“Something we all overlook is putting yourself first”, Dan Churchill of Centr and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Something we all overlook is putting yourself first. You can’t do anything if you’re not looking after yourself first. This means that you can’t pour your love or support into someone else until you’ve put it into yourself. Put time for yourself into every single day. Time block so that you can focus on the […]

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Something we all overlook is putting yourself first. You can’t do anything if you’re not looking after yourself first. This means that you can’t pour your love or support into someone else until you’ve put it into yourself. Put time for yourself into every single day. Time block so that you can focus on the things that matter to you, set aside time to be creative, and try to achieve your morning and evening routine every day.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Churchill of Centr.

Named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2019, Dan Churchill is a celebrated health and fitness coach, NY cafe owner and cookbook author, and a former contestant on MasterChef Australia.

Dan believes fresh food and good eating are the foundations for a healthy lifestyle and, with a Masters in Exercise Science, was already working as a health and fitness coach to athletes before catching the nation’s attention as a contestant on MasterChef Australia. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, he served as skier Lindsey Vonn’s personal chef, fueling the veteran champ to a bronze medal in what may have been her last Games.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia. I was very active, loved rugby, and knew I wanted to participate in sports and potentially pursue a professional career. After finishing high school, I knew I wanted to be involved in sports, so I pursued an undergraduate degree and a Masters in Exercise Science while continuing to surf and cook all the time. Over time, I realized I was especially interested in this space as it tied in to performance and biohacking, and knew I’d want to ultimately pursue a career in the wellness and performance industry.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I’ve always been inspired by people; Jamie Oliver was a huge inspiration to me growing up. But, what really inspired me along the way was the feedback I’d get on the recipes I created for athletes I worked with in my personal training and fitness career early on. This inspired me to take this to a professional level and create meals for athletes. It was a very basic interest given where I was in my culinary career and performance career, but I started to get more and more feedback, especially from young guys who wanted to learn more about cooking and feel more confident in the kitchen. That was the turning point for me, and as I continued to create more content and appear on TV shows, my brand started to have an impact in terms of the feedback I was getting from the brands I’m affiliated with and responses to my podcast and blog posts. This feedback is what inspires me to this day to stay motivated to find ways to help improve people’s performance.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I think everyone has to be honest with themselves and realize that you’ll get to where you want to go as a result of so many different factors, including who you have in your corner along the way. I look back and think that if I didn’t have certain people in my life, many of my achievements would not have happened; in my personal training business, I had so many mentors including Scott Hardiman, my parents and brothers (who hadn’t really heard of the industry I wanted to be in but supported me nonetheless), my manager Lance (I wouldn’t be where I am today without him; I definitely wouldn’t be in America!), people like my team members Maddie and Ty (who help me achieve my goals with The Epic Table podcast and production company), my team members at Charley St (who support my endeavors on that front), and of course my partner Milena (who has sacrificed a lot to allow me to do what I do). It’s never just one person but so many different people who have supported me along the way.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Some very funny and interesting things happen when you’re cooking on live TV — including when a hot plate isn’t actually hot so you’re not actually cooking! I’ve learned to adapt and be able to work quickly on my feet to remain confident even when things aren’t going perfectly to plan.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Believe in yourself, stay consistent, and stay relevant. If you already know what you want to do, you can start working out a path to get there. But if you don’t, think about what your core values are and how you can maintain them or achieve them. Find a way to position yourself so that your community members and team members are in line with your values and understand your message.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Leonardo DaVinci’s biography was absolutely amazing. It taught me so much about him as a person and how complex we are as individuals. DaVinci was well ahead of his time in so many ways, and faced so many challenges; we may know him for the Mona Lisa, but he did so many other things too that he isn’t as well known for today. The beauty of this book is that you learn how he adapted to the era he lived in, while also achieving so much that he was passionate about. Winston Churchill’s biography was also absolutely fascinating, just learning about his way of life and journey.

