Don’t keep making the same mistakes. Figure out where you want your diet to take you?
Danny works as a performance nutritionist and has an online coaching service that helps a wide array of clients with nutrition related issues.
If you are having dietary issues he has probably encountered them and this article could help you through.
For that reason it’s time to sit up and take heed of what Danny shared with us.
1. Get the pieces of your nutrition puzzle in place!
How do you get these in place Danny?
“A place of making sure that pretty much every day all the big pieces of the puzzle are in place. That I’m consuming enough protein, that I’m generally eating good quality food most of the time, that I’m consuming enough vegetables, keeping hydrated etc. etc.”
It is important to have aims but having too many restrictions is one sure way to burnout and to fail at improving your diet.
“I don’t get bogged down in having smaller amounts of junk food or whatever people want to call it or not being able to have some days where it is a bit more relaxed.
I am able to be a bit more flexible now to my overall approach to things while still having the main principles in place of the 4-5 key things or concepts of good nutrition and healthy eating.”
At a point Danny had become too rigid in his approach to his diet and has a warning about this path,
“It had certainly got to the point where it hand gone too far to the other extreme. I don’t think it’s a successful strategy for 99% of people.”
2. Where do you want to be on the triangle of focus?
Danny beautifully describes the triangle of nutritional focus below.
“Imagine a triangle and three points of that are three different places you can place your focus on your diet.
- Body Composition.
“If you are equally focused on all three then we put a dot bang in the middle of that triangle.
“You can split your focus between those but it means you are not going to maximise on any one of them.
“The further you move your focus from anyone of those you are going to take away from the others”.
It’s time to think about where you want to focus. Maybe you don’t need to go for an extreme focus on any one of these areas?
“It depends how extreme someone wants to go there.
“What your diet comprises of or what it should comprise of is what your aim is right now!
“And how focused and how far you want to go in that direction.”
Here’s an example of how you could place your focus in the wrong place.
“What is typically promoted by people as a good diet to go on?
“That’s typically weight loss, right?
“People who are maybe overweight or sedentary or haven’t paid much attention to stuff, how do we get them healthier?
“And the things we are going to implement there to get them to eat better or to drop body fat and eat in a calorie deficit are things that aren’t really going to be conducive to good sporting performance.
“You see this quite often that an athlete might say “I’m going to start eating better” and they dramatically change the quality of their food but because of that they end up eating a lot less calories than normal or under-eating.
“They are then unable to fuel the training they are doing. So, it speaks to the idea of it completely depends what the goal of your nutrition is.”
If you would like more information on the triangle of focus, take a look here:
3. Does a good diet lead to a long life?
“We can certainly learn things from looking at cultures who have low disease rates and who have high average life span for example…
“I think it’s useful but at the same time we need to be careful of where we draw them conclusions and how directly a consequence that can be attributed to diet”.
There are other factors at play, don’t use a confirmation bias to ignore the other elements apart from diet that contribute to these healthy populations. There is a danger here to leave out elements of their lifestyles that we feel do not suit our agenda e.g. pursuing outdoor activities or taking relaxation time.
“One of the things I have learned over time is that just eating a good diet alone isn’t necessarily going to lead to somebody being healthy if they have a load of other stuff messed up.
“Like if they have really poor sleep, messed up circadian rhythm, if they have lots of stress in their life, if they have a poor social network or don’t have support from people around them, if they are not physically active”.
We must train the mind, body and soul. Thinking one element on its own is the solution to our problems is naive. However, that doesn’t mean you have to change everything at the one time as this could be overwhelming.
Find what works for you because there is no one fits all solution.
“You look at these cultures that have very good health in different regions of the world but their diets are very different.
“People ask is eating too much carbohydrate bad? You look at people in Japan or the Okinawans, populations like this. You have groups that have tremendous health who have a very high carbohydrate diet.
“On the other end you could have groups who are based in Northern Scandinavia where carbohydrate intake wouldn’t be as plentiful or even at the extremes like an Eskimo tribe where they have very low carbohydrate intake and still good health.
“And so to tease apart there is some key things a lot of these places have in common”.
Danny says it boils down to this:
They base most of their diet on real or natural food.
It is dangerous to demonise certain foods. This approach reflects tailored media towards a societal desire for a fall guy to make things simple. Danny gives a great example,
“The classic diet that always seems to come out on top (re. health) is the Mediterranean diet. If you think of all the stuff that has typically been demonised in nutrition, they include a lot of that stuff.
“It’s said fat is bad for you. Well these people like lots of olives and lots of cheese in their diet.
“You can never eat gluten, well they eat breads and pasta.
“And then you have all these mixes of stuff. But if you look overall, a lot of the food is made fresh, they have lots of seafood which is a good idea.
“Then you have got to think about how they approach those meal times. It’s very much a social occasion where there’s groups of people together. They take their time over the meal. They’re very mindful over what they are eating.”
This leads us on to how we can take a more Mediterranean approach to enjoying and appreciating our food. This approach can actually lead to better eating habits as well as health benefits.
4. Manage your chimp!
“This is an area most people need to start with when they are changing nutrition habits.
