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Me and my health: Miss Northern Ireland Leanne McDowell

By Helen Carson

The 20-year-old is Miss Northern Ireland and lives in Newtownabbey. She will hand over her crown in May, and is part of the judging process as the hunt for the Therapie Miss Northern Ireland 2016 reaches its final stages.

Do you take regular exercise - and if so what?

I go to the gym four times a week now and I do a mix of cardio exercises and weight training. I was never sporty at school although I played a bit of hockey, it wasn't competitively. For the past two years I went to a personal trainer as I was preparing for the Miss Northern Ireland competition. Now, though, I know what to do to keep fit.

What's been your worst illness to date?

I had my tonsils taken out when I was in P7 but, honestly, I have never been that ill. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

How healthy is your diet?

I believe in everything in moderation although I do try to eat a healthy diet. I am quite fussy, though, so that can make having a balanced diet that little bit harder for me. Breakfast is usually porridge with apple and I'll usually have chicken and rice or a tuna sandwich for lunch and perhaps lasagne for dinner. I will have a pizza at the weekend as well as a treat. I love chocolate. When I was preparing for the Miss Northern Ireland competition I tried to cut out all sugary foods, but because they were off limits I developed a huge craving and ended up eating more. Now, I just allow myself a small portion.

Any bad habits?

Sometimes I will take too much sugar in my tea - three teaspoons of sugar, but not all the time.

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

I have never smoked and have always hated smoking. I don't drink often, especially for someone my age. I can have a night out and not feel the need to drink at all, but I do enjoy a few cocktails when I am out with the girls. As Miss Northern Ireland, though, I have a lot of professional engagements and don't get many opportunities to go out at the weekend.

Do you take any health supplements?

I take a supplement for hair, skin and nails, Vitamin C with Zinc and Omega 3 every day and you can see the difference they make. My nails in particular just look great; they grow quicker and the vitamins improve my cuticles, too.

How do you take time out?

If I'm not carrying out my Miss Northern Ireland duties or at the gym, I love to just chill out with my girlfriends. I enjoy going shopping and just a few days ago met up with the previous Miss Northern Ireland, Rebekah Shirley - she bought her dress for the final at Blush. I like shopping at Victoria Square which now has my favourite shop, Boux Avenue - I know the brand from shopping in Liverpool. It's great to see it here in Belfast now.

How well do you sleep?

I sleep very well and nearly always get my eight hours - I make sure I get my beauty sleep. It can depend on how I am working with Miss Northern Ireland, though, as I can have 6am starts.

Do you worry about getting old?

I am worried about turning 21 as I will finish university and my Miss Northern Ireland year will be coming to an end! Everything will change, it will all be over. I wish I could do it all again, and would love just one more year doing this. It only feels like yesterday that I was a finalist. Afterwards I want to stay working with the ACA model agency and, hopefully, also work for myself. I would like to follow Zoe Salmon's example. She is a former Miss Northern Ireland, and has had such a good career. She is still involved in Miss NI and has been successful for many years after winning the competition.

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

Chai green tea. I always have a cup of this tea before I go to bed at night, it helps me relax and enjoy a good night's sleep. It is also a detox and you can see the benefits of drinking it in your skin.

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