Written by Christopher Kelly
Jan. 18, 2016
Christopher: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I'm joined by the host of the Sigma Nutrition Radio Podcast, Danny Lennon. Hi, Danny.
Danny: Hey, Chris. Thanks for having me on.
Christopher: Danny's podcast is fantastic. I recently have the privilege of being a guest on that podcast and I was a little bit intimidated because Danny normally has world class researchers, doctors, all kinds of incredible experts. And so if you haven't already added the Sigma Nutrition Radio Podcast to your list, I'm really sorry, I know you've got podcast anxiety with a number of podcasts you need to listen to, but this is a really good one. This is one of the ones that I always listen to first when the new ones pop up in your feed. I always listen to this one. I highly recommend it. Maybe before we go any further, I should thank you for producing that content. It's extremely useful to me.
Danny: Thanks so much, Chris. It's great to hear. And the whole idea is to give values. To hear that it has been useful is amazing and you're doing a great job yourself.
Christopher: Thank you. So why don't we start with why? I'm really interested to know why you are interested in nutrition in the first place.
Danny: Yes. So, I suppose, it's probably a combination of a couple of things for my journey. Really kind of growing up, I was majorly interested in competitive sports so I had played a lot of soccer. And when i went to university, started doing some Brazilian jiu-jitsu, MMA. And so from that aspect, had a big interest in athletic performance but also then the health aspect of it as well and trying to look at it as more of a maybe, not holistic, but kind of a health or be mindful of my health with that as well.
And so when I finished school, I went to university. I was studying biology and physics. And so during that time I was starting to learn how to access academic journals and read scientific papers. And so really as a hobby in my own time, to try and improve my own performance either in the gym or on the field, I was looking at how I could improve that. And from that kind of stumbled on some sports nutrition stuff.
But then I kind of also came across some papers to do with evolutional biology and, I think, Boyd Eaton paper in particular got me thinking maybe a lot of the stuff that we think or that we see in the mainstream isn't all that backed by scientific evidence. So I started going deeper and deeper down this nutritional rabbit hole. And long story short, that ended up being kind of my outside passion. I was just looking at the science behind all this stuff to do with nutrition as it relates to health and also performance. And so, after going and teaching science for a while end up going to do a masters in nutritional science because that's essentially, I was big into it. That's really where the passion for all kind of stemmed.
Christopher: Awesome. Where did you grow up?
Danny: So, people are probably thinking where is this weird accent from? It's probably a mix from a couple of places. I was actually born just outside London in the UK. Both my parents are Irish. So when I was about nine years old, we moved back to Ireland, so I grew up there in Ireland. It's kind of this strange mix of no one knows really where the accent is from.
Danny: And that so spent some time there and, yes, still living here in Ireland hopping around the place in Dublin and Cork and now I'm in Limerick at the moment so if anyone that knows any of those places.
Christopher: Yeah, I know, absolutely. I've never actually visited Ireland but my grandmother is Irish so that side of my family.
Danny: Very cool, yeah. As you can tell by your name, I'm sure.
Christopher: Yeah. It's really weird. My name is so strange. My grandmother's maiden name is also Kelly but my dad is from Scotland so this is, obviously, a really common name in British Isles. So tell about what you saw growing up in Ireland. I always think -- I don't really think of that being an obesity problem in either really London or especially Ireland. So what gave you this kind of hint that something might be wrong with nutrition as it start? I mean, you wouldn't be doing this if the advice that you'd heard when you were younger was perfect.
Danny: Yeah. And I think it kind of stems back to really my own, from what was certainly my life, and I think that's where it really starts for everyone. No matter how we talk about, how we learn to see the wider society and, obviously, see the big challenges there, it probably initially starts from some issue that we usually have ourselves. And I think that was certainly my case because, as I mentioned, I was playing a ton of sports and really I think my own personality type was to, if I was playing a particular sport, to get really invested in it.
So everything was geared towards training even what I was doing outside. I do my extra training myself. I was probably, I would say, on most of the team that was playing, probably one of the fittest if not the fittest on a lot of those teams. But yet doing what I was doing, I was basing it on a lot of what when I look back now, probably terrible diet, to be honest, but one that I thought was really good.
So trying to eat as little dietary fat as possible, definitely no saturated fat and lot of whole grains. So it tended to be quite a carb-heavy diet, I would say, and could be like quite something like whole wheat cereals in the morning. Then I'd have just some plain tuna with some brown bread maybe. Typical meals like that that on to someone that was just reading articles and magazines and so on, it was like I'm trying to do everything really good here, yet looking around that some of my friends and my peers who were doing like hardly any of that stuff but yet their performance wasn't hampered or their body composition wasn't as hampered.
