After the success of the first ‘Person of Interest‘ last week, I’ve another corker lined up today. Again, the idea behind this series is to give an insight into the life and thinking of a person I admire, someone who’s doing their own thing and on the cusp of something big.
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I heard a quote recently that my generation is starting to rail against the unhealthiness of body and mind brought on by smartphone/technology addiction and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Anecdotally, it’s definitely the case.
In the past 12-18 months even, I’ve noticed a lot of my friends and colleagues becoming more nutritioun, mindfulness and exercise aware. The ‘fit not skinny’ mantra, growth of the paleo diet, growth in sports like cycling and running and at the same time of food blogs and Instagram are all a part of this positive trend.
And one of the shining beacons of this newly credible, modern and, whisper it, sexy healthy emphasis is Daniel Davey. A nutrition writer and performance nutritionist working with elite teams like Dublin and Leinster Rugby, Daniel has played senior inter-county football with Sligo and London, writes for the Independent and still manages to maintain a growing food blog in ‘FoodFlicker’.
Like most creative Irish people making a name for themselves, he performs many interesting roles across many different organisations, spreading his knowledge and growing his personalbrand through sheer hard work, creativity and a passion for what he does.
With an accumulated 16,000 Twitter and Facebook followers, FoodFlicker seems to be growing from a side-project for Davey and his colleague Brendan Egan (another renowned sports nutritionist) into a fully fledged website, a portal for their recipes, thoughts and, of course, tasty dish shots!
According to Davey, the brand has a very clear, simple focus: “We aim to help people make better food choices on a daily basis in a fun, engaging and educational manner. The central focus is education and inspiration. It is not a paleo blog or does not aim to be labelled as any specific type of diet, the focus is on helping people to eat more whole natural foods and avoid processed foods”.
As a sports nut and a keen reader of food blogs, I’ve been following Daniel’s work for a long time. And it seems the internet is one of the key changes that’s facilitating this trend towards a healthier lifestyle. “I think the internet has had a major influence on the healthy eating movement. People have more access to information about nutrition and meal ideas which has stimulated a lot of interest in eating healthy, which is great. On the down side, the concern would be the accuracy of some of the information on these sites, there are a lot of mixed messages which can create a great deal of confusion for the public. Nutrition should not be over complicated and should always be made as simple as possible for people to understand and implement.”
It strikes me that, almost without tacitly reailising it, many intelligent, creative or entrepreneurial people build their own personal brand simple by being consistently excellent with their output, and Davey and Egan have the formula right. The FoodFlicker Twitter account posts simple, tasty and easy to create dishes on a regular basis.
Of course, having friends in pro rugby re-tweeting you doesn’t help either! So what of the sporting aspect of his career?
With professional teams now looking to any means to get an edge, including technology, statistics and mental health, Davey’s role with Leinster is similarly focused on clarity and simplicity, yet incredibly important to team welfare. “With Leinster, I look to establish nutrition best practice to help the players achieve peak performance in training and games. Day to day I meet with players to provide them feedback on their diet and help them make the right food choices to achieve their individual goals and targets.”
People tend to forget that rugby is only professional for less than two decades. Previously, the default was pints, fags and spuds, certainly post game and often pre. So with such a testosterone fuelled environment, is it difficult to get the nutrition message across to guys like Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and Rob Kearney? Not according to Davey.
“The players are excellent for making the right decisions about their diet and committing to their various nutrition protocols. Their nutrition strategy and focus changes depending on the stage of the season, or if a player gets injured or sick. Because of this I need to constantly support and engage the players to adjust their food choices around these factors. Vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, water, herbal teas and coffee are what they predominately eat and drink. Breakfast would usually be based around eggs, avocado or porridge, snacks would be based around fruit, (they love smoothies) lunch would be a meat salad and dinner would consist of meat or fish and lots of vegetables.”
With rugby fast becoming a game that’s dominated by behemoths in every position (on the last Lions tour, both starting wingers weighed over 16 stone and stood over 6’3), the issue of supplements is starting to become more contentious.
Particularly in youth rugby, there’s been consternation about the legality, safety and health benefits of constant usage of some supplements. For Davey, one of the few voices in the rugby space who can credibly comment on the trend, his thinking is crystal clear.
“Most people do not require supplements and should concentrate on making better daily food choices. Sports specific supplements can play a role as part of larger nutrition strategy for elite athletes or those who train to a volume and intensity that can justify them. However, even at the highest level in sport supplements are still only one part of an over all nutrition plan, whole natural foods are and always will be the central focus for any athlete. Supplements are convenient and can be useful if used appropriately, but require guidance and education on selection, protocols and implementation.”
Working in advertising, it’s unfortunately often that I encounter people who are quite obviously fake and feigning passion or interest in a subject matter to get by. Davey is on the polar opposite of this spectrum. When probed on his plans for the brand, it’s striking that it’s words like philosophy, education and helpfulness that are brought up, rather than monetisation or advertising. For Egan and Davey, there’s a higher goal as to why they’re working in this space.
“Hopefully we can make the science of nutrition for health and performance as understandable as possible by predominantly using meal ideas and recipes examples as our educational focal point. We want to be practical about our guidance and make the experience of consistently making the right food choice highly enjoyable. There are now thousands of food and nutrition blogs on the web, we would like to think that we can distinguish FoodFlicker from other sites based on our background in nutrition, inspiring content and our focus on practical and simple guidance.”
So where to next, and what’s the vision?
“The FoodFlicker website will hopefully go live in a matter of weeks, we are aiming for the beginning of November. It will make it a lot easier to clearly define and explain the FoodFlicker philosophy on nutrition and food selection. So far our presence is only on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram which only gives a very small insight to what FoodFlicker is about. The aim is to become a leader in nutrition education for the general public and athletes through engaging content, photos, video and informative articles.”
If we’re to continue on this nationwide health kick, and to educate people (myself included) about easy, tasty nutrition, it’s guys like Daniel who’ll be leading the charge. Watch out for FoodFlicker, and if Leinster don’t win the league this season, it won’t be down to their diet plans!