James Swanwick: James Swanwick here again. If you are a dad, then you'll want to pay particular attention to this. If you are the wife of a dad, you can probably want to pay particular attention to this. Today we're talking to Fitter Healthier Dad, Darren Kirby, who has targeted himself to help 1 million dads improve their nutrition and fitness. Six years ago, he went from an overweight, stressed-out city worker to now training to qualify for the Iron Man in 2021, the Ironman World Championships that is. He now broadcasts a weekly podcast and wants to provide information and help dads on their journeys towards a fitter and healthier life. He actually lost 28 kilograms, which I think is about 60 pounds I should say in the US metric. Darren Kirby, thanks for joining us. How are you doing?
Darren Kirby: Hey, James, very well. Thanks for having me on the show.
James Swanwick: You lost 28 kilos, which is about 60 pounds. How did you do that?
Darren Kirby: Wow, it's this combination of understanding nutrition and fitness mainly. It really all started when I got the opportunity to enter into a triathlon just for fun for my supplier for a company that I was working with at the time. Up until that point, I had been training three times a week in the gym and I assumed that I was quite fit, quite healthy and then I started to train for this and realize that I was neither of those. I think the biggest thing for me was that once I really started to study nutrition, that was when the weight changed, my health changed. Just really understanding the basics and I think that's that that was the biggest catalyst really.
James Swanwick: What were you eating or drinking when you were 28 kgs heavier than what you are now?
Darren Kirby: Basically, what I perceived at the time or what we marked to consumers as healthy so you know is the standard Western diet. Mainly a lot of carbohydrates in my diet. White flour, white potatoes, white bread, a lot of processed foods, because I was working in a city very busy, very time poor just grabbing stuff on the go from whatever kind of shop that was closer to the office. Things like sandwich begets, things with lots of sugar in, lots of salt in and yeah, just drinking sodas, like Coke and Diet Coke and things like that. Big buckets of coffee in the morning to start my day with, and some nice kabhi toast or some croissants on the train, things like that. I’m not really paying any attention because I perceived at the time, I was going to the gym three times a week so that's cool, I can just burn it off.
James Swanwick: But you didn't burn it off. You're sitting on the train eating croissants and having coffee and needing food or just kind of like. How quickly did you put on those 28 kgs? What was the time period of from where you were maybe decent health-wise to maybe being obese in that sense.
Darren Kirby: Yeah, I mean, it was definitely obese. It was over a period of time, It was over a period of my adult life. Not really paying any attention to diet or anything like that. I was just eating what is marketed and perceived to be healthy at the time, you know. Eating moderately, it wasn't anything extreme. It wasn't like these people that you see on the TV, overeating and just kind of eating lots of takeaways and stuff like that. I was just eating three meals a day of what I perceived to be normally, but unfortunately, it was the wrong type of food, wrong macronutrients, and that type of thing, really.
James Swanwick: So you help dads. Was there a trigger that got you to losing weight and getting healthier and educating yourself about good nutrition and exercise. What was the catalyst? Was it something to do with fatherhood or was it just was there an incident or a phase of time where you went, Okay, I'm gonna turn this around?
Darren Kirby: Well, it was when I started to train. I was really poor in the gym. In terms of my performance, I'm asthmatic as well so when I started to run, I couldn't run on a treadmill for more than two or three minutes without getting really out of breath. I couldn't really swim any more than 20 meters. When I first got in the pool, I couldn't get from one end of the pool to the other without getting severely out of breath. At that time, I thought that it was down to either asthma or just being unfit. Once I started to look at diet, as well as my exercise, I then really started to understand what macronutrients were. I think that was the biggest catalyst, the biggest change in my diet. It just kind of sent me off down a rabbit hole, because I just changed one thing, and the first thing I changed was my breakfast. People started to comment to me and notice that I was starting to lose weight and I'd never ever had comments like that before. Once I started to notice that I really started to dig into the science behind it.
James Swanwick: So what you went from having some toast and coffee at breakfast and the croissant on the way to work to. What was the shift?
Darren Kirby: The first thing was cutting out the carbs in the morning and cutting out the coffee in the morning. What we mean by coffee is, you know, the big buckets of coffee with the nice big dairy milk and two sugars in, I cut that away. And I switched to having protein in the morning to like eggs, and some avocados, and then green tea. That was the first change, the biggest change that I made.
James Swanwick: Got it. Okay. And then what was the next shift that you made from there?
Darren Kirby: Then understanding all the various different types of foods that make up the macronutrients. I'd started to understand protein. I started to understand fats, because we are sold again, as in the Western world, and as consumers, we have been since the 1950s. Since our friend, Dr. Ancel Keys decided that we should all follow a completely low fat, no fat diet. I really started to understand fats, and know how our body performs on fats, and how much fats we need, what type of fats we need. Because instantly when you mentioned fat to somebody, they're like, Oh, great, we can have takeaways full of fried food and stuff like that, no, that's not what I started to understand. I started to understand that vegetable fats and all that kind of stuff is actually inflammatory and hugely detrimental to the body. I started to understand that we need omega threes, sixes, and nines in our diets at various different ratios. I started to add those into my diet through food. Mainly, I started to really switch my macronutrients around to having a lot of protein.
