking more and getting fitter. I am competitive by nature, mainly against myself, so I will be determined to get my daily quota of steps in. I walk around 45km weekly and recently managed 68km as we had an office competition that week. I’ll walk into work most days, which takes 30 minutes, and to most of my meetings. These five or 10 minute trips all add up and it gives me thinking time when I can reflect on how the day is going.

11am I’ll have mint tea at meetings, but no snacks. Scones were the bane of my life when I was in politics. It was a habit for me, I wasn’t hungry. Once I decided to cut them out it was easy. If the decision is already made you don’t get into that negotiation with yourself when the croissants appear. This small change has made a huge difference and, along with my walking, has meant I have lost weight that I had put on when I was in politics when I was working long days and often did not prioritise my health.

1pm Unless it’s a working lunch, which I will compensate for with a lighter meal later, I’ll have a turkey sandwich with cranberry or a chicken salad sandwich. I like white bread; it’s an indulgence of mine but surely my 10,000 steps balance this out?

3pm Maybe an apple or a banana from the office fruit bowl and some water.

6pm I walk home and immediately prepare dinner; if focused on healthy eating that week it will be grilled fish – salmon or cod – and rice with vegetables such as carrots and parsnips. If I’m particularly busy I wouldn’t have thought ahead and might pick up lasagna or risotto in the supermarket and I’ll boil some veg to go with it. I do notice when I am eating a lot of what I call “beige foods”, such as pasta, it slows me down. So I’ll then snap out of this and make an extra effort to eat a lot of fish and veg.

I’m not a gym bunny, I don’t respond well to organised exercise classes. On the weekends I enjoy cycling or hiking in Wicklow, which gives me a chance to recalibrate for my week ahead. I love a game of golf and I used to play competitively when I was younger and now play off a handicap of 12. It is all about focusing on that one shot, about staying in the moment which sometimes we forget to do. I am competitive, but similar with the steps it is mainly against myself.

11pm I check in with my family after dinner to shoot the breeze or I might go to the driving range, theatre or catch up with friends. I am also on the board of Sightsavers Ireland and have just been appointed Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic so occasionally will do some work related to this. I like to be busy, so I don’t mind.

I am partial to dark chocolate and don’t drink alcohol during the week but might have a glass of wine at the weekends. I will be back on the news sites to catch up before bedtime but I’m pretty regimented about my sleep and will switch off approaching 11pm. If I don’t get seven hours I won’t operate at full tilt the next day.

– In conversation with Mary McCarthy

The Verdict: Conor Kerley dietitian

Pimp the porridge

Porridge is great for sustained energy and while maple syrup has some nutrients, such as zinc (good for decreasing duration of colds) and manganese (for the brain and nervous system), it is essentially sugar, so just a little is okay. Other options to spruce up porridge would be a chopped apple for vitamin C, and two tablespoons of toasted wheatgerm – tasty and bursting with Vitamin E vital for healthy metabolism and other minerals for good health. You can buy it already toasted or pop on a baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes yourself.

Realistic life changes

Lorraine has made a conscious effort to cut out high-carb snacks and to walk more. Everyday changes that can be made without much hardship, and the walking is also her transportation – great optimisation of time. Options like scones are full of refined carbohydrates and fat, and this is before adding the butter and jam. You could be easily putting away the calories of another meal.

If you would like to lose a few pounds a good idea is to write down what you eat every day so can identify what is possible for you to cut out, either completely or just to have occasionally, and if you stick to this, you will get results. This can work better for many than a more draconian approach such as zero carbs as this is difficult to keep up.

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