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Me and my health: Derry singer Sarah McGuinness

By Kerry McKittrick

Sarah McGuinness is a singer-songwriter, originally from Derry, but now splitting her time between New York and Donegal. She has just launched her first album, Unbroken

Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?

Normally I try to go to the gym three times a week, but it's been a lot more recently. It's been up to every day for an hour a day on the run-up to this album launch. You need a lot of energy and you need to be able to breathe when singing these songs. It can be tricky when you travel a lot, but I find that an hour in the gym is a really good way to reset yourself when you have jet lag. I also love yoga, but not Bikram or hot yoga - that's just not for me.

What's the worst illness you've had?

The Christmas I left home I ended up in London and had a part-time job working at a high-end establishment. At the staff Christmas party I - and about 40 others - ended up with food poisoning. I got it the worst, because I thought for something like that you took milk and fatty foods. It was severe salmonella and I ended up being hospitalised for a week - I nearly died. I was really weak for at least a couple of months afterwards and ever since then I've been really susceptible. I have to be careful when eating certain foods now. I really remember going home for Christmas and just lying on the sofa the whole time. I couldn't even eat Christmas dinner, it was so bad.

How healthy is your diet?

Like everyone else, I do try to be good, but when I'm in a rush or under pressure I'll resort to microwave meals. I wake up hungry and try to have muesli, but usually end up having toast. But if it is toast it's probably wheaten bread or something vaguely healthy. Lunch is often eaten on the run, so it's not unusual for me to miss it. If I'm being sensible I'll have salad, but if I'm in a rush I'll grab a sandwich. I spend a lot of time in London and eat from Pret A Manger, but you have to be careful because some of their stuff is incredibly high-calorie. I do cook, but when I'm trying to be calorie conscious I eat a lot of sushi and sashimi and that sort of thing. I have to be careful with that because I can't eat anything like fish eggs and squid ink because of the food poisoning I got. I can't have anything exotic - salmon and tuna and those things are all fine. I try to steam vegetables, but they can find their way into a frying pan.

Any bad habits?

Yes - when I don't do enough exercise and I don't eat healthily. A big plate of creamy pasta with smoked salmon and lemon in a restaurant I know in France is a real weakness of mine. I manage to have half portions to tide me over. I also heroically have to resist Tayto crisps whenever I come home. I seem to be losing my sweet tooth as I get older, so these days I prefer salty things, so I eat tons of nuts.

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

I was a smoker but I never really enjoyed it - it was just that everyone I knew smoked. I was very glad when the smoking ban came in and I gave up years ago.

I do love wine, good wine. My dad was in the wine trade in London and I've done some study on it and collect it myself. I don't think I'll be able to eradicate it from my diet, so it's all about having better stuff, but less of it.

Do you take any health supplements?

I try to take a multi-vitamin every day, as well as magnesium and Siberian ginseng. As I travel between here and America, everyone has different schools of thought. They're all for general well-being, so I'll listen to anything for a while and it's not doing any harm.

How do you take time out?

I go back to Donegal and walk along the shore for a few miles. I get out into the weather, whatever it's like, and try to walk out the stress. It is very calming and being in a city doesn't let you do that. I find that I am refreshed when I go back to work and more able for it.

How well do you sleep?

That depends, because I'm constantly dealing with jet lag. I had a system when I tried to stay on New York time all the time. At the moment because the album release is here I'm staying on UK time to avoid the jet lag. I'm able to sleep easily now, because I'm just in one place for a while.

Do you worry about getting old?

I did, because I felt that I hadn't achieved my full potential. In the last couple of years I have been lucky enough to be around women who inspired me and made me question what the problem was. I decided to make things happen, which is how the album has come about. Now I don't worry. I feel that I have something to say and I'm saying it. I feel clear and positive and I don't feel frustrated any more.

What is your go-to product or habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

Music is the first. With headphones, walking along the shore calms me down and takes all the stress out of my face. It makes me breathe properly and makes me relax, making me fit to get on with the rest of life. The second is water, and I try to drink two litres a day. It's a struggle, but I do feel the benefits of it.

Sarah's debut album, Unbroken, is available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes, with the first single, Glad You're Gone, available to view on Youtube

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