Islander Interviews #2 – Daniel White

“My life’s mission is to advance the health of Guernsey”

Daniel White

I sat down with qualified nutritionist and well-being coach Daniel White, talking everything from sleep to nutrition to Guernsey butter.

As those who have met Dan professionally or follow him on social media, he’s clearly a man on a mission. His passion is palpable and his enthusiasm infectious. I ask him to explain what that mission is.


“Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug”

Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

“I would like to change the way that every man, woman and child sleeps in Guernsey,” says Dan, 25. “I’ve been back in Guernsey now for two years, working initially as a nutritionist, then more holistically in the world of functional medicine, or lifestyle medicine. For the past 12 months we’ve been running community-based, lifestyle transformation programs, which we believe have been the missing link in primary healthcare.”

Is sleep a ‘lifestyle medicine,’ then?

“Yes. Here we might talk about pillars of health—nutrition, stress management, or exercise—but what we say about sleep is that it is the foundation of health. We know the quality your sleep is connected with absolutely every area of health: your cognition, your mental health—every mental health issue has sleep issues attached—heart health, fertility, physical performance, productivity.”

That’s shocking to hear, but not surprising. What’s being done to counteract these sleep-related issues?

“For the mainstream medical establishment, the main therapy or treatment or therapy for sleep is pharmacological: sleep medications, which are addiction-forming, that represent a state of sedation. Much like alcohol or drug use, which I believe is how we self-medicate sleep problems largely.”

“The sleep science has come on massively in the last decade. The problem is we have the science, which is translated into information that’s spread publicly and then maybe a decade later is transformed into policy. Unfortunately we don’t have time to wait.”

How are you looking to lay this foundation of health?

“I was giving hour-long talks, but I didn’t believe they were having a tangible impact on peoples’ sleep. I wanted to step away from the curve and actually kind of went into hibernation myself after a few sleep issues, and after a month or two, I decided to become Guernsey’s expert on sleep. I did this for several reasons: firstly because my life’s mission is to advance the health of Guernsey and the human race, secondly because it represents a viable angle for me to make a living, and number three because I had sleep issues myself.”

What are you offering in place of booze and benzo prescriptions?

“I spent two months reading every paper, every bit of literature that I could and designed a fully immersive four-hour workshop which has an e-book that comes alongside it and a personalised workbook. Throughout the first section of the workshop we go through the science of sleep, how we sleep, why we sleep. The second is looking at the factors that are stopping us from sleeping. What I believe is completely unique about what I developed is the third part of the presentation: I take participants through a ten-step program through which they can design their perfect day and as a result leave equipped with their own personalised sleep improvement program.”

Who might want to look at this program and why?

“Our well-intentioned doctors do not have the time to spend with clients. Every person who attends these workshops is completely different. I have people there who have had horrendous sleep issues for decades. I have people there who are looking to push their performance, or protect their mental health in a preventative way. Sleep is ubiquitous, every single one of us on the planet needs sleep and, should we want to perform our best, it benefits us to know the ins and outs of our sleep. So not just for those who are really suffering but there is a lot of the time in public health we focus on the risk associated with certain diseases. What we know is that there’s correlation between disrupted sleep and everything from alzheimers to dementia to obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental health issues—everything. But what we’re not talking about a lot of the time is the gains, the improvements in performance we can achieve by reconsidering how we as employers and individuals and groups and a society approach sleep.”


Let’s move on to nutrition. What is missing from this ‘pillar’ of health?

“We’re missing nutrients – not calories,” Dan tells me. “We’ve been focusing on the amount of energy that we eat because outwardly that contributes to a manifestation of how we appear physically, which is very important to humans. What we’re not talking about is nutrients that are essential to, say, brain health.”

“My specialisation in my Masters degree was in nutritional behaviour or nutritional neuroscience, the impact that food has on mood, in layman’s terms. What I learned from that, having experienced depression and anxiety myself, was that it was actually the quality of the food that I was eating which had the biggest impact on my health. Since the 70’s and 80’s, as far back as the 60’s, we’ve been focussed on calories, calories, average calorie intake – which is through decades of commercial interest!”

Quantity over quality, wealth over wellbeing! If you were to give some generalised dietary recommendations to people focussed on the quality of their consumption and general wellbeing, what would they be?

 “I would recommend cooking from scratch. The gut is the epicentre of our health, it’s our engine, but these days many of the modern foods that we eat are processed in such a way that we’re not able to digest and absorb them sufficiently; we’re basically wasting our time eating them.”

