Do I need to cut out dairy?
Do I need to cut out gluten?
Do I need to cut out chocolate?
Do I need to cut out alcohol?
Do I need to cut out fizzy drinks?
Do I need to cut out carbs?
Do I need to cut out X/Y/Z?
I must have been asked this question or similar 100s of times, and the simple but annoying answer is….it depends.
No food should be classed as bad for us, just the same as there are no super foods. Obviously some foods are better for us than others, but no way should we be labelling foods good or bad, it just creates the wrong mindset when it comes to eating and life.
There was a certain amount of uproar a few weeks ago when the programme regarding ‘clean eating’ was aired on TV. I thought the presenter did a brilliant job of putting across the facts and thus enabling the viewer to make his or her own opinion.
‘You do not need to eat clean in order to be healthy or reach your goals, whatever they may be.’
One of my favourite quotes regarding the clean eating debate is from Alan Aragon, one of the most well respected nutrition researchers in the world; “if you are defining foods as clean and dirty, then celery would of course be classed as good and ice cream would be classed as bad. However if you were on a dessert island and could only survive by eating only one of these foods, which one would you choose?” (sic)
Context is key to any of the questions above.
Gluten and Dairy
If you are intolerant to dairy or gluten, then yes you should go a period with cutting it out of your diet completely and see if this improves your health. Dairy, gluten and sugar are not the killer foods which the media likes to label them. On their own, they are not the reason for the obesity epidemic which is sweeping the world.
“A recently published study in the journal Digestion found that 86 percent of individuals who believed they were gluten sensitive could tolerate it. Individuals with celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune condition that affects roughly 1 percent of the population, must avoid gluten.”
Swapping regular bread or pasta for gluten free is also expensive if you don’t need to do so! I see people choosing things like ‘gluten free cake’ as they think it is healthier than regular cake….it definitely isn’t. Therefore if you don’t have an intolerance, and you like the taste of a glass of milk, or a slice of toast then continue have it!
Chocolate and treats
If your goal is fat loss, then yes there is the possibility that you will need to cut down on your chocolate consumption or similar palatable tasty foods (!) Chocolate is a calorie dense food, therefore if you are trying to sustain a calorie deficit, which is the most important thing for fat loss; you want to be sticking to nutrient dense and low calorie foods to fill you up as well as hit your nutritional targets. BUT that does not mean you need to cut it out completely. If a square of chocolate is going to keep you sane at the end of the day; on track with the rest of your diet and able to sustain a calorie deficit by including some, then go for it. I know I include some every single day.
Alcohol and fizzy drinks
Similar to above, if your goal is fat loss then yes the chances are that you will have to cut down on your alcohol consumption if you want to reach your goals quicker. People don’t realise the amount of calories in alcohol, it all still counts. I just had a client text me yesterday shocked at the amount of calories in vodka as she was planning a night out! This does not mean that you need to become a hermit and stop drinking altogether, it just means you need to become a bit more aware of what you are consuming and fit it into your life and diet accordingly.
A couple of drinks a week is not going to kill you or completely derail your progress. But a bottle of wine a night, or a big binge on a weekend (plus the kebab on the way home) will put a halt to any fat loss goals.
Check out my blog post on best alcohol options if you are going out.
Fizzy drinks; this is a controversial one. I think Scott Baptie has written the best blog post which I have seen on the topic so head on over to his site if you want to read more.
Non diet fizzy drinks such as regular Coke, Sprite or even Lucazade should be avoided if fat loss is your goal. There is absolutely no need to be taking in that amount of calories from a drink, especially when there are zero calorie alternatives available. The number of people I see in the gym drinking a bottle of lucazade, which probably contains more calories than they are even likely to burn off during that session, is way too high. Key here is to realise and take notice of what you are putting into your body.
That said, I don’t think that having a Diet Coke, or any other zero calorie drink every now and then will do you any harm. Yes there have been some studies published to show that artificial sweeteners may in fact be detrimental to our health, however this is not substantial and as yet there is not enough data to fully support these claims.
Get into the habit of drinking water when you can, but if having a diet coke is going to suppress your appetite and stop you over consuming calories, then I cannot see it being a problem.
Carbs and Fat
Your diet is made up from the main three macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat.
‘Macro’ = you need them in larger amounts.
Hopefully you can see the problem if you are thinking about cutting a whole macronutrient out of your diet? This is completely the wrong thing to do. It seems that Fats and Carbs interchange roles as the ‘baddy’ in the media, but the simple truth is that you require both in certain amounts in order for your body to function optimally. You need carbs for energy (amongst other things), you need fats for brain function, and to regulate your hormones (amongst other things!), therefore cutting them out entirely will have a huge effect on your well being.
Both need to be eaten in accordance to your personal goals.
I hope from reading this blog post you can see why my answer to all of the questions at the beginning will be ‘it depends.’ It really does come down to context.
There is no ultimate fat loss diet. The optimal diet is the one which you enjoy and can stick to for a period of time.
You do not need to cut anything out.
There are no good or bad foods.
I know how confusing nutrition can be, there are so many conflicting things published or spoken about every day. I want to banish these theories for good and bring it back to the basics and make it simpler for you to understand and implement yourself.
Don’t get caught up in fad diets or the latest craze.
Think about things sensibly. Do your own research. I actively encourage you to go away and read up on anything which I have said and form your own opinion!
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask!
Love Abi xxxx