James Swanwick: Yeah, nice. So did that then equate throughout the day, through each and every day? Just like eating more protein, getting rid of the breads, getting rid of like. What else did you add and what else did you eliminate?
Darren Kirby: The next biggest thing I started to eliminate was processed foods. Any foods that had come out of a packet that had gone through a food process in a factory. I'll caveat that route because most of the stuff that we get on the shelves is gone through a process, but what I mean is, is something that's actually had to go through a process and had a load of stuff added to it in order to make it you know, to have shelf life and all the rest of it. So I started to take that out and have more natural foods. What that meant was, I then had to start to prepare food which I'd never done before because I used to just run out to the local coffee shop and grab whatever was there for the day. So I started doing a lot of meal prep, and started to plan my food out for the week for the day. I really pay attention to what I was eating throughout the day. One thing that I want to add as well is that I actually started to eat less because obviously protein is more satiating and I felt that I didn't need so much food throughout the day and I felt that my hunger and my snacking went away as well.
James Swanwick: And what were the snacks that you used to snack on? How did you replace that? I mean, I know you said that your desire for snacks reduced, or maybe you were suggesting it was eliminated. What did you use to snack on and what did you choose to snack on?
Darren Kirby: So mainly it was crisps and chocolate that I would snack on and obviously because I would have that dip in the afternoon through having a nice big coffee lunch and needed a pick me up. What I actually switched to is having a handful of nuts, so almonds or walnuts. I'd have a bag of those on my desk if I felt hungry and then realize that actually, most of the time, we're not hungry. When we feel like snacking, we're actually dehydrated. So, you know, I would be drinking a hell of a lot more water than I had done in the past, at least two to three liters a day.
James Swanwick: It's not just water is it? It's not as drinking like two to three liters of water a day. It’s also good water, it’s also not as good at water.
Darren Kirby: Yeah, absolutely. So I would definitely advocate not having tap water. There is the type of bottled water which again, you can take it one step further and have, you know, reverse osmosis filtered water, which completely takes out all of the impurities. There are various different levels that you can have in terms of water. Also, I think the other good point to point out as you raised it, is that you can actually over hydrate with water, and you can end up taking out all the electrolytes in the body that the body needs. So that's really important.
James Swanwick: Got it. Any other big shifts that you made? By the way, you’re a father to how many?
Darren Kirby: Two boys.
James Swanwick: Two boys. So how do you think that your attempts to lose weight and get healthier were affected by your boys? How do you see a lot of your clients or members who are dads, how do they? How are their lives challenged by you know, poor eating, or fatigue or tiredness, or any of those things?
Darren Kirby: Yeah, that's an interesting point. I would say that that's probably the second biggest catalyst that people come to me with in terms of why they want to change. They want to change for their children, because they get to a point in their lives, that they realize how important their health is. They want to live a long healthy life so that they're around for their kids. The children are probably the one of the biggest, I say the second biggest reasons as to why they decide that they want to get fit, and they want to drop whatever weight that they've gained. It has a significant impact on kids. In my view, kids learn by example, they don't learn by you trying to coerce and dictate to them whatever it is, you want them to do. If you just set an example, they will undoubtedly follow. My kids now know a lot of stuff about nutrition that most adults don't know. The only reason they know that is because what they've seen me do and then they've asked me why I'm doing certain things. They see me training for events, and they want to get involved. My youngest wants to run every time I go running. He wants to go running with me. That's going a little bit off on a tangent with your question, but children are one of the biggest catalysts why people want to change.
James Swanwick: I see that a lot with my clients who are wanting to quit drinking. A lot of their motivation is to be around not just longer for their kids, but the quality of their life to be considerably better with their kids. Living longer is not a goal, it’s living better. Living better is a huge goal. How did you notice that your relationship with your family shifted once you'd shifted the weight?
Darren Kirby: Well, I had tons more energy, that is the first thing. Also at this point my drinking curtailed, it didn't stop at this point but it curtailed. I would drink every single weekend. So from Friday to Sunday, it would be drinking it, you know, there wouldn't be a morning where I didn't wake up without a hangover. So because of my training, I dialed back the drinking because I didn't want to feel rough for my training because I couldn't train to my maximum therefore, I woke up more a lot more fresh. I was getting up earlier anyway to train and I had way more energy, that is the biggest thing that I would say that happens. When you have way more energy, you're less stressed because you're able to deal with things in a much more calm, measured way. Your relationships improve because you're just happier. You're happier through exercise and some people don't really understand that. By exercising you have more energy. Because they assume that the counter, to exercise you're more tired, you're not, because it improves mitochondrial health and that little energy plants in ourselves and you actually have yet way more energy. For me and I say this on my website, and a lot of the time when I talk to people, it is literally like nutrition and you get your fitness dialed in you. It is life-changing because it improves so many other areas of your life.