And I found it really difficult to put on a lot of muscle mass at times and probably wasn't as lean as I should have been given the amount of training I was doing. I think that's the biggest consideration. I'm sure a lot of people listening may have found that in their own history of training that there's nothing more frustrating than putting in a lot of time and knowing how hard you're working, say, in the gym but your results or the appearance doesn't necessarily reflect that. And that was probably the first thing that set me off. And once I started fueling a few more piece of literature that were counteracting to what I was doing, I started to see maybe a lot of errors in my ways.
Christopher: Yeah, I know. I can absolutely relate to that story for sure. I went through a long period in my life where I didn't own any type of cooking oil or fat or anything. Like I had a bottle of olive oil that had been in my cabinet for about two years and I just relied solely on Teflon. And you could do anything with Teflon. And I agree, it seemed like the harder I tried the worst things got. And when you look at people that don't seem to care, they get better results especially given how much effort they're putting in. So you know that something is wrong.
And I'm wondering, so tell us about your education background. So you have a proper formal education, the type that I would expect someone in nutrition to have. Why don't you tell us about that and how useful it's been to you in your current practice and for producing the podcast?
Danny: Yes, for sure. Like I mentioned, I originally went and did my undergraduate degree in physics and biology and that was also included a higher diploma in education as well. So did that for four years and off the back of that became a science teacher here in Ireland. So I was teaching physics, biology and mathematics. I did that for a year.
Like I mentioned earlier, really I knew my main passion area was in nutrition because that was essentially what I was doing in my own time anyway. And as I started to improve my own health and performance, I started thinking that I could help a lot more people if I were to spread this information. But really wanted to kind of formalize it and with in terms of academia. And so I decided to go back to university and enrolled in a masters degree program here in University College Cork and did that and did my research in vitamin D under Professor Kevin Cashman, which is one of the world-renowned vitamin D researchers at this point.
And so that was a big kind of learning curve for me. Not in terms of just the information because I was learning a lot myself through my own reading. But it was more so the taking the critical thinking aspect to it and really learning to base my findings in evidence. But also then I think I learned the appreciation of not only seeing what I was doing as the only way but just understanding why it did work for me and why it might not work for someone else. So, I think, that was the kind of culmination of that and that was my main academic crew. And then I finished the masters, then I just decided to try and continue learning in more informal environments through seminars and conferences and mentorships and so on. A lot of those had been important for me as well.
Christopher: So the undergraduate degree in biology and physics, obviously that's all good stuff, but tell me about the masters in nutrition. Did you not encounter -- So this is something I'd been thinking about a lot recently. Maybe I should go do a master's degree in something. But anything to do with nutrition, you're just going to get the same advice that you knew was wrong probably five years ago, right? Did you encounter much of that during your masters degree?
Danny: The biggest thing I found was that for certain modules you would find that because it was quite specific. So if I were looking at some biochemistry or the metabolism or the pathway, all that stuff is still going to stand. So it's all classic carbohydrate metabolism and learning pathway, that's fine, or looking at certain vitamins and minerals. But looking more at the modules geared towards public health messages, for example, I can certainly see your point. But I think there was a lot of stuff where I was either of the -- couldn't go two ways with it.
You can either get kind of frustrated or understand that it's likely to happen. And then based how you counteract some of the information with what's most likely to work. As a practical example for people, I remember one particular module we were doing and we were encountering stuff that had been quite along the lines of the anti meat or anti red meat and anti saturated fat kind of discussion and links to different diseases.
And there's one thing you can do to kind of shut off or instead -- I think what we were missing a lot of times especially online now where we see all these vicious debates between people and just slugging each other and bashing each other's opinion. Instead I just found some research papers that have contradictory view and sent them on to the lectures that these might be worth discussing.
And when you find that you find that a lot of people in science are open to that sort of way of doing things and we ended up discussing more of these topics which I found was, obviously, great for me but also, I think, for other people to see different side of things. And so you're 100% correct that you will find certain things being talked about that are we now see in the stone age or at least what we see that.
Christopher: Nutrition stone age.
Danny: Yeah, from like the '80s and '90s and people talking about the links between this and that. We know that science has evolved since then and we need to have a better appreciation of stuff. And but it's just about then trying to not let that affect what the angle for me was which was getting my masters and trying to learn as much as I could and at least try to remain open initially to what was going on here.
Christopher: Well, that's awesome that you found presumably a professor or some educator that was open to discussing research that you'd find. I know that's not always the case. In fact, I've heard Robb Wolf interviewed a registered dietitian whose name is escaping me right now. But she talks about how she used to go home to her mom who is also a registered dietitian in tears on a regular basis just because she couldn't do it. She knew what she was being taught wasn't right.
The educators weren't really interested in any of the research that she found. Maybe I should find the interview and link to it. But Julie had a similar experience in that she just got to a point -- Julie is my wife. She has a masters degree in food science. She didn't want to go on to become a registered dietitian or a nutritionist just because she knew what she would have to practice wouldn't work and was really turned off by that.
