I’m excited to share with you an interview with Dani Shugart.
Dani is a published author, figure athlete, and nationally sought-after consultant in the field of disordered eating. She helps clients both online and in-person take control of their eating habits and reshape their bodies.
In 2013, Dani published a book “Sound of Secrets” about how to end disordered eating after her sister passed away from a two decades long battle with an eating disorder.
As you can see from the photos on this page, Dani has achieved a very impressive physique, so I wanted to pick her brain about her approach to exercise, nutrition, and how to finally end disordered eating. You can learn more about Dani by checking out her website at Good Girl Fitness.
1) What prompted you to get involved in fitness as a career?
I fell in love with fitness at age 15 (15 years ago). I went from being a wallflower to a teen bodybuilder and it shocked people and changed my life. So in college I got a degree in nutrition and electronic media, and after graduating I tried to do more profitable things outside of fitness, but I kind of hated them all.
I can’t separate my life from fitness because it’s constantly on my mind. And the year that I put it on the backburner in order to focus on my job, I became a different person: depressed, crabby, and ironically, bad at my job.
Working out makes me smarter and more creative. It’s also my antidepressant, my stimulant, and in a way, my aphrodisiac because it makes me feel sexier too. I don’t get how some people aren’t addicted.
2) Last year you published “The Sound of Secrets” about how to end disordered eating inspired by your sister’s two decades long battle, which ended in the loss of her life. What 3 tips would you give someone struggling with an eating disorder?
This is tough because my sister sought professional help for many years, and in some ways I believe it just made her condition worse. Her rehab experience was a nightmare and therapy did absolutely nothing. But, if my sister had been bitten by the weight training bug, and if she’d developed a passion for building muscle, there’s no doubt in my mind that she would be alive today. So with that in mind, here are some general tips:
- Build muscle. Strength training increases confidence, and women who have plenty of it don’t resort to punishing their body with food. There’s been so much written on the relationship between weight training and confidence, and if you already lift, you don’t need to read a study to know it’s true.
- Discover self-compassion. Read about it. Learn how to take care of yourself (mind and body) rather than constantly trying to punish yourself. It makes a world of difference.
- Get to the bottom of your eating behaviors. Ask yourself why you’re eating the way you are. Keep a journal. Try to put things in perspective. Pray. Then get honest about finding solutions. You can’t truly change if you don’t want to change.
3) Some statistics show eating disorders affect a majority of women and even some men. Why do you think these disorders get such little attention in the media?
Mainstream media is obligated to give us what they think we want. It’s all about ratings. Luckily, there are really great books out there that discuss eating issues and body image. I don’t know if you can heal without educating yourself on it.
In my book I provide information, but also recommend books by other authors who have a lot to say about emotional eating, binge eating, and self-compassion. There’s so much to dig into. Brian Cuban has a book on body dysmorphic disorder, which is cool because we don’t see much about body image from the male perspective.
4) How would you describe your eating approach, or strategy?
I eat to build muscle and to be able to see that muscle. For me that means getting plenty of food from nature (meat + plants) and then coupling that with workout nutrition and supplementation. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this kind of diet is pleasurable and satiating, and it makes me feel energetic and sexy.
Here are my personal rules:
- Don’t weight train fasted.
- Don’t reach for food to soothe emotions or calm anxiety.
- Don’t eat what will make you feel like poop.
- Don’t let yourself get ravenous.
- Be a snob about indulgences. Enjoy only the very best stuff. (You’ll never catch me eating Doritos.)
5) What are a few of your favorite meals, or snacks?
I love Metabolic Drive (affiliate link) protein because it’s easy to bake into a high protein dessert, waffle, or pancake. A protein shake can also make the perfect meal or snack depending on what you add to it.
If I’m really hungry and can’t wait for dinner to be made, I’ll munch on carrot sticks. For me they’re the ultimate craving-killer because they fill me up fast, give me a bit of sweetness, and add lots of crunch.
Anything made by my husband is great. He’s going through a meatloaf phase right now. Wish he’d go through a pizza phase soon.
6) What does your workout routine look like for fat loss? Does it change for muscle building?
It actually doesn’t change much because I’m a firm believer in building your body up so that it becomes a fat burning machine. If I’m really trying to lose fat I’ll go for more walks or toss in a little more HIIT. But building and preserving muscle is always my top priority.
7) What are a few of your favorite strength training exercises and why?
For lower body I love deadlifts, hip thrusts, and ham curls. I can get a really powerful mind-muscle connection with my glutes and hams when doing those, and those are areas I’d like to build.
For upper body I love lateral raises and overhead presses. There’s nothing better than a delt pump.
8) What are your top 3 favorite abs exercises?
I have a hard time getting my abs bigger. They’re kinda flat. Bodyweight ab work doesn’t make them any chunkier, so I use the following:
Prowler pushing – the heavier the better.
Any seated crunch machine that can be loaded up fairly heavy.
And I like hot yoga… not sure it does a whole lot for the abs though.
9) Many people are yo-yo dieters and exercisers. Do you have any advice on how to finally stay consistent?
This is such a great question, and I think that all it takes to become consistent is just a change in perspective.
Charles Staley once said, “focus on your effort, not the outcome.” The effort is what you do. The outcome is the byproduct of what you do. So if you fall in love with doing what it takes to get fit, then the results will come. No doubt about it.
But if you’re so fixated on the outcome (a lower number on the scale for instance), then you’ll never fall in love with the effort, and you’ll never be consistent.
Shift your perspective and make your main goal the quality and quantity of effort you put into working out and eating well. Because once those are in place the results will follow. Try to become a person who enjoys the effort. Then fitness will go from obligation to passion.
This is not possible to do if all you can think about is reaching a number on a scale.
10) Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Yes! Connect with people who are passionate about fitness. Plug in somewhere and find a community. If you’re constantly surrounded by folks who are not into it, then you’ll struggle with making it a part of your lifestyle. Community is important whether it’s online or in person.
GREAT ADVICE! Very insightful comments from a healthy female. Thanks Marc & Dani!
I love tip #5, I am passiónate about chocolate but only very, very good dark chocolate – and i always share, which adds to the enjoyment but not the belly 🙂 thx for the sensible advice!
I enjoyed reading your article. I agree that working out is a natural antidepressant and can be used to fight depression. Physical exercise is a natural way to develop growth hormones, stimulate the body to produce endorphins, and most importantly develop good self esteem which leads to a happy persona. 😉