“We were designed to be active and use our bodies and there’s something out there for you that you’ll enjoy and excel at. Just don’t give up.”
Last week we were lucky enough to catch up with Dani Short and talk about Paleo living, her successful Primal companies, and her journey from clinically obese and unhealthy to competing in National Powerlifting competitions! Dani Short is a nutritional consultant living and working in Oxford, UK. She was introduced to Primal in 2012 and successfully lost five stone alongside many other health and lifestyle benefits. She is now committed to helping people transform their lives through Primal living and runs two successful companies:MyPrimate (a Primal events company) and The ProNutrition Centre (a clean café and whole foods store) in order to do so.
Firstly, Dani, thank you so much for joining us for this interview. Please could you explain how things were prior to living a Primal-Paleo lifestyle and how you first heard about Paleo?
Thanks for having me! I love what you’re doing and have been so inspired by your personal journey.
To cut a long story short I found Primal through my personal trainer. I was clinically obese, unfit and unhealthy when I started training with James (co-director at The Athlete Centre, Oxford). My goal was to lose five stone and I lost half through calorie restriction but I was miserable and ultimately knew I would struggle to keep the weight off. James suggested I give Primal a try and despite my initial reservations I decided to give it a fair go. Needless to say, I never looked back and have been Primal for over two years.
For new readers unfamiliar with what Primal is and how it differs to a Paleo diet could you please explain?
The one glaring difference between Primal and Paleo is that Primal allows for high fat non-processed dairy whilst Paleo, besides the odd slab of grass-fed butter, does not. Although most people who are Primal are a little Paleo and vice-versa. I don’t think there’s a clearly distinguished line – it’s more about finding what works for you.
What changes have you experienced as a result of Primal?
Aside from effortlessly helping me to lose the rest of the weight, my skin cleared up, sleep improved and my energy levels, which I had always struggled with, became constantly regulated. I feel like an entirely different person. I’ve also developed a healthy relationship with food, which is something that anyone who has had weight issues will appreciate isn’t easy to do.
Did you have trouble sleeping pre-Primal or is it more a case you looked into regulating sleep after fine-tuning the diet and fitness aspects of your life?
I used to really struggle to get to sleep even if I’d had a busy and active day. As Primal regulates your hormones a lot of people experience improved sleep patterns and quality. I fall asleep much more readily and wake up feeling rested.
Do you still set an alarm or have you managed to regulate your circadian rhythm meaning an alarm clock is rarely necessary?
I still set an alarm, more out of habit than anything else. But I usually wake up just before it goes off.
Tell us about your training as a nutritionist. Is this something your Paleo lifestyle prompted or was this always your intention? Which qualifications are you currently studying and what were your reasons for choosing this course?
I’m studying for my Level 4 Nutrition qualifications, which mean I’ll be a fully qualified nutritionist within the year. It wasn’t originally my intention to train as a nutritionist but the more I learned about Primal the more my interest developed and I was keen to understand it on a deeper level. I didn’t want to just rely on my personal experience but to be able to understand and explain in a scientific way which diet and lifestyles are superior and why.
Has taking a traditional nutrition course complemented or conflicted the knowledge you have with regards to Paleo nutrition? We were speaking with Darryl Edwards about this recently and think it’s an interesting topic worth exploring.
I did seriously consider this point when applying for the course. What would be the point of having to learn about things that I didn’t agree with? However, the majority of the course focuses on the factual biological processes and treatments which are ultimately necessary for me to learn. I also think that it’s important to understand all of the relevant approaches. I always try to be open minded and never want to stop learning even if it doesn’t necessarily agree with my current thinking.
So far have there been any issues or studies on the course that have challenged your current thinking or made you reassess your own beliefs?
I can happily say not! It’s kind of like a Maths equation – I agree with the workings out but sometimes think they’ve got the wrong final answer. The course has only served to reaffirm my decision to live Primal. At the same time, I’m comforted that I’ve researched all angles and can advise my clients not just from a background of personal experience but tailored learning.
You’re running a website and service, MyPrimate. Please tell us how this started and the services you offer.