So that's awesome that you found someone that was open to discussing some research that you found. So tell me, how is this -- Do you find the education piece is important for your own understanding? I'm just wondering what motivates you to teach other people?
Danny: Yes, certainly. I think the biggest thing that has probably influenced what I do and the way I try about putting out my work has been to look at the intersection between not on the area I'm passionate about but also my kind of given skill set and what I'm probably best at. And so for me, I've got to find that happy medium with the podcast because it allows me to bring across educational media especially at a more, I would say, intermediate to advanced level as opposed to very basic.
But because of that background in education, I feel not only through the podcast but also you will find that either towards the end of podcast or even during them, I'll try and break stuff back down, reiterate for people a lot of the education I work that I do in person. For example, seminars and conferences. I try and take in a lot of the pedagogical stuff I would have done during my education diploma and trying to use that, I think, to not only get information out but in a way that people are going to learn from it and be able to take in access.
So that's why I've thought and hopefully is one of my skills and hopefully that allows people to retain the information a bit better and learn something from it. And I think that's been very important. Not only for how I structured the show but probably also how at least we're trying to communicate the information or how I try and get people to think about things as opposed to I'm telling them this is the way it is.
I've said that a number of times in my show that it's about here's some information or an opinion from this person. Here's the context it's given in. Now, critically think about this and how it might apply to what you want to do or go look at this further and go investigate yourself. I think trying to drive that critical thinking is something that is inherent to both good science but also good education practice really.
Christopher: Yeah, absolutely. And I can tell -- You once asked great questions in the podcast and the reason I know that you ask great questions is because the person being interviewed tells you. Like I've just been listening to your calorie restriction podcast this morning. I didn't quite get through all of it.
But on every time you ask a question, the guy says, "That's a great question." And that's a really good clue that you're listening to a good educator, a good interviewer, a good podcast. But one thing I found is kind of, is selfish, in a way, and it isn't in a way. But when I'm interviewing someone who's an expert on something and you know what you're going to be talking about, that's a really strong motivation to go and learn about stuff, right?
I know you know Bryan Walsh, who has been very generous with his time to me. The last podcast that we did, I just said to Bryan, "Pick a topic that you think is interesting and I'll go do some research and then we'll do the interview afterwards." And he let me off actually. He chose something that was kind of a bit softer. We talked about social isolation and the effect that might have on our immune system and health.
He could have picked something really technical, something biochemical and I would have gone nuts trying to understand that as best I could ahead of the interview. And so that, for me, is a really strong motivator and I wonder whether you're going through the same thing or whether you just know the material already or how does that work?
Danny: Yeah. I think it certainly is -- I think the biggest thing that I try and get across kind of pre-interview is, number one, obviously, having a good understanding of where that person is coming from and their background. So in the example that you gave of Eric Ravussin, having read his published articles, at least his most recent one on calorie restriction, having a look at his academic background, what paper he's put out, the general stance that lab has been working from, and then also trying to base from that, think about what questions are popping into my own mind, what thought processes and what things are maybe contradictory to it.
And so, for example, in that episode I brought up, maybe it's at odds with sarcopenic obesity. Again, people don't need to worry about that because if they will listen to it, they won't, and get the point. But it's just trying to think about my own thought process of things I would find intriguing to know. And then it's really about -- Like my only job when I'm interviewing them is to give them a platform that can get the best information out of them, tease the best information out for people listening.
And so generally what happens with at least a number of shows that I've heard or I've seen online is that if it's the same typical questions that someone is used to answering all the time, all the answers tend to be, without even meaning to be, they tend to be like a canned answer because that person is giving it over and over again. It's just very generic. You can almost tell it in the person's voice. Whereas if you find a line of questioning that's very different to someone as before and it's actually stimulating for the person that you're talking to, you tend to get the best information that way, at least what I found.
A big part of mine is the questions, thinking of something that's not too generic and broad but is instead something that might not have been asked before, at least getting down to something specific about their work. But you're certainly right. The research that goes into it is very important aspect. I'm being familiar with what the work is because, again, especially for sure that line where it's not like I'll write out a list of questions and just ask them one by one. It's more a set number of bullet points I'd like to touch on but let the conversation go quite organically.
Christopher: Right. It's very difficult--
Danny: And in that perspective, it's more having an idea of what they're talking about before you go in and you can bounce around the idea once they start giving answers.
