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Why Business Owners Should Stop Using Shit Diets & Shakes – With Food Ninja Hayley Field

On this week’s episode of The Engaging Marketeer, Darren is joined by Hayley Field, a wellness coach with a focus on nutrition and mental health. With her alter ego “Food Ninja”, Hayley helps clients of all calibre, yet has noticed a surprising increase in the number of business owners who need her help…

Darren: So, your brand, “Food Ninja” – where did that name come from?

Hayley: Well, like all true ninjas, the name was bestowed upon me by someone else! I’ve been running my business for about 10 years now – I retrained, because previously I used to work in the corporate world as an IT consultant. I joined a CrossFit box and ended up helping someone out with a nutrition challenge. My mentor said to me, “wow Hayley, you’re quite the food ninja these days”, and that just kind of stuck!

Darren: And with your Food Ninja brand, how exactly do you help businesses now? Do you go in and punch food out of their faces to stop them eating?

Hayley: Not exactly! Originally, it was Food Ninja because I was just doing nutrition. I left my corporate job and realised very quickly that the reason people couldn’t maintain a healthy weight was actually nothing to do with food. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to eat, but there are so many other factors involved. So I ended up doing lots of other qualifications; I’m a qualified sleep science coach, a stress and recovery coach, a healthy mindset coach and also a CBT practitioner, because I realised that a lot of it was centred around mindset. I also realised that business owners are quite underserved in this area, but absolutely need help. I would say that business owners make up about 95% of my clients, and they all want to lose weight for various reasons. If you are the face of your company, and you’re not feeling great about yourself, it can be hard to put yourself out there and represent your business. I look at helping people with unhelpful coping mechanisms they may have picked up along the way, and coaching them to sleep better and things like that, because it all adds up to how you feel about yourself.

Darren: I felt like I was in a coaching session just then, because you are pretty much describing me. The whole concept of getting out there and networking for your business and speaking on a stage, which I do a lot of, and not feeling comfortable about your weight and your physical appearance, can be challenging. And then you see all these business gurus and mentors who are getting up at like 5 in the morning, and I think, “that’s just not me”.

The weight of expectation can cause unrealistic goal setting

Hayley: There’s such a lot of expectation, and I find that one of the most difficult things I have to do with my clients is persuade them that when they have downtime, it’s not wasted time. I actually had a client who said she felt annoyed that she had to sleep, because she felt like it was a waste of time! I had to remind her that it’s kind of a primary biological need, rather than a luxury. So, I try to shift people’s mindset around that, because if you’re working 18 hours a day and surviving on junk food, caffeine and alcohol, and you are exhausted by the end of the day, are you really successful? You can have the six-figure business, but if you don’t have the time or the energy to enjoy the fruits of your labour, I don’t think that should be defined as an achievement.

Darren: I feel like I’m being told off. But no, you’re right, because you can be successful in business, but not successful in your own personal health. And if you’re too tired to get up on a weekend and do what you want to do, then are you really winning?

Hayley: Exactly – I think health needs to be just as important in the way we measure someone’s success. If we’re being very blunt about it, we unfortunately live in a very judgmental society. So, if you’re trying to get new business, and there’s someone stood next to you with exactly the same experience and qualifications, but they look like they have their sh*t together, why should a client trust you over them? It’s a horrible thing really, because your appearance is no reflection on how good you are at your job, but I think we do still live in a judgmental society where people think, “well, they don’t look like they’ve got their sh*t together, so why should I listen to them?”

Darren: You’re right. If you’re standing on a stage presenting, or you’re going into a client meeting, people want to buy from people they aspire to be like.

Hayley: Exactly. I do think environment has a lot to answer for. We’re constantly being nudged towards different choices – like at supermarkets, for example. They push us into decisions about buying things, and often have items at eye level that aren’t necessarily the healthier choices. If we always try to rely on willpower in situations, it just isn’t going to work. Willpower is finite. If I go into a room and I can smell bacon, and there’s like some sad looking muesli in the corner that no one’s touched, I’m probably going to have the bacon sandwich, because why wouldn’t I? In that moment, I think you need to be connecting with why you might want to make better choices, and who you want to become, rather than just rocking up and expecting willpower to do its thing, because that just isn’t going to happen.

Darren: Everything you’ve said essentially boils back down to mindset. It’s about what you want, what your target is. So, how do you do that?

