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Mary Byrne: Diet and exercise keeps me mentally strong


For Mary Byrne, staying active and eating well are helping her to live her best life.

With a helping hand from Flexiseq, the former X-Factor contestant is not only warding off the pain of arthritis in her knees, she’s also winning her battle with depression.

We caught up with our brand ambassador to discuss when she realised the importance of a good diet and how, with a helping hand from her daughter, she’s made small tweaks to her day-to-day life to keep her doing the things she loves.

I can whip up a good dinner...

That said, it’s never going to be gourmet! My daughter is definitely the better cook, she’ll experiment more with food than I would. She also points out what’s good and what’s not, like salt and saturated fat. I’ve taken a lot for granted in the past, but I’m learning now and eating better as a consequence. My daughter does most of the shopping in our house and she’s very up on what we should and shouldn’t be buying.

I know some foods aren’t good for arthritis and some are…

I was told onions aren’t great for arthritis, but I love them. Rather than go off them altogether, I try only to have them a couple of times a week. I do eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. And things like ginger and pineapple which are great anti-inflammatories. And I love a healthy stir-fry, they’re very edible. I try to eat lots of salmon and I like tuna and sardines. I also take an Omega 3 supplement every day to get lots of fatty acids which are great for my joints.

Realising the importance of a good diet was a big turning point…

I was on a television show here in Ireland called Operation Transformation. I thought I’d been eating healthily, but it turned out that the amount and way I was eating certain foods was making the pain in my knees worse. You have to find the right ingredients and on top of that you have to stay active.

Exercise helped me stay on top of my weight...

The combination of diet and exercise keeps me mentally strong. For years, I sat on the sofa thinking, “I will go for a walk”, but I never actually did it. Only when the cameras were on me did I start doing it. When I started, I was like, “This is good, this feels great, this is what I should have been doing all along.”  

The little things can make a big difference...

Flexiseq relieved the pain in my knees to help me get up and get on with things. Once I was able to get out and about I got my diet in shape. Being out and about benefitted my mental strength which increased my willpower.

Dieting is not the answer for me…

For years, I tried all sorts, but I’ve realised that once you’ve lost loads of weight you go back to eating what you did before and put it all back on again. Keeping your weight down is about eating healthier, smaller portions and to keep moving. Doing this is helping me keep my weight steady. I might not lose anything for a few weeks and then suddenly three or four pounds drop off. That’s the way to do it.

I reward good behaviour…

Monday to Friday I’ll eat healthily and often I’ll do the same at weekends, but I’ll also go out and have a few drinks or treat myself to a bag of crisps or bit of chocolate. Once a month I might have a takeaway, after all you’ve got to live a little. Sometimes something that isn’t good for you can be good because it incentivises you and lifts your spirits to go again.  

My weight severely affected my knees…

I have arthritis in both knees. When I was five stone heavier I was essentially carrying two people on legs designed to carry one. I was punishing my joints severely. Losing weight has helped me walk quicker, swim more and even run. At Christmas, I had to run on stage when I was doing panto and I could do it without any pain. That wouldn’t have been the case a couple of years ago.

Whether you’ve got arthritis or not you can exercise…

You don’t have to be an athlete. A walk around the park, a walk down the street, a swim in the pool, they all count. It’s working for me. I’ve changed my life in a way I never thought I was capable of, and I’m enjoying every moment of it.