Christopher: Right, right. Yeah, I've done that. I did that recently with Jason Fung who I know you've also interviewed, where I started with a list of questions that are being given to me by a Facebook group. Initially, I thought that was a great idea, to let all these people have access to this expert in a way that they wouldn't normally. And it turned into a disaster. It caused me so much anxiety. There was so much overlap between the questions. When I asked one, I realized that I basically asked them all. Like he have one answer that covered all of the questions. And then I was kind of -- Yeah, that didn't work out. I doubt I'll be doing that again. But I wonder, how do you pick your guests? So are you picking guests deliberately to string together a narrative that spans multiple episodes of the podcast or how do you do it?
Danny: Yeah, that's really a good observation on your part, Chris, because as people may have seen with my podcast, there's a number of different areas related to nutrition that are very different that probably address very different groups. It tends to fluctuate between different periods of time where we might look at something very similar. So there might be a run of two or three podcasts where they're most applicable to someone who is maybe either doing a lot of resistance training, maybe they're a power lifter, maybe they're just training for body composition and they're just trying to get down to really lean levels of body fat.
Whereas then there's other areas where it's more on the clinical side of something like sarcopenic obesity. We looked at recently at caloric restriction for longevity, things that look at adrenal function, for example, with Dr. Bryan Walsh. And so it's not trying to do an episode that pleases everyone all at once. It's something that there's target, something very specific and a very specific topic that at least a number of people will enjoy. I think that tends to work out pretty well.
And it tends to kind of cluster together in two or three podcasts at a time but it's not something that I've overly pushed either. If there's some interesting topic that I myself am looking at the moment right now or in the case of the last podcast you mentioned with Eric Ravussin, having read that paper they just published last month and a lot of groundbreaking stuff in there, decided to get him on the show. But certainly there are periods of time where we go through different areas. And you can see there's kind of a lot of contrasts between a lot of them.
Christopher: Oh, yeah. There's definitely a lot of contrast. And how do you reconcile -- So, obviously, you have your own thoughts and opinions and you're an extremely modest guy. How do you reconcile it when someone you've invited onto your podcast says something which you know is probably not true and also unhelpful?
Danny: Yes. So the biggest thing for me is because -- This came up a few times on the show, is that, number one, my job isn't really to invite someone on and know that if they bring up a certain point that I don't agree with, to start almost attacking them or attacking their position.
Christopher: Right. This is not a debate.
Danny: Yeah, 100%. I think even that idea of asking someone on to your show and then start attacking their beliefs that you're then going to start publishing out to people. Rather my -- again, it goes back to thinking about critical thinking. Exposing people to opinions of people who are using this in practice. People that come on still have to be either using this in practice, maybe they're in clinical practice as a doctor, or they are involved in a certain line of research. That may conflict with what other people have said but that's fine as long as they are talking about evidence they have to back it up.
And then once I can get them to communicate that across to people, I can still raise counter points that people might have after that and allow that person to try and explain their point of view and then it's really up to kind of not only myself but also then the listeners to try and break it down what does it actually mean for me and what does this mean in the overall body of research, what this means to overall context of what I'm trying to do as opposed to me telling people this person is wrong because I believe this. And so as long as I have an ability to ask them questions about counter arguments, for example, and they can give a response that talks about some evidence, then that's fine because people are not going to agree on everything, right?
Christopher: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I've certainly had a number of guests that have said something which I thought was either confusing or flat out wrong. And that's a problem, isn't it, with science? You can't really prove anything as right. You can only prove it as wrong. And so if someone has a hypothesis and you have some information -- I've got to the point now where I've run lab tests on upwards of 400 people and spoken to probably a thousand on the phone over the last couple of years in free consultations and you're like, "No, I know that's not true." Yeah, you have to be respectful. These experts are being extremely generous with their time. So I'm wondering how does all this information that you gather from the podcast interviews, how does it translate into your practice?
Danny: Yeah. I think, for me, it's about again, still having the overarching framework that we know works, that most people aren't going to disagree on. So in terms of that -- No matter what group or approach that people talk about, pretty much everyone agrees that the majority at least of the diet is probably going to come from whole foods or real foods, whatever people want to term it as. At least the majority of the diet. No one is going to disagree on that.
No one is going to disagree that vegetable consumption is important for people. No one is going to disagree that sleep is not important. So the fundamentals won't change but the context of some of the stuff around that -- I'm very open to people presenting ideas that are different to mine or run counter to mine. And if there's evidence behind it that maybe I haven't seen before, research I'm unaware of, or something that seems to be now working in practice. Then that's up to me to be able to take that on board and be able to change that. And it's something I've done a number of times even on my blog. I've written a number of articles where I have highlighted places where I've been wrong about stuff. And that was maybe too harsh on certain things.
And that when we reevaluate this scientific literature, maybe it's not as black and white as I once put it forward. I think that's just good practice, that just being honest with people and saying my stance has changed based on this new information that I've got. And so really for me it's not trying to take on board everything someone says. It's just trying to pick a part that kind of -- one or two key messages that can learn from that person that I maybe wasn't aware of and see how that fits into my overall philosophy on nutrition, I think.