Everything sort of came together in a strange and wonderful way. I was working as an Editor but spending my days dreaming about Primal recipes and training when Will (co-director at The Athlete Centre) asked if I would help organise and run a 21 Day Primal Challenge. This led to setting up a lifestyle website and blog which I really enjoyed doing. Pretty soon it became obvious that this was what I was supposed to be doing so I took the leap and started my own business – MyPrimate. We specialise in Primal events catering and nutrition consultations and I also run a gym café and wholefoods store called the ProNutrition Centre that only serves healthy, clean and delicious food.
How did the 21 Day Primal Challenge go?
It went very well. Not only did every participant lose weight and experience notable health benefits but they all decided to carry on with Primal eating afterwards. I was really proud of that. We’ve run a few since and experienced similar results and I always pick up new recipes and tips with each round. They’re a really central feature of MyPrimate’s services that anyone can benefit from whether they’ve never tried Primal before or are hardcore veterans.
Any favourite recipes and staple meals you want to share with us?
Too many! You’ll just have to check out MyPrimate. We’re always adding new recipes and blogs to keep it interesting.
How about food pairings you have discovered that you didn’t think would work together but did?
I love this question as Will (otherwise known as Wok Boi) is a really creative cook and it’s made me more willing to give things a try. One of my favourite things is balsamic vinegar on brussel sprouts and I also love cinnamon in chilli or anything really it’s an unbelievably versatile spice.
Alongside the nutrition component you also take your fitness very seriously. What does a typical week of exercise look like for you?
It really depends on where I am in the season but I compete as a Powerlifter so I always squat, bench and deadlift once a week. I also love Crossfit so squeeze in a few Olympic lifting sessions and workouts as well. Typically, I train 5–6 times a week for about an hour.
Do you have any powerlifting meets coming up?
In February I have the National Powerlifting Finals which I qualified for this year. I’m really hoping to do well and qualify for the European and World Finals.
That’s amazing news, Dani. Do keep in touch and let us know how you get on. We’ll be rooting for you.
Thank you! I’m already pretty excited for it.
There are no doubt some people reading this who don’t find exercise very fun and soon become demotivated, how do you ensure fitness is fun and what do you recommend to those people who are unmotivated?
If you don’t find exercise fun – it’s not your fault! But you can do something about it. I honestly believe there’s a way of exercising or more importantly staying active that will suit you. You just have to go out there and find it. I hated going to the gym and sitting on an exercise machine, hated aerobics classes full of spandexed wonder-mums and pretty much everything in between. But when I found lifting (and Crossfit) it immediately stopped becoming a chore. I look forward to it even when I’m tired and make time for it even when I’m busy. We were designed to be active and use our bodies and there’s something out there for you that you’ll enjoy and excel at. Just don’t give up.
Wise words, Dani. What fitness ambitions and aspirations do you have for the future?
I love Powerlifting and want to see how far I can go with that. But I really enjoy Crossfit and taking part in team competitions especially. I think Crossfit represents a more comprehensive approach to health and fitness. I have the goal of being able to complete all of the movements standards as prescribed and would like to carry on taking part in regional and national competitions. In general, I just want to be fit, healthy and injury free.
Do you see yourself looking into working as a Crossfit Personal Trainer in years to come or are you hoping to solely concentrate on Nutrition?
I love teaching and coaching so I’d never rule it out. At the moment I’m very happy concentrating on training as a Nutritionist and running MyPrimate which are keeping me busy enough.
Who do you think are the most underrated professionals in the Paleo world and why should our readers check them out?
I guess in a way it depends on what you class as a professional. For me, it’s going to be those dedicated people who have taken a big risk starting up a Paleo or Primal company to try and help people. Especially in countries like Britain where it’s not got a lot of support yet. So people like Suzie from The Primal Kitchen or Mark and the guys from The Naked Ape. Part of what I like about Primal is the local aspect and I would encourage readers to check out what’s going on locally and support it as much as possible.
Where can our readers find out more information about you and the services you offer and what’s the best way to connect with you?