Getting clean and lean: James Duigan on the simplicity of changing your food habits

Health guru James Duigan preaches simplicity when it comes to turning your life around, he tells Ciara McDonnell

The second you begin to understand that you deserve a happy, healthy life then it all falls into place.

Someone put coconut sugar in James Duigan’s coffee and he is absolutely raging. Well, as raging as a person whose entire lifestyle is based around an ethos of being kind to yourself can be. He’s cross because he believes that we are being swizzed into thinking that some sugars are healthy. “These pretend sugars, like dates or coconut unicorn fairy-dust – it’s all sugar, ” he crows.

“I went into a health bar just now and asked for a special kind of coffee and I noticed that there was a sugar on top of it. When I asked the server, he says ‘oh yeah, but it’s not processed sugar’. We have to stop conning people into thinking they’re being healthy when they’re not.”

As the godfather of clean eating, James Duigan has been at the forefront of the wellness game for over a decade now. With a client list that includes supermodels and Hollywood A-listers as well as the odd smattering of royalty, Duigan was one of the founders of Clean Eating ten years ago, and though he believes its basic principles still ring true, says that the movement has been compromised by social media and needed a shake-up. That shake-up, is Duigan’s Blueprint For Health; a book that outlines four ‘pillars of health’ (mindset, nutrition, movement and sleep) along with a collection of recipes that are both delicious and not at all diet-y. The book, says the Australian health guru, will change your life dramatically.

“You can be as clever as you like when it comes to being healthy but at the end of the day it has to be simple and it has to be achievable,” he tells me. We’ve tested this blueprint in the lab with housewives, executives, supermodels and Oscar winners and it works and you can do it every day for the rest of your life.”

The solution to a healthy body and a happy mind is not, says Duigan, to be found in the gym or at the end of a long life of non-carb eating.

“Life is really long and you deserve a happy healthy life. What that means is that the energy that happens in your body happens in your mind first, and the second that you begin to understand that you deserve a happy healthy life then it all falls into place. When you focus on your health, the weight will fall off. Biologically, you can lose the weight, it’s the mental switch that is the most difficult to flip.”

Blueprint For Health is full of tips and tricks to changing habits and ridding your life of pesky addictions like sugar or too much coffee. The most powerful change we can make reckons Duigan, is to change how we value ourselves.

“The central message of the book is be kind to yourself. Don’t spend hours on social media getting yourself into a state – we know that doesn’t work. Don’t go on a diet because we know that doesn’t work. If I said to you, ‘think of the Eiffel Tower’, the first thing you do is think of the Eiffel Tower and that’s why diets don’t work.”

Fat shaming, is the most ineffective way of dealing with weight loss, according to the wellness expert. “What’s relevant is whether being overweight has an effect on a person’s health. If you’re overweight to a certain point, you will have a terrible illness, and that’s an issue that people need to deal with.

“Be kind to yourself, accept yourself for who you are and use that as a really powerful platform to transform your habits, rituals, lifestyle and your body will follow gratefully and so fast that it will take your breath away.”

‘Bodyism’, is the name of Duigan’s new movement and also, handily, of his very fancy boutique gym in London, which is frequented by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and a clutch of Victoria Secret models. It’s a direct response to the slew of clean eating bloggers that traverse social media, he says.

“Bodyism is a very powerful but gentle way of approaching wellness. We changed things ten years ago by creating the clean eating movement which has since been hijacked by some very, very photogenic but quite ruthless bloggers so this is going to revolutionise the way we look at health. We’ve simplified wellness into four pillars and in doing that we’ve made it really powerful.“

It’s not about simplifying wellness and creating recipes that can be whipped up midweek. For Duigan, becoming a father changed everything. To him, Bodyism isn’t a diet manual, or a fix for women who want to lose their Mum Tums. It’s a plea for us to stop shaming our
bodies and to start accepting them. It’s a hope that we will stop seeing the sum total of our parts as body measurements.

“My mission has always been to change people’s lives. Since our daughter was born I want her to grow up in a world where she is valued for her kindness and her talents, ideas and intelligence rather than her body fat percentage.“


This is aone-pot lifesaver. Serve it with a big spoonful of quinoa. Cook a big batch and enjoy it throughout the week.

Serves 4

You will need:

  • 1 butternut/winter squash (approximately 1.25 kg/2¾ lb), peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp fresh root ginger, grated
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
  • 2 aubergines, chopped
  • 1 x 400-g/14-oz can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 x 400-g/14-oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 400 ml/14 fl oz vegetable stock
  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped (stalks included)
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanout
  • 1½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp Homemade Harissa or good-quality shop-bought

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

2. Place the squash on the tray and drizzle with coconut oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until cooked through.

3. Once the squash is nearly cooked, heat a large, lidded saucepan over a medium heat (or a tagine dish, if you are fancy) and add the rapeseed oil. Once hot, add the shallots, cinnamon, garlic and ginger. Leave to sauté for about 5 minutes.

4. Add the peppers, aubergines and roasted squash and mix well. Then add the chickpeas, canned tomatoes, vegetable stock and the rest of the herbs and spices. Cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes over a low heat. Season to taste.

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