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Me and my health: MLA Claire Sugden on her lifestyle

By Helen Carson

Published 10/05/2016

Claire Sugden
Claire Sugden

The 29-year-old Independent Unionist MLA for East Londonderry was re-elected to the constituency at the weekend. She lives in Castlerock and is engaged to fiance Andy Anderson (33).

Q: Do you take regular exercise - and if so what?

A: Andy and I like to go walking on the beach whenever we can, but I don't do any other regular exercise. I am getting married in the next year or two, so I am definitely going to start exercising again to look my best for my wedding day. When I first became an MLA I lost a lot of weight, as I simply forgot to eat as I was so busy. Then I started to put on weight as I was eating at the wrong time. Now that the election is over I am determined to get into a routine with exercise. I have five years ahead as an MLA so I don't want the bad eating habits to continue.

Q: What's been the worst illness you have had?

In 2009, I had a lump in my thyroid which turned out not to be cancerous. The lump was removed so, as a result, I now have an underactive thyroid, but other than that I am in good health.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: My fiance was a chef, so he is a very, very good cook. He does all the cooking for us, so all our meals are made from scratch with really fresh ingredients, nothing processed - so, it's not a matter of not eating healthily just perhaps eating too much. My breakfast is usually something simple like eggs or porridge and because I am in and out of meetings all day, I don't tend to eat much until later in the evening.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: I do end up skipping meals. I will be working all day and then I'll realise that I haven't had anything to eat since first thing in the morning. The result is I end up eating quite late which is not the best. It is part of the job, though.

Q: Do you drink and/or smoke - and if so how much?

A: I don't smoke but I do enjoy a glass of wine at the weekend. It's red with a good steak and white with pasta or chicken.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: I don't take vitamins as I am on medication for my thyroid and don't like to take too many tablets. I prefer to get vitamins and minerals from the food I eat.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: We moved out to the country two years ago, so just being at home is my way to unwind. Home is my sanctuary. We like to catch up on TV, read and go for walks. I love to watch American TV shows like Scandal as I spent some time as an intern in Washington DC in 2010 and 2012 with the Washington Intern Programme where I worked at the Department of Health. We are trying to get into House of Cards at the moment but there are a lot of episodes to watch.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: When I fall asleep it would be difficult to wake me, but it is getting off to sleep which can be a problem, especially in the last couple of years. When I try to get over to sleep there are so many things in my head to do with work. However, I am quite optimistic about the next five years as I was elected on my own mandate this time so there is not as much pressure on me, although, I accept this does come with the job.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I am 30 next year and I am just happy to be able to do the things I can do. I am very fortunate.

Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: When I am in a routine with exercising it really motivates me to get healthier by drinking water. It was difficult to fit in exercise during the election, as so many things were happening at the time. When you do this job, though, you have to look after yourself and be physically able to do it.

Belfast Telegraph

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