Drew Harrisberg is an exercise physiologist and sports scientist whose type 1 diabetes diagnosis changed his approach to health. Inspired to live a vibrant, nourished lifestyle, Drew established a series of daily practices to keep him on track. Here, he chats about his work, inspiration and daily habits.
Tell us a little bit about yourself …
I’m an exercise physiologist, diabetes educator, sports scientist and, most importantly, I’m a happy and healthy guy thriving with type 1 diabetes.
I’ve been intrigued with the human body since I was a kid. My love for the body, science and nutrition is what sent me on the path to becoming a qualified health professional.
Some of my biggest loves in life are exercise, music, nature, the ocean, and my dog, Dennis (@a.daily.dose.of.dennis). I’m also a singer-songwriter. I’ve recorded three tracks and a music video, as well as performed live gigs across some of Sydney’s most iconic venues.
What inspired your passion for health and wellbeing?
When I was 23 years old I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Despite diabetes being an auto-immune disease – not a lifestyle disease – it was still a wake-up call to rethink how I was eating and moving, and it very quickly let me know that I was far from invincible.
Since being diagnosed with diabetes, life has been one big self-experiment. The cool thing is that I’ve been the subject and the lead scientist. I’ve made countless mistakes and discovered just as many solutions.
Sure, my world shifted when I was first diagnosed, but after making positive changes to the way I live, eat, move and approach life, I can honestly say I am happier and healthier today than I was before my diagnosis. So, in a way, you could say that diabetes gave me the gift of health.
My background as a health professional and my own personal triumph with managing diabetes has ignited a passion to share everything I know. My brand, Drew’s Daily Dose, is my way of empowering people to take control of their health, so that like me, they can live fuller, happier and healthier lives.
Walk us through a typical day in your life …
I wake up before the sun comes up. I immediately get outside into nature for a walk in the park with my dog or take a swim in the ocean. I do some kind of movement every day. From low-intensity long duration to high-intensity short duration. I love lifting weights, doing bodyweight/calisthenics training, and playing sports.
I try to avoid technology for the first one to two hours after waking up. I’m a huge proponent of finding a healthy morning routine before the inevitable daily stressors kick in.
If I’m hungry, I’ll eat breakfast before heading out. If I’m not hungry, I’ll extend my fast until my hunger sets in. Breakfast is usually three eggs, avocado, sauerkraut, spinach and two pieces of paleo toast. I’m strictly gluten-free for autoimmune purposes.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” has to be one of the worst pieces of dietary dogma ever! This ridiculous statement based off limited evidence has led to a global trend of sugar-loaded cereal, juice, and white bread consumption. How could waking up and eating empty calories (aka refined, processed crap with minimal micronutrient value) possibly be good for your health? It’s messing with your insulin and blood sugar levels, sending unhealthy messages to your brain, and screwing up your entire system. Here’s another option for you…SKIP BREAKFAST and go for a walk instead!!!!🏃🏻♂️I’m not saying do it every day. Just use it as a tool from time to time. It’s a good opportunity to let your hormones reset and allow your body to recalibrate. Then, break your fast later in the day with a real, whole-food, nutrient-dense, low-carb, high-fat meal like this one! It’s also packed with prebiotic fibre and probiotics. This way of eating is great for your insulin and blood sugar control, appetite regulation, and mood (just to name a few). Try it out for a couple of weeks and you’ll notice some remarkable changes. 🥑🥦🍳🥗😊
I’m not a big snacker because having diabetes makes it difficult to graze. However, if I’m peckish, I’ll eat nuts, seeds, full-fat natural yoghurt, berries and dark chocolate.
Some days, I consult with patients as an exercise physiology and diabetes educator, where I help people to modify their lifestyle, change their way of eating, and assist with exercise programming.
I still can’t believe the advice for people with type 1 diabetes is to eat whatever you want and just dose your insulin respectively. Want Nutella? Just load up the insulin and go for it. Pasta? Pizza? Ice-cream? Get shooting 💉. It’s seriously ridiculous and irresponsible that this advice is being given by medical ‘experts’. Nobody should just eat whatever they want! Diabetes or not. – Since following a strict real food (paleo) way of eating my entire health, not just diabetes management, has improved beyond belief. Things like refined sugar, processed fats, gluten, grains and dairy were causing me immense chronic systemic inflammation and destroying my gut health, ultimately worsening my immune system. Once I removed them entirely from my diet EVERYTHING changed. My chronic sinusitis went away. My debilitating shin splints went away. I stopped getting the common cold. I got leaner. My hair and skin improved. I started to sleep better. My digestive system felt better. My mood and energy levels improved. The list goes on and on. – If only we all ate as nature intended 🥒🥦🥑🍓🍎🥗 our entire population would be healthier and happier. Sometimes complex problems require simple solutions. Just eat as nature intended – Real Whole Foods. 👉🏻 If you want to read more about it I’ve linked an article that I wrote in my bio🔗📝
Lunch and dinner always contain loads of vegetables. I try to eat as many varieties as possible; you name it, I eat it. I eat a small amount of meat or fish with either lunch or dinner. I follow a low-carb diet, especially on non-training days. On training days I save my carbs for post-workout.
I have insane amounts of energy during the day until I pass out at about 9 or 10pm. I need eight hours of high-quality, unbroken sleep so that I can do it all again day after day.
Coffee or tea?
Both – coffee in the morning and tea at night.
What is your indulgence of choice?
Dark chocolate with a chai latte or turmeric latte. Or, if I can get my hands on a gluten-free and grain-free banana bread or carrot cake, I’ll happily devour one of those. I always eat mindfully though. I enjoy every mouthful as if it were my last. Not a flavour or texture goes by without a conscious thought of how damn delicious it is.
What are three foods you can’t live without?
Eggs, avocado and dark chocolate.
Today’s cold, winter weather had me reminiscing about the amazing outdoor workouts I’ve accumulated over the past year. There’s honestly no better feeling than training in the sun, getting hot and sweaty, then cooling off in the ocean. The endorphin wave is so big you can ride it for daysssss ☀️💪🏼😀🌊🏄🏻♂️ #lastdayofautumn #seeyoutomorrowwinter
Do you have any advice for those who are starting out on their health journey?
Be willing to experiment. What works for someone else might not work for you. Also, what works for you today might not work for you in a few months down the track. Be willing to change and adapt over time.
Think of your health and fitness as building an empire. First of all, it takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Secondly, different jobs require different tools. Be willing to collect and use as many tools as possible along the way because they will all have a role to play in the overall construction of your own unique health empire.