Aisling Daly is a teacher and qualified personal trainer based in Cork, Ireland. I first came across Aisling on instagram after discovering that she had completed the same personal training course as I had.
Aisling runs an instagram page using the name Thrive For Live where she shares her ethos on exercise, food, health and wellbeing. I quickly realised that we were very similar in our approaches to diet and exercise and Aisling also spoke about mindset which was something that I had started to show interest in. We quickly came to talking and formed a great friendship.
Aisling has opened up about her struggle with binge eating which has provided help for others who have a bad relationship with food. She is also consistent with posting about mindset and shares daily affirmations and tips to look after your mental health.
Aisling has since released a bi-weekly podcast where she shares her own experiences and tips to help evolve your relationship with food and body image, mindset, exercise and more.
I was delighted when Aisling agree to be a guest on my Q&A series as I think she is very knowledgeable and has so much to share. I believe that there is great things yet to come for Aisling in this industry and I can’t wait to see where it takes her. You can find her @thriveforelife.aislingdaly on Instagram and on Facebook. You can also find her on any major podcast platform or click here for her blog.
- What was your relationship with exercise and food like growing up?
I always enjoyed exercise and food growing up. I was very active as a child. I took part in Irish dancing, tennis and golf from a young age. I came from a family of five children and our mother was a Home Economics teacher so meal time was always fun with lots of wonderful food. We used to sit around the table together for dinner. Food was always enjoyable and I had a healthy relationship with food until my mid-teens.
I was always quite slim until about the age of 15 or 16 when I put on a lot of weight from making poor food choices – snacking on a lot of sweets and chocolate. I decided to join Weight Watchers when I was 16 and lost over three stone in a very short space of time. This was when my relationship with food became problematic as I took dieting to the extreme. Once I saw the results I started pushing the dieting too far. I remember eating a rice cake with one slice of ham and one slice of lettuce for lunch once. I became obsessed with calculating the weight watchers points for all foods I consumed. It was unhealthy how obsessed I was. It controlled my every thought, and funnily enough at my lowest weight I felt fat and was severely critical of myself. I remember crying to my boyfriend (now husband) regularly about how “fat” and “disgusting” I felt.
Looking back I reckon I was underweight at that point in time. After all of that restriction, the binge eating began. It became a vicious cycle of bingeing and restricting. I kept it a complete secret from everybody in my life for so long. I believe that low self esteem fed into it. I eventually opened up about the issue last year and have been sharing my story on social media as I believe so many people (women and men) struggle with binge eating in secret – and many believe that they are the only ones going through it. I certainly thought I was the only one for a very long time.
- What sparked your choice to lead a healthy lifestyle consisting of regular exercise and a balanced diet?
After years of trying every diet under the sun and hoping and praying that the next one would be the one I’d stick to FOREVER I decided that there had to be another way. I was constantly either on a diet or completely off a diet from the ages of a bout 17 to 31. I tried them all. Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Paleo, New You Plan Meal Replacement Shakes, Atkins, and many more no doubt.
I was getting married last July and wanted to get in shape but I refused to get caught up in another diet so decided to just get back to basics. I focused on eating as many whole foods as possible (to reduce the amount of processed foods in my diet), eat three meals and two or three snacks to ensure my blood sugar levels were stable to eliminate the chance of binge eating. I also did a lot of work on my mindset and started to take notice of the way I was speaking to myself. I also consciously stopped using words like “good” or “bad” around food and eating. I believe that the diet industry has a lot to answer for for the amount of us who have suffered with disordered eating.
- What is your idea of a healthy diet?
My idea of a healthy diet is one which is full of variety to get the energy and nutrients that our bodies need. I think it is important to listen to our bodies and take notice of what foods agree or disagree with us. But in general for most people a healthy diet is one which includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, high in fibre, with limited intake of sugars.
A healthy diet should give you enough energy to do your normal daily activities. A healthy diet to me is not one which includes no processed or sugary foods. I believe that moderation is key. Moderation was an issue for me for many years because I had an unhealthy relationship with food and body image. Once you heal your relationship with food, moderation becomes less of an issue.
- Has your perception of personal trainers changed since becoming qualified yourself (ie. realising how little it though about diet, ability to train certain people etc)?
Not really. Most personal trainers that are working in that area full time that I have come across throughout my time have been quite passionate and have completed a lot of continuous professional development. Yes I believe that it is easier to become a personal trainer than I would have thought. It was hard work, don’t get me wrong, and there was a lot to learn but I completed my study for the qualification in a matter of 6 months or so. However, I don’t think any personal trainer will last very long in the business if they don’t up-skill and continue to learn and attend further courses.
- What does a typical day in your diet look like?
I typically start my day with a high protein smoothie (usually containing frozen berries, lots of frozen greens like broccoli, spinach, kale, oats, Udos Choice Ultimate Oil Blend, cinnamon, whey protein and water). My lunch might be a chicken salad or a wrap perhaps. My go to dinners are stir fries, or baked fish and roast vegetables with rice or sweet potatoes.
In the winter I usually cook more curries and spaghetti bolognese. My snacks are often corn cakes, nut butter and berries or Greek yogurt, berries and flaxseed or a Nakd bar and sometimes a protein bar.
