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Celebrity Health – Karen Carney

Karen Carney talks to Liz Parry about her recent experience reporting on the World Cup and how the vegan diet has benefited her health

Former professional footballer Karen Carney played for Birmingham City, Arsenal and Chelsea and also represented England during four FIFA Women’s World Cups and four UEFA Women’s Championships. She also represented Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Olympics and in 2017 was awarded an MBE for services to football. Since retiring from professional sport in 2019, Karen has been a regular broadcaster on TV and radio. She was recently part of the presenting team covering the World Cup for ITV.

Q Did you enjoy the experience of reporting on the World Cup in Qatar?

Karen: Absolutely. To be able to watch and report on the World Cup has been an incredible experience. I was pitch-side during the Argentina game where about 80 per cent of the fans were from Argentina so the atmosphere was awesome. The games have been really enjoyable.

Q You retired from professional football in 2019. Have you found it hard to adjust?

Karen: It’s hard to explain to people, but when it’s been your job for so long and every day you’ve been told to be the best and to train your hardest, there’s a bit of anxiety when you retire. It can be a bit of a challenge mentally. When I first retired I was doing lots of running as I was training for the virtual London marathon during the pandemic. But it was probably a bit too much and I ended up getting injured. Now, I tend to stick to 30 minutes or 5K of running. I was going to the gym quite a lot in Qatar and I was doing a class called F45 with a couple of people from the ITV team about three times a week. I love to train – don’t get me wrong – but when you’re a professional athlete, it’s your job. Now I enjoy training a lot more and I don’t max out on everything. I just do what’s needed to feel happy and healthy.

Q Has your diet changed too since you retired from professional sport?

Karen: I think I probably eat more now, which is hilarious! Before, it was quite regimented in terms of diet and getting the right amount of sleep. I think now I eat what my body wants me to eat and when I need food. I’m always super busy and active, so I make sure that I eat healthily and nourish myself. I’d say that I’m more relaxed about what I eat now and I like to take a balanced approach to my health.

Q You adopted a vegan diet a few years ago. What prompted you to make the switch to plant-based eating?

Karen: There was a couple of reasons. I’d read that the vegan diet was really good for your mental health and I looked into the research surrounding it. Also, at the time, I was suffering with an ankle injury and I had a lot of inflammation in my ankle. I found that the vegan diet really helped with that. I went from eating meat, fish and dairy to completely cutting it all out, so it was quite an interesting shift. When I first started on this diet it was a little bit trickier. I had to get into cooking and making a lot of my own food. Now, there is so much variety out there that being vegan has become a lot easier. If I ever struggle to find vegan food when I’m eating out then you can just put a plate of chips in front of me and I’ll be fine.

Q Did it help your performance on the pitch?

Karen: At first you go a little bit cold turkey. And there is a misconception that you’re going to lose power and strength. But once my body started to adapt and get used to it, my recovery was better, my stats were significantly better and I just felt so much better in myself. Everyone is each to their own and I really feel that you have to do what makes you happy and healthy. But the vegan diet really suits me and my only regret is that I didn’t do it earlier.

Q Do you take any vitamins or supplements?

Karen: I’ve never felt that I needed them. I think that eating well, having a balanced lifestyle and getting lots of rest seems to put me in good stead. None of my blood tests have ever come back suggesting that I’m deficient in anything. The interesting thing is that I was found to be iron deficient when I was eating meat and playing football professionally. I was always having to have iron top-ups.

Q You have been asked to head up a review of women’s football in England. Can you tell us about this?

Karen: I was asked by the government to chair a review into the future of women’s football, and I will be putting forward recommendations to the government in the near future. I was honoured to be asked to do it, especially after the Euros when England won the tournament. We want to make sure that the right infrastructure is put in place and to give women’s football the opportunity to become one of the best leagues in the world.

Follow Karen on Instagram: @kazcarney.

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