‘The FitrWoman app and ethos have helped me both as a doctor and a female to become more aware of, and in tune with, the effects of my training and nutrition on my menstrual cycle.’

Meet Ciara Kelly, the Irish doctor who has a passion for how our lifestyles can affect our health!

How did you get to where you are today?

I pursued medicine at Trinity College Dublin after secondary school and absolutely loved my medical student years. I had always loved science and working with people, so this path seemed to marry the two! Once I qualified as a doctor in 2015, I completed my intern and senior house officer years (3 in total) at a major hospital in Dublin, working in lots of different medical specialties to gain experience. Last year, after passing my medical membership exams (we have to do these in order to specialise in a particular area of medicine), I decided to go back to student life for a year and completed a one year Masters in Public Health and Nutrition at University College Dublin. My thesis was on shift work and health, which was fascinating!

My passion as a doctor is to educate and empower people to recognise and use the potential of our lifestyles and health behaviours to better our physical and mental health. I started a blog and Instagram account in 2016 as a platform to communicate this message (the power of prevention!), and it’s been growing ever since! The chapter in my life that I’ve just started is my public health medicine training. It is a 4-year programme in Galway and I am really excited about it.

Follow Ciara   @theirishbalance

Is there a female athlete you admire?

I really admire Serena Williams. I don’t play tennis, but I LOVE watching Wimbledon every year! I admire Serena Williams because of her honesty and authenticity. She isn’t afraid to be exactly who she is, both on and off the court, and I think that’s really refreshing to see. She is also of course SERIOUSLY strong, an incredible athlete, and I think she is a great role model for women in sport.

What are your main passions in life?

As a doctor – it is to communicate the message that health is not a one-size fits all, but in fact a product of biological, social, psychological and environmental factors. It can’t be simplified into quick-fix diets or workouts or overnight cures. There is so much misinformation in the mass and social media domains, and it creates confusion among the general population about what is ‘healthy’ and what is not in life.

In my personal life – it is to always think ‘How can I be better?’ I reflect a lot on how to add more value to the world, through the content I share and work I do, but also through the time and energy I give to my family and friends.

What’s a typical day in the life of Ciara Kelly like?

I usually get up at 6 am on weekdays and 6.45 or 7 am on weekends, and I always start my day with movement. That might be a weight training workout at the gym, or it might be a walk with a Podcast, or yoga (either a class or a flow at home using a YouTube video). Sometimes it might be a combination! After that, I’ll grab a coffee and have breakfast, which is pretty much always something oats-based – usually Overnight Oats as it’s such a balanced meal. On weekdays, it’s off to work for the day then! I work in Galway with my public health team and will either drive to the gym on my way or do my walk/yoga at home and then get ready and go to work.

I’m a big fan of meal preparation so I generally make my breakfast the night before, and at the weekends I will take some time to make a recipe or two for lunches and dinners. I’m a tupperware fan, of course! So lunch at work is usually something I’ve brought from home – a portion of a salad or some sort of one-pot wonder style dish (dahls/curries/stews etc.!), and I always pack snacks too – fruit, yoghurt, hummus or snack bars I’ve made using recipes from my blog. I will try to get a bit of fresh air and a walk in at lunch too!

In the evenings after work, I’ll take time to cook, get a little walk in if I haven’t during the day, catch up with a friend or family member (in person or by phone, it depends on the day/week!) and catch up on my social media from the day. After dinner, before bed, I'll chill out, read, stretch and write. I do 10 minutes of guided meditation with the Calm app each night too and find it really helpful.

What do you do to chill out in your downtime?

I do several things – I like to call it my stress management toolkit! To chill out, I love going for a walk with a Podcast or booking myself into a yoga class (a more restorative one than my favourite hot or vinyasa styles!). I also LOVE reading and make time to read most nights before bed – it’s probably one of the most mindful things I do. I love writing, both on my blog and in my diary, and find that very therapeutic too. Cooking is very relaxing for me also, especially with music on in the background.

What’s your favourite food or go-to meal?

That would definitely be hummus! I won’t say I could live off it, but almost! I love chickpeas – they’re such a versatile ingredient you can use for so many lunch, dinner and snack recipes, and cost so little for a big tin! I have zero portion size control when it comes to hummus. I usually make my own and love trying new variations on the classic recipe, especially beetroot hummus!

My go-to meal is Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry. This recipe helped get me through my medical finals – no joke! I used to make a batch on Sundays, every week for about 5 weeks, to have portions stored in my fridge or freezer during the weekdays when I was just about to sit my exams and was up to my eyes in study! You’d think I would be sick of it given that, but nope! It’s a great comforting recipe that works for lunch and dinner, and takes very little time to make, but delivers on nutrition and flavour.

What is your favourite sport or event?

As a kid and teenager, I played a lot of sport, right up until my third year of medicine, when I moved more towards gym-based training to enable me to keep fit on a busy study schedule. I played basketball, camogie, volleyball and gaelic football for several years, and also competed in cross-country for a bit too! I always loved running but had to take a break from it last year to rehab a tendonitis and knee niggle – ah, injuries, they really are as tough mentally as they are physically! I found weight training 3 years ago and loved it – the feeling of strength and empowerment it gives me is wonderful. These days, my favourite ways to exercise are weight training (mostly gym-based, using dumbbells/barbells), yoga (especially hot and vinyasa styles) and walks and hiking. All three activities benefit both my physical and mental health, always make me smile and bring me back for more!

What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

A whole new work and life chapter in Galway! I’ve lived in Dublin for most of my childhood and adult life so far. I’m really excited to discover Galway – the food, sights, yoga, social life, and the sea! I also can’t wait to begin my public health training. It’s wonderful to be starting to specialise in an area I’m really interested in.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

You are enough. I definitely spent too much of my early twenties over-analysing certain aspects of my life – sometimes feeling like an imposter as a medical student (which is common to many, I know!), over-thinking what foods were ‘healthy’ and which were ‘bad for me’, and, at times, training too frequently and intensely. Now, at the age of 28, I really feel like my mind and body are both in tune, and I’m very content in not having all the answers, but knowing that just as I am right now, I am enough.

 

How has FitrWoman helped you?

As a doctor, we learn a LOT about the body during our training and that includes menstruation and the reproductive system. However, we didn’t learn a lot about how food and fitness affect it! The FitrWoman app and ethos have helped me both as a doctor and a female to become more aware of, and in tune with, the effects of my training and nutrition on my menstrual cycle, and to the nuances of these effects within each phase of the cycle. I think as women we need to open up the conversation around periods a lot more, and I’m excited to bring that message forward with FitrWoman as a Brand Champion!

To keep up to date with Ciara, you can follow her on  Instagram  or check out her website at  www.theirishbalance.com.

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