Habit Binge

‘I actually learned to enjoy food again’: How Tom Daley beat his eating disorder


Ahead of last summer’s Tokyo Olympics – where Daley won gold alongside Matty Lee in the synchronised 10-metre platform as well as bronze in the individual 10m platform – he was able to shift another habit still lingering from his 2012 ordeal. “This was actually my first year where I didn’t have caffeine as part of my competition plan,” he reveals. “Before, I would time some sort of caffeine hit immediately before, or sometimes halfway through, a competition, just to give me that energy.” 

The Plymouth-born diver now takes a much more holistic view of his personal health, blending hearty family dinners and relaxing meditation alongside gym work and mood-boosting cardio. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something that’s positive for mind, body and soul,” he explains. “It is not just about how fit your heart is and how healthy your lungs are, it’s about that mental wellbeing for me.”

And food is no longer his nemesis. “Once you have more of an understanding about it, you’re not so worried and afraid of food,” he insists. “I have actually learned to enjoy food again.” 

Ahead of a tough training day, Daley has two glasses of water followed by four scrambled eggs, a bowl of porridge, and sometimes an extra bowl of cereal for breakfast. “That is something I would never normally do,” he reflects. “I used to just have eggs on their own and that was it, no carbs, no nothing. How do you last through a two-and-a-half-hour training session without eating?” 

For lunch, he might have some chicken, rice and veg, or leftovers from the night before which could be chicken and prawn paella or a tofu stir-fry. “I have dinner quite early, about 5.30-5.45pm, mainly for my son, because we all like to eat together,” he says. “I make dinner for the three of us. After putting Robbie to bed, I then make myself a casein (a slow-release protein) overnight protein (shake) and that massively helps my recovery. And depending on how hard my training session was, I sometimes have tart cherry juice (to aid recovery) as well.” 

Daley says experimenting with recipes for his family has injected some much-needed fun and balance into his diet. “I like making a lot of Thai and Korean and sometimes Indian or Japanese,” he says. “I also like to just use up whatever I have in the fridge.” 

He has his mum Debbie to thank for this frugal family habit. “When we were younger, and there wasn’t really much in the house as she had to go shopping the next day, I would say: ‘Mum, what are we going to have for dinner?’ And she would say: ‘IFIT!’ I’d say ‘what does IFIT mean?‘ and she’d say: ‘If it’s there, you can have it!’ That challenge of creating something from what you have in the fridge is really fun.”

Daley continues to push himself hard in the gym because diving places such extreme demands on his body. “We hit the water at 35mph, from the height of two double-decker buses and half a car piled on top of each other, so that’s quite intense,” he explains. “There’s a lot of impact for the shoulders, triceps, arms and wrists. Actually, 65 per cent of our training is done on dry land, whether that be yoga, gyrotonics (a pulley machine which blends the movement patterns of yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai chi), gymnastics, weight training or cardio.”  

He now spends a lot more time stretching and doing yoga at home. Daley is an ambassador for Vodafone and has helped to produce a free yoga workout for their YouTube channel to help people still working from home. “People have spent on average about six hours and 20 minutes (per day) sitting down throughout this pandemic, which works out to be 93 days of the year,” says Daley. He insists that home yoga workouts are an easy way to “get people off the couch” and “get moving”. 


Read More:‘I actually learned to enjoy food again’: How Tom Daley beat his eating disorder