And that's one big thing I was trying to get across to a lot of people listening that it's not that they have to like remember every single piece of information that came across in an hour long interview. It's like what were the one or two big key messages or key ideas that may influence you in a big way that you can go and take forward? And it might just be one thing per episode, one big thing that makes a difference. And all the little details don't really matter. That's the way I've tried to thinking about myself. And hopefully, I can stay learning from each person I talk to.
Christopher: Yeah. I've definitely been guilty of getting caught up in the details. That's the type of stuff that I tend to ruminate over. Oh, Jason Fung said that you can use glycerol as a substrate for gluconeogenesis. And whilst technically that statement is true, there's some really good studies that show that glycerol doesn't make a meaningful contribution to gluconeogenesis and it's not going to prevent the loss of muscle mass during fasting.
And really, I don't think that that detail is particularly important to anyone but it's the sort of thing that I get caught up in. You're absolutely right. The things that we know are really important are a whole foods based diet and getting adequate sleep and appropriately managing stress and not over training and maybe there are one or two supplements that might be helpful. Yeah, that's definitely not the same level of detail as the glycerol contribution to gluconeogenesis.
Danny: No, I totally get it because I'm the exact same -- There's nothing wrong with that per se because I'd be the same. I want to know all the little details of the science and pathways we're discussing. Most of the discussions that I get online that I really enjoy and learning new stuff about is about those small details around biochemistry and human metabolism. But still from a coaching perspective isn't going to change too much what I'm doing right now because they're not the little details that are make or break for someone you're trying to help lose a bit of weight, for example, or to feel a bit better if they're doing those basics wrong.
Now, if they're doing all the basics right and there's something going on, underlying at the metabolic level then sure. But if someone is only sleeping five hours a night, I don't need to know a ton of other stuff before I start implementing change with that person or getting them to make certain changes, right? So all that stuff is still really important to know. But I think the big difference I found especially for anyone putting out information or trying to educate other people is that there's a big trap that we can fall into that I used to fall into as well.
When you get more and more knowledge, you start to learn more and more stuff, it's trying to dump all this stuff on to someone. And trying to give all this information and kind of the show, look, here's everything that we know and if you did all this, this would be great and you'd be super healthy. Whereas that's just going to overwhelm someone. It's not really necessary. But it still means that there's -- It doesn't mean there's not value to knowing that stuff because it's just the right context, the right time to use it.
Christopher: Okay. Yeah, let's talk a bit about how you work with people one on one. So I know each person is individual and so this makes this an impossible question but maybe I should just come up with a fictitious example. Let's just say I'm a runner and I like doing half marathons and I probably do too many of them like I do -- and I don't know what's too many for an average person but I probably do too many, so I'm slightly over trained.
I'm finding that I just can't shift that last little bit of belly fat. Just I notice when I put on my cycling shorts, there's a kind of little roll of fat there. My sleep kind of sucks and my sex drive is weak. So how do you -- I'm just following at the moment, we call them, the standard American diet here. I suppose you wouldn't call that. The same sort of carbohydrate heavy diet that we talked about earlier. Where do you start with a person like that?
Danny: Yes. So like you mentioned, there's a number of different things we could look at depending on our context. But the initial starting point is to try and look at the big picture stuff that they're doing. And what is the one or two first few changes that are likely to have a massive difference? And a good example here is that -- I know we've talked before about, say, blood testing, getting blood panels done for people which can be super, super helpful. But in a lot of cases, at least initially starting out for someone especially if they maybe have cost restrictions on stuff or financial restrictions.
There's no real need a lot of the time to initially jump to getting a full extensive panel of every single test that person get done if they report to me that, for example, like you said that person getting like five hours of sleep at night, right? I don't need a blood test to go and tell me that that person is probably going to have maybe some low testosterone. He might not but, say, if we do get this, all this testing comes back and we get this result that says, okay, this guy has a low testosterone level or it's in the low end of the normal range. Then what change are we going to make to try and address that?
Well, the first thing is we're going to have to address his sleep and address the basics around his diet. So the test hasn't informed anything that I've done because even if I didn't get that test, if you report that you're sleeping five hours a night and feeling crappy, they're the things we're going to address anyway first. And then, I think, getting those kind of key fundamentals in place and working on one habit a time, again, depending on the person and how much they can take on and their type of personality.
Getting kind of those key fundamentals down as a consistent habit. And then if their health isn't changing, then we know there could be something probably up here, let's get some testing done here, let's see what's going on under the hood, so to speak. So, I mean, really the first call for me is like, number one, is to address looking at someone's sleep, where in the diet could they see a big upside? So again, depends on the -- if we're talking about just a general person who is looking to maybe make a few tweaks to their diet instead of overhauling the whole thing, well, maybe that person who is having two slices of toast and jam in the morning and just switching them from that to a high protein breakfast is -- and we don't make any other change -- can start that process of seeing them to feel better.
