20 health questions with… Triona McCarthy


Ahead of Daffodil Day in support of the Irish Cancer Society on March 22nd, Triona McCarthy talks all things health

1. Have you always had an interest in health and wellbeing?
I grew up in Schull in West Cork, so my childhood was spent swimming, sailing, surfing and diving as well as horse riding. I also did gymnastics, tennis, badminton and volleyball. Then I went to boarding school and discovered boys and The Cure and The Smiths and partying! Basically, I found lots of new ways to enjoy myself.

2. How important is health and fitness to you?
It’s important to me alright but I’m not great at factoring it into my life, making it more of a priority. I lost both my dad and sister to cancer so I do understand it's important to try to be healthier and fitter; that’s why I’m delighted to be an ambassador for this year’s Boots Daffodil Day campaign and I’m encouraging everyone to go in store and purchase a daffodil pin on Friday. 

3. Would you say that you enjoy working out and eating well? Why?
I love how it makes me feel, I just wish I was better at making it a priority. I’m a mum of two small children (Mini is four and Maxi is five) and as a freelance journalist, I work odd hours and weekends and I’m away from home a lot at the moment, so it can be hard to juggle everything.

4. What’s your go-to healthy dish?
I love healthy food, I was vegetarian for years, so it’s always something with lots of veg and spices so a vegetable curry.

5. What’s your go-to guilty pleasure food?
Chocolate. Always chocolate.

6. What’s your favourite type of exercise and why?
I love fencing! My brother Brendan was an Irish champion fencer and when I was on the show Celebrity Operation Transformation where we trained for a pentathlon, which involves fencing, show-jumping, shooting and running, I was lucky enough to train with modern pentathletes Natalya Coyle and Arthur Lanigan O’Keeffe and loved it.

7. Do you think it’s important to have a good balance in life when it comes to healthy eating/staying fit etc.?
My life is very black and white. I either go to bed at 10.30pm or 4am. I either eat a salad for dinner or two bars of chocolate and a bag of Tayto [crisps]. I either go for a walk or go drinking.

8. Do you ever have days where you struggle to make health a priority?
As Maya Angelou said, 'If you're always trying to be normal you'll never know how amazing you can be.'

9. How do you motivate yourself to exercise?
My two little monkeys, Maxi and Mini.

10. How important is it to factor in time to look after your mental health?
If it makes you smile, laugh or giggle, do it again because I think fun or happiness is needed every single day. Happy people are beautiful.

11. What’s your favourite way to mind your mental health?
Talking things out. Usually with my husband Will. I’ve lost a lot of loved ones in my life. Sadly, grief and loss are part of every life. No one escapes the experience of losing someone they love. We grieve our losses by acknowledging our feelings, talking about it with others and allowing time to process. 

12. Do you engage in any other self-care practices?
I try to do #skincaresunday and do a facial or mask to set me up for the week.

13. Being in the public eye, do you ever feel under pressure to look a certain way?
I’m in my forties and a size 14 and I recently did a shoot with Armani in Milan to launch Power Fabric. I’m thrilled they realise style comes in lots of different sizes, shapes, etc.

14. What’s the secret to feeling comfortable with being in the public eye?
I’m a nut that may contain traces of Triona McCarthy. I’ve never really been that ‘into myself’ if you know what I mean. I don’t hate my body or myself, I’ve just never been a particularly vain person or that concerned with my own looks. Even if I had the body of a Victoria’s Secret Angel, I think I’d be the same way. I write about skincare and beauty for a living and of course I want to look presentable and acceptable, but I realise, I just want to be healthier and fitter. My body doesn’t exist for aesthetic purposes only, it allows me to live and breathe and do so many amazing things in my life and I guess what I’ve learnt - since my dad died prematurely from cancer and my sister died at thirty after a battle with breast cancer - in this game of life, we don’t get to choose our genetics, we play the cards we’re dealt with.

15. Do you drink alcohol? What’s your favourite drink?
Yes! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll see I’m not the greatest drinker. I get the world’s worst hangovers. I’m like a blowfish all day long, huffing and puffing. I always say, ‘Normally, I don’t drink but when I do drink, I don’t drink normally.’ Champagne and wine are the only drinks I like.

16. Has your approach to health and fitness changed in recent years?

I don’t want to get cancer. That’s possibly the biggest motivator for me regarding health and fitness. I’m also an ‘older mum’, so it’s about knowing the quality of life I want to have in twenty years when I’m A 60-year-old when Maxi is having his 21st. I hope I’ll still be giving it sox, that’s sox I said, on the dancefloor.

17. What are your three top tips for staying in good health?
1. “I like to move it, move it. I like to move it, move it. I like to move it, move it. Yeah, like to move it!” I put this song on for the kids and have a kitchen disco some mornings. I like to move around a lot. Moving around is very important.
2. Drink water - trying to stay hydrated is key.
3. Sleep. I’m a crap sleeper but try my absolute best to get at least six hours as much as I can.

18. What’s your weekly health and fitness schedule like?

I walk my kids to school most mornings and pick them up if I can.

19. What’s your life’s philosophy?

Life might not always be the party we hoped it would be, but while we’re here, sure we might as well dance.

20. What’s the best piece of advice that you ever received?
For centuries, philosophers and psychologists have asserted that it is the way we think about what happens, not what happens, that determines our emotions and our behaviours.

Triona and her daughter Mini

Triona and her daughter Mini

Boots Ireland is the main sponsor of Daffodil Day 2019 in support of the Irish Cancer Society. For more information on the Boots Cancer Support Service visit www.boots.ie/cancer


Michelle Newman