Irish singer and former The Saturdays star, Una Healy, discusses the beauty of turning 40, recovering from divorce and how outdoor swimming has changed her life.
By Gemma Calvert (Photography by Evan Doherty)
Ula Healy on the beauty of turning 40
‘Turning 40 is not as scary as I thought it would be. Anyone who complains about a birthday should realise how lucky they are to be celebrating another year on this planet, something that so many are deprived of.
‘I feel like I’m in a really good place in my life – better than I did 10 years ago. I feel happy, content and much more in control and conscious of my fitness and health. The older I get, the more I’ve learned to look after myself. I want to keep myself in the best shape that I can.’
Una Healy on exercise, lockdown, and a rekindled love for swimming
‘The more exercise I do, the more energy I have. I make exercise part of my daily routine, even if it’s just a short walk to get outside. During lockdown, having me-time every day distracted me from everything else that was going on. I work out on average four days a week, doing a mixture of weight-bearing exercises and running. I’ve set up a home gym in my house in Tipperary, Ireland.
‘Earlier this year, I took up cold water swimming. I swim either at the coast or in lakes and have got the bug for it! The first time I did it, I thought, “what am I doing? This is horrible. It’s so cold.” Whereas now it just feels invigorating. When you’re immersed in cold water, your body goes into fight or flight mode and is flooded with cortisol, followed by endorphins.
‘When I was a child I was a competitive swimmer, so I swam every single day, and I was also part of the running club. I took part in running competitions, track and field and cross country. Back then, I’d say to my mum I wanted to be the fastest nine-year-old in Ireland. I trained because I wanted to win the race. Now I’m not in competition with anyone, I’m just doing it for my health.
Una Healy on finding body confidence
‘My body confidence changes every day of the month! The worst body-shaming experience I had was being on stage in The Saturdays and whatever way the light was shining, my cellulite looked like the moon. The next day, there was a big page printed in a newspaper that read, “Una’s cellulite”. It was awful.
‘I think that kind of reporting has stopped. It’s much better now that people can control what images go out through Instagram.’
Una Healy on eating habits and healthy nutrition
‘Until I was six, all I wanted to eat was sweets. I was a terrible eater. Then I started swimming competitively and my mum said I was starving all the time and would eat everything. I still do!
‘I don’t have a specific diet; I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I take a multivitamin, cod liver oil, magnesium and B vitamins. I eat a balanced diet, but like to add to it. I don’t think there’s any harm in setting goals and wanting to do your best.’
Una Healy on the importance of practicing gratitude
‘I’m reading The Magic by Rhonda Byrne, the author of The Secret. It’s all about the power of positive thinking and law of attraction. A lot of religions are based on the philosophies of gratitude. Books like The Magic and The Secret wouldn’t have appealed or applied to me when I was younger but at this point, I feel so lucky to be here enjoying my life at my age and I feel there’s so much more to do.
‘Everyday, I write down 10 things I’m grateful for, rather than wishing for things I don’t have. I rewrite the same things all the time: my family, my kids [Aoife Belle, nine, and Tadhg, six] and my health. Once you’re grateful for something, it doesn’t matter whether you say it 10 times.’
Una Healy on her underactive thyroid diagnosis
‘Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and Hashimoto’sdisease, which is where a lot of antibodies attack the thyroid. I was put on levothyroxine but, luckily, it was caught at the right time.
‘Now, I don’t even know I have it. Weight gain is one of the side effects because your metabolism slows down but I never experienced that or other symptoms, which include feeling cold and a slowing of the heart rate. I was lucky.’
Una Healy on healing after her divorce
‘I saw a life coach for a few sessions after my marriage broke up [to rugby player Ben Foden in 2018]. To calm my nerves during high-pressure situations she taught me to create an anchor – perhaps holding my thumb – to ground myself, while thinking of a really happy place.
Another tip I made up myself for periods of stress is to think, “This time in 100 years, we’ll all be gone. What will this matter?”. It’s about creating a sense of perspective. I’m ready for the new chapter of my life now. Two amazing children came from the marriage so there will always be communication between us, but I don’t want to dwell on the negative of that relationship any more. I’m moving on.’
Una Healy on skincare and haircare
‘In terms of hair, when I started getting my first few greys I was so embarrassed. I wouldn’t admit it, whereas now I don’t care. During lockdown, I let my grey locks grow out. I think lockdown has taught us to care less about what others think.’