Other books like Max Lugavere’s “A Genius Life” and “The Mind-Gut Connection” have also been mind blowing for me on so many levels from a health and wellness perspective.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I always say Control the Controllable. Figure out which parts of your day you can control (maybe it’s breakfast and your hydration levels), and start there! Or maybe it’s your dinner and the amount of sleep you get. Epic. That’s your starting point. From there, if there are things that are outside of your control, that’s normal and a part of life, but you’ll feel better knowing you’ve controlled the things you can. For instance, I make my bed every single morning, and meditate or read before getting into my workout. It sets a healthy tone for the day and is a part of my day I can control.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m so excited for the year I have planned out with Centr, both for fitness and food; I’m excited to help people truly understand how nutritious food can be individualized and use this platform to make that happen. I’ll be opening a new Charley St restaurant outpost, and releasing a game-changing product to the market that will be phenomenal for people to see, with a great brand campaign. I’ll also be working with a new company to launch their new restaurant spaces which will be so exciting for me on a consulting level. I’m also looking forward to doing more long-format content shoots and to sharing all of that goodness with my audience — for me, it’s always about finding ways to help people achieve higher levels of performance and live the lifestyle they want to live.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Good habits are proven to build success, and contribute to achieving your goals in the long run. Habits are routines, and routines, if they’re the right ones, generate a positive cycle and mindset for your whole life. I always come back to the example of making my bed first thing in the morning. It’s a tiny, easy habit that you can get into without much effort but it really does set the tone for the day and ensures you’ve done at least one thing in your day that benefits you! I’d advise you to figure this out for yourself.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

I always think about my morning routine when it comes to habits. Ask yourself, what’s the first thing you do? Do you have coffee first thing, do you hit the gym? For me, I know that the first things I do in the morning set the tone for the day as a whole, and that this is also the one time I have to myself. I read, have my bottle of Athletic Greens on an empty stomach, drink black coffee, and hit the gym. I try to get serotonin boosts throughout the day too, in addition to just in the morning. All along the way, as I mentioned, I’m ticking off the things that I can control, which are education (my morning reading routine), movement (usually at the gym or a long run, always tracking my performance with my WHOOP strap), and nutrition (whatever I’m eating that day at Charley St).

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

Generally, it takes about three weeks to get into a habit, so I’d advise you to set out a time of the year where this is most achievable for you. Perhaps that means starting things off in the new year rather than toward the end of the year — you’ll be in a more controlled environment (I’ve found that generally, there’s less under our control during the hectic holiday season). Say you want to achieve five goals in that span of time; depending on your timeline, you might know that you’re only able to achieve just one at a time, or you may be working on them bit by bit all at once.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Something we all overlook is putting yourself first. You can’t do anything if you’re not looking after yourself first. This means that you can’t pour your love or support into someone else until you’ve put it into yourself. Put time for yourself into every single day. Time block so that you can focus on the things that matter to you, set aside time to be creative, and try to achieve your morning and evening routine every day.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Get up earlier to support the things you need to get done in the morning. Don’t set any work tasks or to-dos before your start time at work; the time before work is for you! Also, ensure you’re properly recovering from your week. I love my Theragun for physical recovery.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

First, focus on quality sleep. Sleep is so underrated these days when it comes to performance, as we’re all thinking with a go-go-go mentality, and we tend to neglect sleep first. Getting into a healthy sleep routine is paramount, as we don’t realize how much of an impact sleep has on us. Second, stay hydrated. Third, intermittent fast for 4–5 days per month each month (this is shown to be great for performance).

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Set yourself up a great sleep routine: don’t eat within 2 hours before bedtime, wear blue light blocking glasses, and sleep in a cold environment. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Optimize sleep by creating a relaxing environment. Carry a bottle with you to drink more water each day (for instance a 16-oz bottle that you know you can drink 4 times a day) so that you can maintain hydrated. Input your workout plan at the start of the week, before anything else. Set out your workout clothes for each day or even for the full week. I do this with my Under Armour gear! Then plan your meals out around your workouts, if you can, especially if you’re fasting that morning. For those reading, I also recommend becoming a part of the Centr community to help you plan out your workouts and meals each week!

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Write down your thoughts. There are so many things that might go through my brain every day, so I try to keep a 30 minute block to myself one or two times a day to ensure I’m staying creative and on top of my tasks and goals. Plan ahead by time-blocking your day so you can get into a better state of flow. Work in a quiet environment with minimal distractions if you can.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Keep a journal or notebook with you at all times! Implement time-blocking into your calendar. Find a workspace that works for you, or get the things you need to set up that workspace for optimal focus.

I also love to practice cold water immersion or cold water therapy, which can enhance uptake of norepinephrine, which is great for our bodies (a cold shower first thing in the morning is a great example of this — it gets your adrenaline going and increases your focus).

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

I love achieving a state of Flow when I’m cooking (sautéeing garlic is a great example), or running.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Eating more plants — I want to be triggering more of this with my work and try to promote this in every aspect of my life and job. I’d love if we could all enjoy one day of plant-based eating per week, at least. I also hope more people can experience the benefits of intermittent fasting.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Tom Brady! He’s someone who is able to look after his body and mind, and I’m fascinated with him from a performance and work ethic perspective. Like me, he’s also a part of the Under Armour team!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on The Epic Table Podcast, through the Centr program ( and on IG @dan_churchill, as well as on Facebook!

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