'If you're in an exercise class that looks like a nightclub you're in the wrong room' - Nutritionist to the stars James Duigan
A nutritionist to the stars says the biggest threat to our waistlines comes from emotions, not food, writes Niamh Horan
When a woman who had just been named the "sexiest in the world" seemed down on herself in one of their regular gym sessions, nutritionist to the stars James Duigan wondered what could be the matter.
"She said, 'I have just spent 45 minutes on Instagram, and I feel revolting', he says. "I thought afterwards, 'God, what hope is there for everyone else?'"
The health guru, who counts supermodel Elle 'The Body' Macpherson among his clients, is the original Godfather of 'Clean Eating' - the man who started the phenomenon a decade ago.
Since then, he has seen it twisted into something he fails to recognise. He is in the best position to see it affect everyone from impressionable young girls to the celebrities we rely on for inspiration.
Sitting in Dublin's Merrion Hotel, he laments what has become of his original mission.
"At its heart, what I started was a wonderful philosophy," he says. "Real foods in their natural, unprocessed states. But since then, it has been hijacked by some really photogenic people on social media who have turned it into a restrictive, obsessive, dangerous thing."
He describes how he has maintained his integrity, shunning big money endorsement opportunities snapped up by other celebrity 'nutritionists' to sell packaged 'health' foods, including date balls and bars laden with sugar.
"These might be healthy sugars in the form of dates, honey or coconut palm sugar," he adds, "but it's the difference between the option of getting kicked in the face or slapped in the face. It might be a lesser evil but not very good for you."
More than the white poison, however, he says the greatest threat to our waistlines is our emotions about food: "Shame and guilt are the deep-fried doughnut of emotions," he says. "They lead us to the vicious binge-regret-diet-binge cycle where we can barely enjoy a meal. Being caught up in that leads you to become obsessed by food and frequently make wrong choices." James believes the key to cracking the secret to healthy eating is to focus on our feelings after eating as much as the food itself.
And it works. He hasn't eaten sugar in four years.
When we meet, he is in a state that would seem hell by most people trying to eat well. He is just off a long-haul flight from Australia and - thanks to a packed morning schedule - hasn't had the chance to refuel.
James can't wait until we get to a restaurant. He needs food and he needs it now. But rather than a quick sugar fix, he orders a plate of soda bread and butter.
Hardline nutritionists would baulk, but it is healthy and balanced and what he wants in the moment - and for James, that's all that matters. His entire plan rests on banishing the shame around food and healing the vicious starve-binge cycle.
But does he ever get tempted to binge? "No. It's an addiction and once I got out of the habit, I don't even think about it," he explains. "If you offered me junk now, I just think, 'I can't do it'. It turns my stomach.
"I came here seven years ago with my wife Chrissy and had the soda bread. It was amazing. I have never forgotten that. I don't feel I'm restricting myself." James rubbishes calorie-counting, hates diets and instead, in his original book Clean and Lean, he provides people with the options of "good, better and best" food categories as their guide.
He also advocates eating good carbs and loathes the idea of exercise as punishment: "If you're in an exercise class that looks like a nightclub and everyone is jumping around until someone throws up, you're in the wrong room. It's not going to do you any good.
"If we need to get someone in shape fast in three weeks, we do the opposite. We focus on the four pillars."
In his new book Blueprint for Health, he details the four pillars of health - sleep, movement, mindset and nutrition. This will keep you on track for long-term good health. In addition, he answers questions such as what to do if you crave sugar, what to have when you eat out, when healthy become unhealthy, how to know when you are over-training and how to create a routine to help sleep.
But James adds: "The industry I am in is about weight loss and it's making people fatter. That concerns me. There seems to be a lot of sick things said in the name of wellness."
Originally from Australia, now living in London's Notting Hill, James and his wife, who features as the model in his books, are walking adverts for the lifestyles they preach.
"I have been working for human beings for the last 15 years and finding what works as opposed to what will get me attention," he says. "Our mission is to change people's lives, and we know the only way to do that is by keeping it simple.
"Any change that happens in a person's body happens in their mind first. The most important thing is knowing you deserve a happy, healthy life. If you focus on your health with an all-round approach, rather than how much you weigh, the weight just drops off."
James Duigan's Blueprint for Health: The Bodyism 4 Pillars of Health is in bookshops now