And then we can start adding stuff more down the road. But one good thing that, I think, a way to phrase this is I was recently talking to a coach based in the UK, Phil Learny. Phil talked about one of the biggest issues with what a lot of coaches are doing and why people may end up not only like regaining the weight that they lose or just not being able to achieve the results or regressing is that people think of having to make change all the time and making massive overhauls to what someone maybe doing.
Whereas, a better way to phrase it is, well, what modifications can we make? And what modification will give a net win? So, example that I just gave there, we don't overhaul someone's whole diet even though he's probably doing some stuff that probably isn't great. Just that small modification of going more protein and less carbohydrate in their breakfast for that person might be getting them down that road and they're starting to progress. And the instead of it being in overhaul of the whole diet is now a modification that we can work on, start modifying something else. And I think that's a better way to look at it as opposed to making complete and utter change very drastically. Obviously, that's needed in certain circumstances but for the vast majority of people it's probably not necessary.
Christopher: Yeah, I know. I agree with you completely especially about the testing part. It doesn't happen very often. Most of the people that come to me and book a free consultation, they've already done most of the obvious things. They know about the sleep. They know about -- And so they're looking for that last 5% or 10% that they know that they're still lacking. And then sometimes when they go ahead and fix the problems they find in the lab work, retrospectively or with hindsight they realize there were some problems they were unaware of at the start. No, absolutely. If someone comes to me and they're still eating standard American diet, still getting six hours of sleep, there's almost no point in them doing the test because I'm going to tell them the same thing.
Christopher: Regardless of whether they do the test or not. So, yeah, that's a really good point. But there's one thing which I have seen on a few occasions, which is worth mentioning, and that some people, they kind of they are and they aren't ready to make some change. They were ready to make some change in so much that they contacted me at all. But they weren't really willing to do too much about anything until they saw a test result, until they saw their fasting blood glucose, until they saw their fasting insulin, until they saw their triglycerides, or something like that. At that point, they're like, they kind of have a bit of a fire lit under them and that could be a powerful tool to motivate someone to make some profound change.
Danny: Yeah, 100% agree. I think for any unusual kind of coaching process, one of the first key steps is always to looking at getting that buy in from someone or that emotional investment in the whole process. So, for some people, they respond super well, like you said, to seeing some clear data.
Someone that's very analytically driven that has something measurable that they now can see there's something wrong, that can be a massive driver for someone. And I think even if you look at a lot of the research in the area of how, not only change in metabolic parameters but think weight loss in general, something that kicked off the initial reason why someone ended up being successful down that route, I think compared to even changing body composition or for how they felt, I think medical diagnosis by a doctor was the main one that seems to be given the most level of success.
So, obviously, this whole idea of someone getting some results the doctor, okay, if you don't change your health, you're in trouble here. And so, I think, certainly seeing the whole health aspect gives someone that leverage on themselves. So even in cases where they don't have test results or even if they do and everything seems fine but they just want to make change for body composition reasons, there's still that need for someone to get true leverage on why they want to make a change. A lot of times it probably comes down to digging under the first layer goal or at least what they think is the first layer goal.
For example, a lot of people will say that they just want to lose some body fat. And that's true. They want to do that. But there's probably a number of underlying reasons of what's driving that. So they want to look better. Okay, that's one reason. But under that again is probably for more self-confidence so they can go in a certain social situation and maybe they don't want to be feel, have low self-esteem in a certain scenario, or whatever it is that's affecting them in their life at that point. And once they dig down into that leverage that can be really useful. But I certainly think, like you said there, that having some sort of data or numbers can certainly be a massive spurring on for a number of people.
Christopher: Yeah, for sure. And then how do you work with someone? Did you have like a series of consultations where you make timely changes? So you alluded to that already. Or do you just do one big consultation and you just give the person all the information at the same time and maybe tell them not to worry too much about changing everything at once, you can just drip feed this in, but know about this stuff? I'm just wondering, because I feel like you can overwhelm someone by giving them too much information at once.
Danny: 100%, yeah. And so, in general, it's been more of a block of time that we have to spend together. So I no longer will take someone that wants to just come and do just a one-off consultation and then get some information and be gone. Not only because it's not worth it but just for a lot of people it's just not going to be successful. What they don't have are the follow-up or the ability to ask another question or some sort of accountability, like all the things we always hear about coaching.
For another perspective, like you just mentioned there, Chris, is that they get this big chunk of information and then almost don't know what to do it. And they're back to square one in that they have this whole information overload and they have too much to think through then. And that's what ends up happening a lot of times. People are just second guessing themselves. So the way I work is more a set coaching block. It usually starts with a block of 12 weeks, hopefully, with then an ongoing period after that.
