The Shape I’m In: Joanna Donnelly - ‘I’m an insomniac and have been since puberty’

IF ever a picture captured the calm after a storm, it was the one posted online recently by Met Éireann’s Joanna Donnelly. 

In the shot, we see her husband entering the bedroom carefully balancing tea and toast the morning after the day Ophelia battered the country. She had just woken up after a badly needed night’s sleep.

“I left work on Sunday night about 11pm. I went home and did some more work and I went to bed at 1am. I tossed and turned and didn’t sleep very much,” she says.

“I was up again at 5am because I was on BBC Breakfast at 6am. I was on Morning Ireland at 7am. I was in the office by 8am and was on Morning Ireland again shortly after that. I worked straight through and got home at midnight. It was a very, very long day. I emotionally and physically tired.”

Married to Harm Luijkx, who is from the Netherlands and also a meteorologist, they have three children, Nicci, 14, Tobias, 10, and Casper, 8. She has made no secret of her difficulties with secondary infertility. It was the spur that led her to setting up Pomegranate with author Fiona McPhillips. The charity offers funding to people in the public health system who are dealing with infertility. So far, she is aware of about 10 children who’ve been born thanks to Pomegranate — reporting back on the outcome is left up to the couples.

“What we really need is the legislation [providing funding for fertility treatment for couples who cannot afford it] now on the table to get through and we want to be put out of business.”

  • Weather Live, RTÉ One, tonight, 7pm — presenter Kathyrn Thomas is joined live by Met Éireann meteorologists, including Joanna Donnelly, to find out what makes the Irish climate so unique.

What shape are you in?

I cycle to work either 16k each way or 12k each way, depending on whether I’m going to Glasnevin or RTÉ. Occasionally, I run instead of cyling. I’ve always been fit. I started karate at the age of 10 and continued all the way through my teenage years. I got a junior black belt and a senior brown belt. When you learn at a young age how to keep fit it stands to you for the rest of your life. We’ve a gym in our spare bedroom and I use it daily. On a good day I’ll have an hour and a half in there and on a bad day I might have 20 minutes.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I eat greens every single day. In the summer it’s mostly a big bowl of green salad and in the winter I make a soup with all kind of green leaves thrown in.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Chocolate and plenty of it. I’m a Cadbury’s girl. I used to have a room in my house painted the same deep purple colour as the Twirl wrapper. I make the most delicious chocolate cake, the tradition in our house when anyone has a birthday. The recipe will go on the back of my gravestone.

What would keep you awake at night?

I’m an insomniac and have been since I hit puberty. The slightest thing will wake me. I tend to get up in the night and write things down and then they are out of my head.

How do you relax?

I go for a run.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

The only person I would ask is my father. He died when I was three.

What’s your favourite smell?

I have yellow roses growing outside and when I open the front window in the evening during the in the summer I can smell them.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

My skin, it’s terrible. I had a little bit of skin cancer — a basal cell carcinoma — removed from my décolletage. nine years ago. The operation left a fairly nasty scar. At the time my dermatologist said that in a range of one to five skin types, I had type 1, or the thinest skin. It marks really easily. It also burns, dehydrates and wrinkles easily. I’ve got acne too.

What traits do you least like in others?

I try not to judge others — there is a reason for everyone’s behaviour. The trait I like most is kindness so the trait I like the least is unkindness.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I’ve too short a temper.

Do you pray?

I don’t pray for things but every now and again I’ll throw a thank you out to the universe. I’m lucky. I have the ability to work hard, I thankfully have no mental health issues or socio-economic problems tying me down.

What would cheer up your day?

Going out for a run with one of my kids. We do the 5k park run every Saturday morning at 9.30 as often as we can.


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