Me and my health: Alison McCullough on her lifestyle
The 60-year-old head of the Northern Ireland office of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists lives in Jordanstown and is married with three children and four grandchildren.
Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?
A: Yes, I love walking and have a dog which needs regular exercise. Last year I joined the National Trust and I have been making the most of my members' pass by regularly walking in the stunning Mount Stewart which changes with every season. I also recently purchased a bike and am now enjoying exploring the cycle paths near my home. I don't really feel confident enough to cycle on roads yet by myself. If there were more dedicated cycle lanes, it would be great.
Q: What's the worst illness you have had?
A: When I was a teenager I had a very severe form of glandular fever - I was unable to swallow as my throat was so infected. I was admitted to the Belvoir Park 'Fever Hospital' for three weeks and it took more than six months for me to feel well enough to return to school on a full-time basis. I was just 16 and being admitted to hospital was quite frightening as my parents were away on a touring holiday. In those days there were no mobile phones so my parents didn't know that I was in hospital until they returned home.
Fortunately, it was my lower sixth year and even though I did miss a significant amount of school, I managed to catch up. I eventually ended up having my tonsils removed when I was 18 - I wish that I'd had them removed when I was a lot younger.
Q: How healthy is your diet?
A: Being married to a vegetarian, I think my diet is fairly healthy as we eat lot of vegetable-based curries using quorn, dhal and chickpeas. I also tend to cook a lot of pasta-based meals. I enjoy cooking and would never buy commercial jars of pasta sauces. I do also enjoy eating meat and my favourite roast would be leg of lamb. I also really enjoy fish and, whenever we go out for a meal, fish would be my first choice because my husband doesn't like me cooking it at home. I don't have a very sweet tooth and would generally choose a starter over a pudding - unless of course pavlova was on the menu.
Q: Any bad habits?
A: Yes - when the grandchildren are home and I have the excuse to stock up the sweetie jar, I have a tendency to raid it when no one is about. I cannot resist the odd Haribo!
Q: Do you drink and/or smoke - if so, how much?
A: I like red wine with food but tend to drink white wine at the weekends or on social occasions.
Q: Do you take any health supplements?
A: No, I don't believe in them. I think that if your diet is healthy you should be getting all the nutrients you need from your food and not from a jar.
Q: How do you take time out?
A: Last year I completed an eight-week mindfulness course which I found extremely helpful in managing my stress levels. I also enjoy reading, gardening and watching television.
Q: How well do you sleep?
A: Very well. I generally have a few books beside my bed which I dip into before turning off the light - a novel, a biography and a book of poetry. Then, depending on my mood, I read a few pages before I close my eyes.
Q: Do you worry about getting old?
A: No. I would be more concerned about failing health rather than wrinkles. I feel that I live a much healthier lifestyle than my parents' generation did at a similar age. However, there is always the unexpected waiting around the corner and I never take a day for granted because of that. Within our family circle I have experienced the loss of two brothers-in-law to cancer in their early 40s, so I am a big believer in making every day count and utilising our excellent health screening services.
Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?
A: I've always loved spinach. As a child my father used to grow it and for some reason, whenever I eat it, I think it must really be doing me good. Fitness-wise, it's my dog Treacle who guilts me into a daily walk. I really enjoy setting off with her to explore the fantastic local walks around Newtownabbey. Having been born in London I feel very lucky to live within reach of such accessible and beautiful countryside.
Find out more about the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists at www.rcslt.org