But if I get someone at least to go in for 12 weeks block of coaching, that means we can identify from the start how fast they need to move or how slow, and then make changes according to how easy it's going to be to fit in with that person and their personality. So again, it completely depends on the person because if I have -- I work with a number of boxers and MMA fighters, for example. Now, if they have to fight in six or seven weeks time, there's no point in me saying to them let's make one small little change each week if they have a specific goal for performance in six weeks. They have to just get down to what they need to do and get it done.
Whereas for the vast majority of people, again, the better, I think, more sustainable practice is trying to cultivate those habits in the long term and to try and bring them in gradually and again go back to modification as opposed to complete change initially.
Christopher: Yeah. Well, maybe this is where I'd been going wrong because nobody really taught me how to do this coaching thing. It's all self-taught. Up until now, I'd been doing more of a kind of the one-time consultations. Someone comes to me and they run some lab tests and we find some problems and I show them what they need to do to fix those and I create like a document in Google Docs and it's somewhat overwhelming even to me to look at now how many things are listed on here.
I mean, the document is obviously sequential but maybe that order of things listed in that document is not the order in which the person should start making those changes. So there's another kind of way in which someone might fail. I do get great results. It never happens that someone doesn't feel better at all after working with me.
I realize that I'm probably creating a lot of work for myself following up. So I have a registered nurse that works with me and that's what we do our whole life, is just to follow up, like chase people via email, "Did you do this? Did you do the other?" Maybe I should do what you've just described, which is when someone comes to me in the beginning, say, okay, 7:00 a.m. on Friday morning, that slot, I'm going to talk to you every week for 12 weeks, and that would just save -- I think it would increase the success rate and I think it would decrease the amount of work I have to do following up.
Danny: Yeah. And, I think, there are, obviously, circumstances where both can work. And, I think, again it comes back to -- I mentioned already with the client specific personality and what level of progression they're at. So like you mentioned earlier, there's a number of people that are coming to you that are probably at a more intermediate to advanced level of understanding of those basics, that they've exhausted all the usual things we've done. They've probably read numbers of blogs and read books. They've already looked into this whole area of blood testing and getting advanced testing done and then they've committed to go and do that.
So they're maybe someone that's in the position to take on that at least in a more one off scenario. But that said, there's probably still lot of value to outlining it to a period of time and having a block of time together. If nothing else, just to kind of build that rapport and that accountability, I think, can really well. And just to make sure that people are -- I think even more, the problem is if people do have a good bit of knowledge, they can almost second guess what they're going to do and trying to do everything at once.
And it's all the reason why every coach really has a coach. I said this to people a number of times that, for me, for example, if I was getting a training program for the gym, if I wrote something down myself, it may or may not be that good. It may be very good but I'll end up second guessing if it's the best it could be or is it working or how should I assess this or should I add more volume, et cetera, et cetera? Whereas just having someone objective to say just go and do this, here's the next step, go and do it. It's very assuring and frees up a lot of mental energy, I think.
Christopher: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I know. For me, personally, I love that. I love having -- I'm actually not paying for it at the moment because I can't afford it. Yeah, even someone that's not into the lab testing and so much into the diet and lifestyle coaching, just somebody to create me a training plan that I can put in TrainingPeaks and just follow, I love all that. I love ticking boxes. Even though I know it's probably stupid, I still really love having it and would pay for it if I had enough money. It's interesting. Yeah, I need to think carefully about that then. I've seen it work.
I have one from the UK who wasn't really a client in so much he wasn't paying for me but he did do a bunch of my tests and it was clear that he wasn't making the progress that I would like. And I was like, "Okay, Rob, right. Every morning, every Friday morning, we're going to talk." And that was when the real change started to go. He was like, "Oh, I didn't realize that that's what he said last week. Okay. I thought you meant this." So I'd been -- So there's only five days worth of damage there rather than two months worth. It just stretches out forever otherwise.
Danny: 100% yeah. Completely agree.
Christopher: Well, this has been fantastic. Is there anything else that you want people to know about? I always think that the podcast -- You give a lot of information and sometimes I think you're lacking the call to action. I've had that criticism put on me a number of times. So I went back and I talked to some old friends from home that had -- The only reason they were listening to my podcast was because they knew me. That was the only reason. And they're like, "You give all this information and it's really interesting information but at the end of it I'm not sure I know what to do with it." So how do you call people to action?
Danny: Yeah. That's probably one of the things that I don't push as much as I probably could or should. You're completely right. But for people that do want to find out more, it's just this website, sigmanutrition.com, and if you would like to go over there and pop in your email address, there'll be number of places, you can sign up to the newsletter. Again, it's not too frequent so you don't have to worry about loads of emails. And, hopefully, some good content in there.
