Today I’m excited to feature yet another healthy lifestyle rockstar on Pumps & Iron: Danielle Prestejohn. Danielle is an Emotional Eating and Weight Loss Specialist who runs a nutrition coaching service that helps life-long dieters end that obsession with food and learn to love the way they look and feel.
I love Danielle’s approach to nutrition and living a healthy life, because as someone who had a terribly unhealthy body image in college, I understand just how truly important it is to take off the pressure to be perfect, establish a healthy relationship with food, and show yourself the love you deserve. I know you’ll enjoy reading Danielle’s answers as much as I enjoyed picking her brain!
Grilled Coconut Shrimp Skewers recipe HERE
Q: To start, tell me a little about yourself. Emotional Eating and Weight Loss Specialist, fellow Boston-area resident—what else makes you tick?
Danielle: I’m actually a huge fitness fan too. I was a dancer for a really long time, and have my Bachelor’s degree in Dance. I also teach group fitness and have my NASM personal training certification. I got into CrossFit about three years ago and have been doing it off and on ever since. I really love it. Lately I love Pure Barre classes too, and am on the search for a good hip-hop class in the Boston area to take. I also love the warm weather and always say if I wasn’t so close to my family, I’d move to California in a heartbeat.
Q: For those who aren’t familiar with it, what is emotional eating?
Danielle: Emotional eating is eating out of any reason other than hunger. It is eating because we are stressed, tired, lonely, anxious, etc. It may also be happening because of poor body image, lack of self-confidence, or low self-esteem. We don’t want to feel our feelings so we turn to food instead to either create the feelings we desire or block the feelings we dislike.
Q: Aside from your education/training in emotional eating and weight loss, what has your personal experience in the area been like? Have you ever struggled with these?
Danielle: Totally. My personal experience was actually the reason I got into this field. I struggled with my weight since childhood and was always the “chubby” one of my family. I started dieting at a really young age and dieted on and off up through high school. In high school something clicked; but what started as a healthy 30-pound weight loss, ended up being a very unhealthy, very restrictive 50-60 pound weight loss.
For the next couple years, I engaged in very unhealthy and obsessive behaviors to keep my weight down. Then suddenly my junior year of college, what I then perceived as my “willpower” seemed to break. Suddenly I couldn’t make it four or five days without fighting off a binge. My very unhealthy weight slowly started to creep up.
I didn’t understand why I suddenly had this problem with food. Why couldn’t I stay on a diet anymore? I tried diet after diet, hoping that one would finally work. It wasn’t until I really started to address the reasons why I couldn’t “control” myself around food that things started to click for me. Once I started working on improving my body image, addressing my anxiety and fear of gaining weight, I started to feel normal around food again.
Q: You’ve helped a lot of women overcome emotional eating and weight loss issues. Of course every person’s situation is different, but what are the one or two most important keys to success?
Danielle: This is such a hard question, because you are right, every person’s situation is so different. In general though, I do see so many women who really struggle with poor body image and that is the reason they either eat emotionally or feel like they need to lose weight. I also think that the key to overcoming this struggle is to address the underlying issues that are causing the struggle with food or weight. It usually has nothing to do with food at all.
Q: Poor body image is a struggle for a lot of people. There’s no quick fix, but what’s one thing everyone could do today to feel better about themselves (or to at least start moving in the right direction)?
Danielle: I think it’s really important to treat yourself now as you would if you were X amount of pounds thinner. To some this might mean dating, or dressing up for work, or going shopping. Whatever it is, I think when we actually treat ourselves with love and care now; we begin to feel better about whom we are. I also find that focusing on personality traits we like about ourselves can make a big difference. We want to take the focus away from how we look to who we are as a person.
Q: Describe your current eating habits—do you implement any restrictions (gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.); do you prefer several small meals to three larger ones; more of an everything-in-moderation type?
Danielle: I actually have Celiac disease so I have to stay gluten-free no matter what. I try to keep my meats, fruits and vegetables organic when possible, too. Since really normalizing my relationship with food, I have become much more of an everything-in-moderation type person. The second I label anything off-limits, I want it ten times more. I’m definitely more of a snacker than a three square meals type person. Not for health reasons, but simply out of personal preference.
Q: You post a ton of delicious (and healthy!) recipes on your website. What are a couple of your favorites?
Danielle: I love soups and chili in the fall and this Paleo Turkey Chili is a favorite of mine. I also make this vegetable soup all the time. Lastly, I have a huge sweet tooth and love having these raw chocolate macaroons in my refrigerator for when it acts up. They’re super easy to make.
Q: If we were to open your refrigerator right now, what would we see?
Danielle: Eggs, almond milk, apples, turkey, some sort of meat and veggie meal prepped ahead, Udi’s millet chia bread, almond butter, baby spinach, carrots, and baked sweet potatoes for my puppy, Sophie.
Q: It’s your job to know a lot about food—as a nutrition specialist, what’s one food you wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole? What makes it so bad?
Danielle: Hmm…I try not to label any food as good or bad, but I would never eat a McDonald’s chicken nugget. I still remember reading in Omnivore’s Dilemma that they contain TBHQ, which is also used as lighter fluid. Something about that has always stuck with me. Pretty much anything from McDonald’s really grosses me out!
Q: Finally, being “healthy” has a slightly different meaning for everyone. For you, what does it mean to live a healthy life?
Danielle: For me, a healthy life means a life that is happy and full of love, including self-love. A healthy life is a life with little stress and a life full of positivity. I am a true believer that a positive mind is so much more important than your consumption of kale…although the kale is definitely an added bonus. 😉
To learn more about Danielle and the coaching programs and expert advice she can offer, check her out at DaniellePrestejohn.com. You can also follow her here:
- Twitter: @DanielleGraceP
- Facebook: Danielle Prestejohn
- Pinterest: Danielle
- Instagram: @danielleprestejohn
And remember, you have all week to enter my Thanksgiving Kettlebell Giveaway! Reading all the comments on yesterday’s giveaway post seriously put me in the BEST mood. 🙂