“In that when we think about how do we not give in or how do we have the motivation or discipline to stay away from certain foods?
“If you’re surrounded by hyper palatable tasty food that’s in easy access to you it’s going to be very difficult to do that.
“And your willpower might stand up for a while but eventually it’s going to break.
“Where the real value for people is thinking about where their food environment is most of the time and where you can control it.
Make sure that you are playing the nutrition game on your terms.
“There has been tonnes of great research done on food environment and a lot of that was in a lab in Cornell headed up by Brian Wansink.
“If you look at that there’s distinct changes in how much someone eats just based on where the food is placed.
“They did studies in the work place where someone had a bowl of sweets that was left on their desk versus if it was in a closed drawer beside them or if it was on the other side of the room. From each of those place distinctively different amounts of calories were eaten. Even just that small obstacle of standing up to go and get one was most of the time enough to stop someone rather than just subconsciously eating it..”
If you have prepared a nice meal it is advisable to serve the plates of food and then if there are remains put them away in the fridge. This helps quell the urge that all food must be finished now.
Danny shared this gem of wisdom on the topic:
“Not banning yourself from food but being strategic about where you have access to them is key. Go and buy the ice cream locally – you buy one portion as opposed to having a load in the freezer.
“You don’t want to have to constantly exercise willpower but create a more controlled, strategic food environment.”
An important part of this is to become aware of the food environments in which you feel weak and developing coping mechanisms. All will be revealed…
5. How to cope with toxic friends, family and events!
Danny recommends having a frank conversation with your nearest and dearest before your journey along a new dietary path.
“In terms of dealing with peer groups and people in a relationship I think some of it comes down to just a real honest frank with that person about your journey.”
If you do not engage in such a conversation the following scenario is more likely.
“Both partners are overweight and one of them is starting to make a change there can be quite a lot of resistance from the other side after the person starts to make some progress. And again there’s probably a psychologist who could talk through this further and have a better idea of what’s going on.
“I think that some of it might be down to the fact that someone has seen their partner make a change and that they are maybe feeling guilty that they are not doing something as well.
“Or it could simply be that there is a lot of insecurity there that the partner is starting to get more confidence, they’re starting to lose weight, they’re happier, they’re looking good and then this fear that maybe they’re going to end up leaving me because I’m not going to be able to do the same”.
Another scenario Danny mentions is mates going out for beers and a carry out.
“In peer groups it’s really common where you may have a group of friends where every Friday and Saturday you go for some drinks and you go get a take away and that’s how you hang out.
“Now suddenly if you don’t want to do that stuff and don’t want to place yourself in that food environment what do you do?
“You can’t hang out in that scenario. So, now you’re pulling back from your friends. Some of those people might start to resent you, so it become quite tricky from that perspective”.
Sometimes you will just need to make concessions.
“And then some of the time it just genuinely comes down to spending less time with certain groups of friends. I’m not saying to just cut them off all together but it can’t be a situation where you know it’s going to be an environment that’s going to mean you don’t make success on what you want to do.
“You just have to limit your time in that environment”.
You don’t need to go cold turkey on these outings (excuse the pun). Maybe look to meet these mates separately in another environment e.g. coffee or a walk? Or cut back on the number of beers or go for the healthy option like a salad instead of taco fries. Often the fear here is that your pals will judge you.
Maybe just like the point about having a discussion with your partner the same is needed with close friends? If they are not empathetic and understanding to your goal is the relationship worth continuing?
In most scenarios they will be supportive and could help fuel your efforts towards a happier and healthier you.
Let’s take another potentially difficult environment,
“Then like you mention some people when they go back to their family home especially here in Ireland get different food and if they don’t want it get asked,
“What’s wrong with you? Just eat the food…
“I think in those cases some of the things we’ve found useful is not to start labelling it like “I can’t eat this food” and just saying instead
“I don’t eat these foods…”
“Then in their own mind as well it gets them to a place of oh that’s just something I don’t do rather than I’m stopping myself from eating this specific food.”
There is another ploy of managing your calories around events where you know you will eat slightly more than normal,
“I think probably the biggest thing is an awareness that it is going to happen and then maybe being able to just plan ahead.
“If you’re going to be somewhere where you know you’re probably going to have a bit more food like you’re going back home and you’re going to have a certain type of meal or you’re going to get a couple of drinks with friends, just plan ahead for that”.
If you have a big barbecue coming up this evening you could eat less calorie dense vegetables and fruits in the lead up to it. This leaves a nice calorie deficit for you to go and enjoy slightly more at this event than if you had have eaten heavier food in the lead up to it.
“You can maybe modify what you do in the days around that or on the day leading up to that time point where you’re able fit that stuff in to some degree and being able to fit it into your overall week. I think this is probably useful. An awareness that will happen and then just planning ahead might be useful.”
Thanks to Danny for sharing these top tips.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if physical exercise and diet are areas holding you back.
I work with clients to ensure they are training body, mind and soul in a fun environment. This includes tough physical workouts and accountability on the diet front.
If you’ve got a taste for what was discussed and want more, here is the full 45 minute podcast split into 2 parts: