Daniel O’Shaughnessy says douching isn’t always necessary. (PinkNews)
Daniel O’Shaughnessy had worked as a nutritionist for years before he thought of writing a book specifically about queer people’s nutritional needs.
The idea first came to him when he was “dragged” onto a gay cruise ship. Throughout his career, Daniel had worked extensively with LGBTQ+ clients – people had come to him because he, as a gay man, seemed like a safe space, like somebody who understood their needs better than a straight nutritionist could.
On that cruise ship, people kept asking Daniel for tips on what foods would help them bounce back from a wild weekend.
“I thought, ‘Why is there no resource anywhere for the LGBTQ+ community?’” Daniel says. “Not everyone can afford a nutritionist – what if the information was just in a book?”
The result is Naked Nutrition: An LGBTQ+ Guide to Diet and Lifestyle. It caters to people all across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, with chapters on nutrition for people with HIV to the specific dietary requirements a trans person undergoing medical transition might need to be aware of.
There are other topics too – there’s a section that deals with nutrition for bottoms (spoiler alert: you really don’t need to be douching very often, if at all), while the book also offers some tips for a fast recovery if you like going clubbing at the weekends.
Nutrition is about more than ‘calories in, calories out’
At the core of the book is the idea that nutrition is so much more than the simplistic (and somewhat harmful) model of “calories in, calories out” that so many people cling to. Daniel is careful to note that Naked Nutrition is not a diet book.
“That’s the big difference between dieting and nutrition,” Daniel explains. “Nutrition is fuelling the body, giving your body what it needs to thrive. I practice something called functional medicine – it looks at the body as a whole. For example, if you have a digestive issue, you’re looking to find the root cause of it.”
He says calories “can be important” for some people, but they’re “not everything”.
“Particularly with weight loss for example, or even muscle gain, yes, they play a role, but they don’t take into account the person and the trauma the person has.
“You need to have a very 360 view of your health and when you just look at calories, it’s a very, very tiny bit of someone’s health. You can drink 2,000 cans of Diet Coke a day and be within your calorie allowance – is that healthy?”
He warns people away from fad diets, which are usually sold as a “quick fix” or as a way of “controlling something else”, Daniel says.
“I would say one issue is, why do you need to control something? Unpick control – maybe you can’t control something else in your life,” he says. “Fad diets are a plaster on the main issue. Essentially what I’m aiming to do is to give someone a whole health approach and say, ‘You can’t do a fad diet forever.’ It’s pretty impossible. Yes, they work – most diets work if you stick to them – but the sticking to them is the problem.”
He urges LGBTQ+ people who are in a cycle of fad diets, or who are thinking of going on one, to look inward and to reflect before they try to make drastic changes to their lifestyle.
“It ties in to the self-love thing. Many LGBTQ+ people have self-love issues because we’ve always been told we’re not good enough. We have a lot of rejection trauma. So that’s quite important for me to just unpick why you want to diet.”
Queer men who want to gain muscle for ‘external validation’ should look inward
Naked Nutrition isn’t all about calories and nutrition either – the book also touches on muscle gain and fitness. If you’ve spent any time in gay spaces, you’ll know how much emphasis is placed on a muscled physique. Daniel says people who want to bulk up should first of all question why they want to do so in the first place.
“Is it for yourself or is it about looking for external validation?” Daniel asks.
If your motivations are coming from a good place, fitness and muscle-gain can be a healthy and rewarding journey to embark on. Still, Daniel knows that many LGBTQ+ people will have had negative experiences in the past that might make them nervous about the idea of going to a gym.
“You don’t need to go to these fancy gyms, you can do lots of workouts at home and there are plenty of free workouts online,” he says. “Pick and choose what you want to do.”
He takes a “non-judgemental approach” to anabolic steroids in his book – he instead provides readers with the information they need on side-effects.
“I always say, here’s the information – I’m not going to tell you what to do. There’s a lot of side-effects to taking anabolic steroids, they’re not a quick fix, and the minute you take them you have side-effects you probably wish you didn’t have. I’ve had personal experience of taking anabolic steroids and I could not sleep. I was so anxious. Was that worth it for me? No, so I don’t see the point in taking them, and they can become very addictive in themselves.”
No, you really don’t need to be douching at all – if your diet is right, that is
Naked Nutrition also touches on some of the more practical, day-to-day issues queer people might want tips on. One of those is bottoming.
If you’re a regular bottom, the chances are that you put a lot of work into it. Douching is one of the most common ways to ensure the passageway is clear and clean before sex – but Daniel is firmly of the belief that the right diet could eliminate the need for douching entirely.
“Chances are, we shouldn’t really need to – let’s put it that way – but there are times we might have to,” Daniel says. “Every gay man has had an accident somewhere along the line, and you just have to realise that we are having sex somewhere where pieces come out of us, so accidents do happen.”
However, the biological reality is that we should be “ready for sex” at most times because of the way the colon is constructed, Daniel explains.
“That’s because we should be able to have complete and healthy bowel movements in the time we have them. But there are things that get in the way of that, whether it’s digestive concerns, stress, what we eat, what we drink – all of these may impact the structure of our faeces, so that may then change our bowel habits and whether we feel completely clean.”
If you’re eating a healthy diet with plenty of fibre, the likelihood is that you’ll be clean and ready to rumble, Daniel says – the problem is the “psychological” element. People get anxious about the possibility of having an accident, so they douche as a preventative measure.
If you’re a person that douches, you’ll probably want to douche, so it’s about douching well.
“It ruins sex – it gets in the way of sex, you panic, you don’t relax, so in those moments you might think, ‘I’m going to douche.’ There are people who think douching is very unhealthy for us, but if you’re having prolonged sex, or you just want to make sure you’re clean, then it might be better to do that than to not do that.”
However, Daniel does make the point that there is such a thing as too much douching. Going overboard can wipe out beneficial bacterias in your gut.
“That can impact risk of STIs and is bad for our health as well,” Daniel says. “It’s about weighing it up – ultimately if you’re a person that douches, you’ll probably want to douche, so it’s about douching well.”
Bottoms who want to move away from douching should identify ‘food triggers’
If you do want to move away from douching, Daniel recommends people take a look into the loo to get an idea of where the problem might lie.
“Look at your food triggers,” he says. “There’s something called the Bristol Stool Chart and your stool should look like the healthy stool on that. If it doesn’t then you have to look into why and figure out how to get a healthy stool.”
There are, of course, some quick hits for bottoms if they don’t want to deprive themselves of their favourite foods. The market is flooded with supplements for queer men – Daniel recommends Psyllium Husk, which is a plant-derived source of fibre.
“Just be mindful not to take that with any medication because it might pull that with it because it’s actually a soluble fibre,” he says. People can also try eating fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut to help with their beneficial bacteria.
The book is a first step to taking responsibility for self-love.
There’s a lot in Naked Nutrition, but at the end of the day, Daniel’s most important piece of advice is that people don’t “overload” themselves while trying to make changes. He wants people to know it’s possible to do a couple of small things differently if they want to improve their health and wellbeing – they don’t need to radically transform how they eat.
“The book is a first step to taking responsibility for self-love. I want to encourage you to step up, read the book, take what you want from it. It doesn’t have to be such a hard life.”
Naked Nutrition: An LGBTQ+ Guide to Diet and Lifestyle is out now. Daniel O’Shaughnessy’s Instagram is here.