- You are very focused on Mindset. Can you speak a little about why mindset is so important to you?
Mindset is incredibly important to me. For so long I had quite a negative mindset. I spoke to myself in a very negative way for so long that I believed everything that I was telling myself – that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I wasn’t slim enough, that my opinion was stupid. Our thoughts are very powerful and eventually become our reality if the same thoughts are repeated often enough.
I think that the first time my eyes were opened to the power of a positive mindset was in 2011 in Sydney where myself and my husband (then boyfriend) Andy spent almost a year. Andy’s sister Pearl brought Andy and I along to a talk by Dr. John Demartini (a professional speaker and human behaviour specialist) and I’ve been a massive fan of his ever since. It opened my eyes in a big way. One quote that stuck with me was “What we think about and thank about we bring about”. This is a powerful sentence. It sums everything mindset related up for me. Gratitude and our thoughts are extremely powerful. It was the first time that I started to consider the stories that I had been telling myself for years and how they were not serving me any longer.
I became very interested in mindset after this and have seen Dr. John Demartini speak several times in Australia and Ireland since then. He also helped me to understand the importance of being clear on our personal values. By being clear on those we can ensure that we live our lives congruently and with purpose. I also started vision boarding around this time too
- Do you have a morning or evening routine that you like to stick to?
My morning routine is certainly better than my evening routine. My mornings are a sacred time to me. I like to get up early and ensure I have time to myself in the mornings. I like to enjoy my breakfast in peace, fill in my Best Me Life journal (filling in my daily plans, my morning gratitude and my goals), I pick out a daily affirmation either from my pack of “The Universe has your Back” cards or “How to Love Yourself” cards to set my day off on a positive note. I usually share my breakfast and my morning affirmation on Instagram but I try not to consume any social media myself in the mornings.
In the evening I usually wear my Ambr eyewear blue light blocking glasses if I’m on my phone or iPad which I usually am. I fill in my Best Me Life journal again at night with the daily wins and the affirmations. I do not keep my phone in the bedroom at night time so I usually read before I go to sleep. I’m just finishing ‘Calm’ by Fearne Cotton. I diffuse lavender and rub Frankincense oil on the soles of my feet before going to sleep as these help me to get into a deeper sleep. I”m not great at getting to bed as early as I’d like. I find it difficult to switch my mind off and wind down. It’s something that I am working on.
- What healthy habits do you have that improve your day?
I exercise most days, not always in the gym, but a walk or pilates too. I find that I have to move daily (even if it is just light stretching) or my back gets sore. I have bulging discs so I can’t do anything high impact or any activities where I’m flexing or rotating my back like yoga or golf or tennis. I eat quite a lot of vegetables and fruit. I drink plenty of water – usually at least 2 litres daily.
- What are your top 5 kitchen essentials?
Nut butter, nut butter, nut butter…only kidding, butt nut butter is definitely one. I’m obsessed. I also love spices to cook with like chilli powder and cayenne pepper. Cinnamon is another one that I go through a lot of. It’s great for flavouring. You’ll always find oats in my kitchen too. They’re so versatile. Lastly I would have to say ginger. It’s great for flavour in stir fries or curries.
- What are your top tips for somebody looking to lead a healthy lifestyle?
Firstly. I would say keep it simple and don’t try to change everything at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Ease yourself into changes by picking one thing to change per week. It could be starting with drinking more water one week. And pick specific goals, like this week I’ll drink 2 litres of water every day. Perhaps the next week you might add more vegetables to your diet. And the week after you might aim for 3 or 4 evening walks in the week. Little changes make a huge difference over time and consistency is key.
I would advise anyone looking to have a healthier diet to do a weekly grocery shop and plan ahead. I used never do a weekly grocery shop and as a result I was eating a poor diet. I’d often get home late from work and if there was nothing in the house I might have ordered a takeaway or just had a few bowls of cereal. Fill your trolley with as many single ingredient foods as possible when doing your grocery shop and that way less processed foods will end up in there. Whatever goes into your trolley is what is going to be consumed so don’t fool yourself by buying lots of biscuits and cakes “in case someone calls”. There’s nothing wrong with eating biscuits and cakes in moderation. There is a place for everything in our diet. However, I know that I used to fool myself in the past buying huge bars of chocolate and telling myself I’d only eat a few squares. I’d always eat the lot. Make homemade snacks that are equally delicious, more satisfying and contain less sugar, like energy balls or homemade granola that you can have on top of yogurt or homemade flapjacks.
Cook from scratch as often as you can. Freezing portions of meals is very handy if you’re busy and don’t get home until late in the evenings too.
Finding an exercise that you enjoy means that you’re more likely to partake in it regularly. It doesn’t have to be the gym – it might be a team sport or cycling or swimming or dancing. Whatever it is schedule your exercise into your diary as you would any important meeting.
I would also say that it’s important to find a way to unwind. Think about the things that bring you joy – it could be baking or gardening or colouring or photography – whatever brings you joy and gets you into that flow state. Try to do more of that.
Lastly, I believe that connections we make on social media are no replacement for face to face human interaction. If you find that your weekends just pass by and you often don’t meet up with people, start looking at your calendar and get in touch with friends and family and arrange to go on days out or simply for a walk or a coffee. We are social beings and human connection is more important than we might think.