If you listen to podcast regularly, just subscribe to show on whatever you use. And that's pretty much it for the moment. Just try and follow along with the content, sign up to email list and that's what I'm all about at the moment, trying to get as much content out as possible to people. And if they find it useful, just share it around in social media.
Christopher: Yeah, sounds good. Actually, one of the downsides of not scripting an interview is you realize at the last minute there's something I wanted to ask you about. That's your writing. The website is really good.
I just read a blog post of yours this morning that you shared on Facebook. Maybe I should link to that. It's kind of like your outline of things that we know for sure works. It's that basic diet, rest, exercise stuff. And in not very many words, probably only 600, to 800 words, that was a really excellent article. And it's something that I've really struggled with personally. I'm not a very good writer. So I'm just wondering, do you have a passion for writing or is that something that comes easily to you or is that something that's been harder?
Danny: No, no. Writing is definitely one of the hard tasks I find. And as people would see that when they go to the site, the number of articles is very infrequent compared to the podcast which is like every week. It's just something that, I think, probably because, number one, my writing style, if you find most of my articles tend to be quite long and lengthy, like 200 words or more with references in there, maybe too much of a bit of a perfectionist on a lot of the stuff as well.
So trying to -- I end up with these articles where I'm trying to put as much in that, takes care of all the caveats in different areas or context and it ends up to -- That's just the way I prefer to write. I prefer to do a complete piece maybe as opposed to a number of smaller pieces. It's interesting that you mentioned that one that I put up today because the whole reason that came about was some people who had read the article and listening to the podcast, they actually were running a gym here in Ireland, and they wanted a short post that they could maybe put out on their website to help their clients.
And so, honestly, I wasn't going to send them one of the big 2,000, 3,000 word posts so I end up thinking, well, how can I condense this down to something that's actionable, that takes care of the fundamentals I need to consider and that's going to be really useful but it's nice and short. And so I ended up with something the post that you alluded to. And that went down really well. So I ended up kind of rejigging it a bit and putting out my own site, and that's essentially what it is, just kind of some of the key fundamentals that people need to think about if fat loss is their goal.
Because like we mentioned earlier, there's a lot of talk about the small details. And, I think, it's great to know that especially the more advanced someone becomes. But for someone just starting out, if all their focus and attention is on small details like supplements, for example -- what fat burner should I use? Or what specific times of the day do I need to eat? Like there are little details that may have some influence but are largely going to be very small percentage wise. And the kind of big fundamentals that need to get right first is, well, do you know overall what your energy balance looks like?
If you are consuming too many calories, then how can we get that down? Maybe we need to focus on higher satiety foods, get more fiber and get more protein. And that was the thing I was trying to allude to in that post. So that's how it came about because -- Going back to your original question, writing is one of the things I find a bit more difficult to get out on a regular basis just because I think I tend to just put a lot of stuff in, but it's not something that I think I can just jot something down quickly and be happy to publish maybe.
Christopher: Yeah, I should link to this. It's the Ridiculously Simple Guide to Sustainable Fat Loss. That's the article. I can remember the name of the title even though it is a great title. That says something more about my memory than anything else. But just before we go, tell us about the Sigma Nutrition Conference. Because although not many people listening to this will be in Ireland, Dublin is obviously a huge tourist destination, you'll never know. Maybe someone would want to go and visit and attend your conference at the same time.
Danny: Yeah, for sure. There's no exact date yet being set. It will probably be most likely next February, so February 2016. This was based off the back of a recent seminar that I run in Dublin about three, four months ago, another stage, I think. It's set in University College Dublin, trying to get that kind of academic feel to it. It was a two full day weekend with basically trying to go through in as much detail as was going to be useful. A lot of the main topics that are out there on nutrition right now. And trying to present a lot of the data that we have and why it's kind of fair to conclude on each of these.
And so that went down really, really well. So that was predominantly, maybe like 80% plus of the attendees that they fitness professionals or nutritionists themselves. And so that went down really well. So now the plan is to for the conference next February to build on that, to make it bigger and better than it was. And so there's a few extra details that haven't been announced yet that will hopefully be announced to the email list soon about that conference. But for people listening, it's going to be roughly in February 2016 in Dublin.
There may be one happening in the UK. I've had a number of people asking me about that. So currently looking at a couple of venues. One in London and maybe one up further north as well. That may be happening as well. But right now, there will definitely be one in Dublin in February 2016. If people are interested hearing about that, when you go through the website, you will see a box where you can just click and put your email address in and you will be notified first when details of that are announced.
Christopher: Awesome. Well, this has been fantastic. I love what you're doing. Thank you so much for giving me your time, Danny. I really appreciate it.
Danny: No problem at all. It's absolutely a pleasure, Chris. I'm honored to be on and thank you so much for having me on.
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