“I have to just cut out all the junk and i’ll be ok”

What a statement! A huge statement made so flippantly without any kind of understanding of the sheer magnitude of it for so many reasons. It was this statement that led to waffle (*hilarious food joke klaxon*) on about the below.

‘Cutting out’

*Pauses to find the right words here because this concept is unfathomable to Dietitians*…. Why would you cut anything out of your diet? Think about why you’re saying these words and what they mean. Cutting out a particular food or food group implies that a food/food group is bad, forbidden and that only serves to reinforce a very damaging ‘deny-binge’ style type of behaviour.

As Practitioners, we use the words ‘balanced’ and ‘moderation’ over and over on a daily basis and there’s a robust rationale as to why we do but if you are of a certain mind-set where you have decided you are cutting out certain foods then that’s a mind-set that needs to change. Changing this mind-set will ensure that you never have to worry about your diet again. Imagine never having to constantly stress about your diet again yet maintaining a healthy weight…That freedom (and it is complete and utter freedom) is entirely possible, you just need to alter a few thought processes and that takes some work.

The reason it needs to change is: (bare with me, being concise isn’t my strongest point)

We need food from all five food groups, every single day and there are lots of scientific reasons why
We don’t need huge amounts of one food group (i.e. Protein seems to be a favourite here) and less of another (i.e. Carbs seem to be a favourite here..) because we only so need so much of one nutrient then the rest of obsolete (think of it like a small glass of orange juice; you need a small glass, anymore and you will not be gaining any extra nutrition, just the extra calories and extra calories leads to weight gain)
We need a variety of foods, even fat so you are able to enjoy the foods you like every single day. The hard part is knowing that even though you can have chocolate every day, you can’t have the entire 500g bar every day and this is where those pesky ‘balanced’ and ‘moderation’ words come in to it. If you think moderation is a takeaway meal, 5 beers and chocolate on four nights a week is moderation then you are doing nothing but making excuses for your eating habits. If you think enjoying a small amount of something you like on a daily basis is moderation then you’re you are the proud owner of a healthy attitude to healthy eating.
I am simply saying the exact same thing in each bullet point, mainly to reinforce the point that you do not have to cut out any foods from your diet.
So many common misconceptions and extreme thinking around diet and eating still exists and when it comes to your diet and your overall health, there should be no place for this. Disordered eating habits can have adverse impacts on health. If there’s one thing I try to ensure patients understand is that when it comes to losing weight, there’s no rush. It didn’t go on in one week and it sure isn’t going to come off in a week. This process does a lot more harm than good and research suggests that dieters who yo-yo diet risk poorer health outcomes than those who lose weight gradually and maintain a healthy body weight over a longer period of time. Barasi (2003) supports this and suggests that this type of dietary intake pattern can lead to inadequate energy and nutrient consumption with subclinical deficiencies developing and implications for future health.

‘Junk’ food

Foods high in fat and sugar are usually associated with this term and common misconceptions and our perceptions of these foods often lead us to believe these foods are bad. While it is true that foods high in fat and sugar can contain double the calories than in foods such as chicken and fish, it does not mean these have to be coined as ‘bad’ or cut out of the diet completely. The hardest part for anyone trying to lose weight is knowing a) what portion can they have of a high fat food and b) how often can they eat it and there lies the answer to weight loss and a healthy attitude to food.

Picture the scene; you’re trying to lose weight so you have a chicken breast (grilled, no skin, obviously) and some vegetables for your tea. Cue one hour later, you are so hungry, you could eat a small horse then two hours later (by this time, a whole zoo), you cave and you reach for some toast. But then you’re still hungry so you reach for some crisps….. But after that, you’re STILL hungry so you pop a pizza in the oven, eat half and you’re finally full. Great, problem solved. Or not…. By trying to lose weight so rapidly, you decided to cut out that jacket potato or that serving of rice. You then became so hungry because your body needed that 300-400kcal starchy food portion and it wasn’t overly happy with that measly 200kcal chicken breast you gave it so it told you so and it forced you to eat until you were full because that is the normal eating process after all. So why try and fight it? By having that jacket potato (you could even go crazy and have some butter in it), you would’ve had a balanced meal and would’ve been full within half an hour. By doing the former, you consumed an extra 900 odd kcals which you didn’t need; you just needed the 400 from the carbohydrate thus saving yourself 500kcals. Adding the butter not only provides you with a balanced meal, it provide valuable vitamins that you actually need and after all, 50kcals of your budget spent on butter is a pretty decent investment as opposed to splurging another 500 on that half a pizza…

‘I’ll be ok’

The biggest mistake you can make when aiming to lose weight is thinking that ‘I’ll just do this and I’ll be ok’. Thinking you can control your body’s hunger mechanisms by cutting out foods and tricking it is not ok and will never work. Accept that you have a constant fire you need to feed and there’s no getting away from it. The key is to know when and what to eat.

There is a vast amount of research that suggests the most effective way to eat for good health and a good attitude towards eating habits is:

3 x balanced meals a day
2 x healthy snacks in-between meals
The aim

Start your weight loss goal by aiming to achieve this structure, even if you are so busy one day, you pick up a biscuit and have that as a snack. It will do more harm than good forcing yourself through till lunch time as you will pay for in calories at some point during the rest of the day.

And finally…

Research tells us that many people do not eat according to current recommendations. There are many reasons for this but one that is particularly common is that some food, once eaten, can change body size and many people struggle with this psychologically. Ogden (2004) suggests that this is loaded with a set of complex meanings such as attractiveness, control, lethargy and success and these factors may play a role in the reasons why we find it difficult to eat in regular and a controlled manner. Seems pretty understandable that if a food has made you feel particularly bloated one day that you would associate this with it becoming a ‘bad’ food and may avoid it in the future. This is when eating can become disordered and you may be at risk of developing dangerous eating habits. You can develop disordered eating without having a diagnosed eating disorder and evidence suggests that this style of eating is strongly associated with poor physical health outcomes, especially in young adulthood (Pevelar et al, 2004).

Interventions for tackling weight loss need to be holistic, realistic and achievable. Structure and timing of eating is key in the first instance and aiming for structure in the diet will ensure the rest of the journey (making healthier food choices and exercise) will become a little easier to face. Perhaps my favourite notion when it comes to tackling food-related behaviour and weight is that the focus on should be on structure of the diet and timing of meals and little to do with the set of weighing scales in your bathroom that you undoubtedly have another unhealthy relationship with. Studies support this and suggest that interventions for weight loss should focus on modifiable behaviours; weight is not behaviour and therefore is not an appropriate target for behaviour modification (Bacon and Aphramor, 2011).

Ditch the scales, eat regularly, choose wisely and be well. Food is too great a privilege and pleasure to not enjoy wholeheartedly


Bacon L and Aphramor L, (2011). Weight Science: Evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal. 2011. 10:9

Barasi, M (2003). Human Nutrition. A health perspective. 2nd Ed. Hodder Arnold. Oxford University Press.

Develar. RC, Bryden. KS, Neil. W, Fairburn. CG, Mayou. RA, Dunger. DB, Turner. HM. The relationship of disordered eating habits and attitudes to clinical outcomes in young adult females with Type 1 Diabetes. Diabetes care. January 2005. Vol. 28. No.1 84-85.

Ogden, J (2004) Health Psychology. A textbook. 3rd Ed. Open Univerity Press.