James Swanwick: So what are some of your big tips in terms of...You know, I mean, look, I would suggest that most people know, don't drink, don't eat processed foods, don't drink soda, don't eat crap, eat more protein, have more veggies drink better water. I think most people probably know that. But actioning that is something completely different, seeing that through. So what were some practical things that you incorporated that ensured that you stuck to this consistently as opposed to what most people do, which is like a crash diet and then there's like this yo yo of weight going on?
Darren Kirby: Yeah, that's a great question and a really important point. I always say to people, you know, you need to have a reason, a lot of people don't, you need to have a why. Sometimes that's a little bit too out there for people to kind of comprehend and get your head around but it's essentially having a goal. My first goal was obviously to complete my first triathlon and then once I did that, I then set myself another goal. So it's having a reason why, it's not just looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, Oh, I want to change, I'm going to start going to the gym, I'm going to start eating healthily because it won't be sustainable. It won't work, because when things get tough, and they do get tough, you instinctively want to give up. Just like you say, you go through this yo-yo phase, and you go back to where you were so you have to really sit down and understand. And actually, I'd advocate writing it down, why you want to get fit, why you want to get healthy, what is the reason why and then you need to look at that regularly and understand to remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing. I think that for me is the biggest thing because motivation will get you started, motivation won't keep you going. And it's about to get results, you have to be consistent. So it's not about going to the gym or eating healthfully a few days a week is actually, you know, incorporating that in your life and changing the habits that you've built up over a number of years.
James Swanwick: So, to all the dads listening out there, and to the wives of dads or the partners, or even the children, what would you say to them to make sure that they're being the best dads or the best husbands or the best men that they can be, firstly? And secondly, what would you say to the dad’s, partner, wife, husband, partner, whatever, what would you say to them?
Darren Kirby: To be the best version of what they can be, that has to be their version, and everybody's version is different, right? So it's how it's reflecting and deciding how you want to live your life. Do you want to carry on in this kind of travel later in life and just unconsciously go along or do you want to live your life in the best possible way that you can? And if you do just sit down and decide that you're going to make that change. Make a goal and the goal can be anything, it has to resonate with you. It could be you want to do your first Park run, it could be that you want to have more energy and you don't want to sit on the sofa on the weekend just watch in boxes. You have to decide, you have to make the change yourself. There's no diet, there's no exercise protocol that's gonna make you do that, it has to come within you. The second thing is that you have to find something that lights you up. There's a lot of people that I speak to absolutely hate the gym, don't go to the gym. There are lots of other exercise protocols, you can follow swimming, cycling, and running CrossFit, there's loads of stuff that you can do. To the partners and the wives that are listening to this, if your husband or partner wants to change, that doesn't mean that you have to change with them, again it has to be personal to you. I think that this is one of the biggest struggles I see with couples that when they see their husband or their partner changing, they think that they have to change as well, you don't. All you literally have to do is just give them support, give them the support that they want, because of the decision they've made, and then just help them along that journey.
James Swanwick: What do you do to help you sleep at night? I’m pretty confident you have a pair of Swannies Blue light glasses so just tell us a little bit about those.
Darren Kirby: I do. I wear them pretty much for when the sun starts to go down. I wear them at night until I actually turn the lights off before I go to bed. I kind of have this three-hour window where I start my kind of sleep routine. The first thing is that I don't eat three hours before I go to bed. So that body and metabolism have a chance to process the food and your heart rate starts to drop. Obviously with the Swannies on you know, your body's then starting to increase its melatonin production to help you know get you into sleeping mode. I then make sure that we're not watching any screens, at least an hour before we go to bed and not just for the blue light but so that we can just start to calm down. You don't really watch some crazy extreme sports movie or whatever it is before you go to bed. Also, make sure that the temperature of the room is not too warm so that you get a nice relaxed sleep, you're not getting you're not restless because it's too warm in the room. Obviously, the other biggest thing is stimulant caffeine. I don't have any caffeine after 2 pm in the afternoon so that I'm not affected by that for my sleep.
James Swanwick: All right, nice one. Aaron, your website is https://www.fitterhealthierdad.com , is that right? Show us a little bit about where we can find more information about you.
Darren Kirby: Yes, you can go to the website https://www.fitterhealthierdad.com. There, I've got some free resources, we've got a five-day challenge that people could take part in, and then a 14-day fat loss kickstart. We've got our program, so we've got our 90-day transformation challenge as well and that's on the website. I've also got a podcast, the fitter healthier dad podcast and on all our social media channels fitter, healthier dad Instagram mainly, and Facebook.
James Swanwick: All right, so check that out fitterhealthierdad.com. Darren Kirby, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom. Congratulations on your transformation.
Darren Kirby: Thanks very much, James.