Connect with your “why” – mindset is your most powerful tool

Hayley: Mindset is a lifelong journey you need to work on – there’s no quick fix I can give you in five minutes, unfortunately! We need to remember that “health” is marketed to us by the diet culture, which is not really what health is. Our idea of health is what we’re being told by corporations like Slimming World and WeightWatchers, and people who do keto and all that kind of stuff. But that’s not health. There’s this expectation that someone can give us a set of rules to follow about what we should eat, how we should behave, how we should exercise, and then in 12 weeks’ time we’ll have transformed into the ideal version of ourselves, and all our problems will be solved. It doesn’t work like that. You need to work from the inside out, starting with your beliefs around food. It’s starting at the basic level, and trying to repair your relationship with food and exercise. Most people see exercise as a punishment or a chore, when really, we should be celebrating what our bodies can do, because they’re pretty freaking amazing. I do completely bespoke one-to-one coaching, because only you are the expert on yourself. There’s no such thing as a magic shake that can make you lose weight – it may work in the short term, but it’s not sustainable, and there’s a lot that depends on your circumstances – like your job, for example.

Darren: So, how can you make some improvements if you’re really busy? For example, unless I’m at a networking meeting, I don’t have breakfast – in fact, I quite often won’t eat anything until the evening. I drink coffee throughout the day though – probably six or seven cups at a minimum. Then I might have beer or wine in the evening. I don’t think I eat a lot of calories – I seem to drink them instead.

Hayley: I would say you don’t have to eat breakfast if you don’t want to. I personally don’t eat breakfast – I usually try and live by the rule of eating when I’m hungry. I think a lot of people eat out of habit. We’re in a situation now where very few people eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. If you can master that, you’ll never have a problem with your weight ever again, regardless of what you eat. We live in a society where we are bombarded with images and opportunities to eat for reasons other than hunger. Food can be a comfort to us, or a source of celebration – it can be a nice experience, but when you eat emotionally, rather than making you feel good, it makes you feel like sh*t, because then you feel guilty or ashamed. That’s when we get the issue of emotional eating, which does more harm than good.

Like I said, I work with a lot of business owners who can have quite obsessive personalities and are very outcome-focused. I encourage people to try and detach from the outcome and just trust the process. Rather than hitting targets, I ask people to approach the journey from a place of awareness. Organisations like Slimming World don’t work, because even if people do get the results they want, they’re not sustainable. They want you to keep paying them, whereas I never want to see my clients again! I even give people free aftercare, so three months after they’ve finished coaching, I’ll have another call with them to check that everything is still working. If it isn’t, I’ll coach them for free until whatever it is that isn’t working, sticks. I don’t know of another health coach who does that.

Darren: Yeah, in many ways your business model is quite flawed, because you’re like a driving instructor – the better you are, the shorter time you have with clients!

Hayley: True! But there are so many people who need help, that there’s just a constant stream.

Darren: And presumably, when you help people out, they’ll refer you to others.

Hayley: Exactly. I’ve been running my business for 10 years, and I’ve never paid a single penny for advertising.

Darren: That’s amazing. So, when it comes to exercise – when you’re a business owner, unless you’re out running around meeting people, you can literally stay at a desk without moving all day, other than to use the loo. What’s the best way to make sure you have some kind of movement in your life?

Hayley: Well for starters, you should never feel like you have to join some stupid Boot Camp or do any extreme exercise. Simply going out for a walk is awesome, because you can do it for longer at a higher intensity, which burns lots of calories. The reason I love walking, and I get all of my clients to do it, is the mental health and cognitive benefits. It can really help with increased productivity, creativity, focus and concentration. It can be calming, too. Think about it as a return on investment – even 20 minutes can help you feel the benefits. You’ll likely return to your desk fresher and more focused.

Darren: Believe it or not, we’re nearly out of time! If someone wants to get in touch with you for nutritional advice, or listen to your podcast, what’s the best way for them to do so?

Hayley: I’m quite active on Facebook and Instagram, and I have TikTok too, where you can find my rant about Slimming World that ended up going viral! The podcast is called Rude Health (mostly because I’m quite sweary), and I talk to lots of different business owners about their health. I focus a lot on women over 40, because I feel that sometimes we can feel as though we’re fading into the background, and that we can’t do amazing things anymore – which is definitely not the case!

Darren: Excellent. I’ve loved this – I feel enthused to actually go out for a walk!

Hayley: I’m glad! Thank you for having me.


About Hayley:

Hayley swapped her role in the corporate world for a career as a Health Strategist, where she has found huge success in helping her clients lead a healthier lifestyle.

You can connect with Hayley on socials, or visit her website here:







About your host:

Darren has worked within digital marketing since the last century, and was the first in-house web designer for video games retailer GAME in the UK, known as Electronics Boutique in the States. After co-founding his own agency, Engage Web, in 2009, Darren has worked with clients around the world, including Australia, Canada and the USA.



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