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Me and my health: MLA Sandra Overend on her lifestyle

By Helen Carson

The 43-year-old Ulster Unionist MLA for Mid Ulster lives in Co Londonderry with husband Nigel and their children, Courtney (16), Joshua (14) and Nathan (11).

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

A: I exercise in an ad hoc way, but have always enjoyed walking, cycling and swimming, which I do with the children if the weather is nice. When I was first elected to the Assembly I was determined to keep up with exercise but it is difficult and, in fact, I haven't been exercising regularly since last August. I knew I had to take action both for my health and my sanity. Recently I started going to the gym again to work out with a personal trainer twice a week and I feel so much better for it. We do lots of strength and conditioning, as well as cardio.

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

A: I've never suffered from a serious illness and have been very fortunate with my health. However, last June I had a benign tumour removed from my parotid gland (just beneath the ear). It turned out to be more major than I thought and I had to have a general anaesthetic and it took me three weeks to recover. I never worried at any stage that it might have been something more serious. As far as I was concerned, the doctors had got rid of it.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: There is still too much chocolate in my house after Christmas, so I'm trying to avoid it. Usually I have eggs for breakfast and have a home-cooked meal in the evening. I love cooking from scratch and don't use any sauces from a jar. I also enjoy baking and eating the things that I bake - which is the problem. Cakes are my speciality.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: Eating too late in the evening is my weakness, as I usually work into the night from my home office. And I love chocolate bars - all of them - so I eat those too. But I have to stop as I was diagnosed coeliac last summer and should be eating gluten free. The good thing about this, is that as an MLA you get offered all manner of treats when you are out and now I can genuinely say 'I can't eat that'. My trainer has encouraged me to swap chocolate for protein bars.

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

A: I don't smoke, but I do enjoy the odd glass of red wine with dinner.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: No, I ensure I get all the vitamins I need from vegetables and fruit.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: Spending time with my children; the boys play rugby so I will go to watch them at a game and my daughter and I love to go shopping together. We have season tickets for Ulster Rugby - one adult and one child, so I will take one of them with me to see a game - we are big fans. I try to make time to go and there is always one of the children free to cheer Ulster on when they are playing.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: When I eventually get to bed I sleep well. I work a lot from home and do spend time worrying about what I have to do for people. I usually go to bed about midnight or 1am and the alarm goes off at 6.50am, when I get up.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: No, but I don't think that I'm old - despite the fact the children keep reminding me that I am. As long as you feel good in your body, it doesn't matter what age you are.

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

A: Drinking water - I don't drink tea, so I drink hot water. People think it's for health reasons but I just don't like tea - and water makes you feel healthier. My trainer has an app on Snapchat and posts what he is eating - it's great for inspiration when you feel like eating chocolate.

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