“They’re doing us harm. If I had to give five key tips to people:

1. Eating healthy fats and proteins;

2. Cooking from fresh, using wholefood ingredients;

3. Eating as much colour as possible—‘eating the rainbow’ is a great adage;

4. Consuming natural animal products—I eat a predominantly plant-based diet, but I eat pasture-raised meats because animal products contain some of the most vital nutrients for brain function in particular; and

5. Eating within the hours of daylight.”

You’ve talked about ‘what’ food should be eaten, ‘how’ it should be prepared and ‘why’, but with number five there you’ve mentioned a ‘when’. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

“Satchin Panda – a guy to look into, at the SALK Institute in California – is looking at what’s called time-restricted feeding, more commonly known as intermittent fasting, looking at what effect this is having on our body’s rhythms. Obviously we only really had access to food during daylight, so there are various metabolic, hormonal – so many benefits for our health, as I’m sure you’re aware – of eating within a time-restricted window, and now there’s a lot of evidence to suggest a ‘circadian window’, probably the most beneficial, so eating within the hours of daylight.”

I’m currently [at the time of the interview] 60-odd hours into a 72-hour fast – am I mad, or am I onto something?

“It’s all about context. It would depend on what your goals are; there’s a lot of research showing that prolonged or extended fasting has many benefits for the immune system, giving you an immune system ‘reset’. We also know it’s useful for mitochondrial autophagy, which means self-eating, a kind of self-repair. This is where for example we might recommend a 7-day water fast once a year.”

“I’ve done a lot of extended fasting, but I’m not interested in engaging in it at the moment, I think my body is under a lot of stress, I like to put myself under a lot of pressure, challenging myself. To constantly be under stress, with raised adrenaline, your body will begin to eat itself. I see this a lot with people on intermittent fasting, and I’ve experienced it myself. I got into a six-hour eating window, only two meals a day, not enough to support my body or my needs.”

Speaking of stressors: two common ones are alcohol and caffeine, socially ubiquitous and acceptable drugs. Would you speak to them in the context of health?

“I have a very moderate approach, unless you’re in a state of health where you need to avoid these foods completely. These things deplete our body of stored nutrients; magnesium is a huge one. Research suggests the majority of people are deficient in magnesium; alcohol, nicotine, stress, poor diet, sugar, not enough sleep are all things that deplete our magnesium stores. It’s the most abundant mineral in the body, and required for 40% of the enzymatic processes in our tissues to occur. If you have a magnesium deficiency, you’re more likely to be irritable, less likely to sleep, more likely to drink copious amounts of caffeine and alcohol to offset those effects, so it’s a bit of a vicious circle really.”

Moderation is the word, moderation!

“Everything in moderation—including moderation!”

Quick Fire Q’s

  • Best thing about living in Guernsey?

“Access to natural environment, quick access – the sea!”

  • Something Guernsey needs to improve on?

“I think cross-generational communication, in terms of healthcare legislation, social legislation, I don’t think the young people of Guernsey are given a voice, I don’t think that they are actively engaged in affairs—no! Travel. Travel. Travel links. I think that’s why people are disengaged. I have friends who would have loved to visit or holiday or commute but they haven’t come back because of the ridiculous price of travel.”

  • Cruise ships: should we sink them or spare them?

“I think at the moment we should spare them, until we have a clearer picture of our future economy and the direction in which it’s heading—otherwise we might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater!”

  • What are kids nowadays missing out on?

“Connection with nature.”

  • Something you couldn’t live without?


  • Last meal you cooked?

“Liver, kale, rocket, Guernsey butter obviously.”

Obviously! Have you noticed that it’s been getting less yellow recently?

“But do you know why? It’s because in the winter they’re not wholly grass-fed, they’re more fed on grain, I think we’re going to be getting the summer batch now. They are predominantly grass-fed, but not 100%.”

  • Have you a hobby we don’t know about?

“I like to DJ. I like to DJ Drum and Bass music.”

  • Guilty pleasure?

“Coffee is probably my guilty pleasure. I have a love-hate relationship with coffee. At the moment, I’m in love with it, because really I realised meditation was the answer, not whether I was drinking caffeine. Yeah, there are benefits associated with it, but again, coffee depletes magnesium; I know people who say ‘eat two magnesium supplements with your coffee’, so it is a bit like—are the benefits outweighed? Again it’s a love-hate relationship, if my sleep’s poor, it can be detrimental to my health. It’s ubiquitous, and the second-most traded commodity on earth.”

  • Last book you read?

“I’m currently reading The Little Book of Ikigai: The Secret Japanese Way to Live a Happy and Long Life

Those Japanese know something about longevity man!

“It’s so interesting. For example, in Japan there are very few commercial sushi restaurant chains, there’s thousands of little individual privately owned restaurants, but those people believe so much that it’s their life’s purpose that every restaurant is so individual and so unique. Whatever they do they put 100% in it; if you are the tuna catcher, you are the best tuna catcher, there’s so much pride in your work, you care so much about it. They also worship the sun, which is something that I also like. They’re very early risers the Japanese.”

  • Is Jersey really that bad?

“No, I think Jersey is ahead of us on a lot of these issues. I don’t think Jersey’s bad at all! I think we could learn a lot from Jersey and we should be looking for a friend!”

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