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The truth about food; Does McDonald's make you fat?

The truth about food.

At the weekend I decided to go crazy & have a McDonalds for Sunday lunch. Yes, I am joking with the crazy part, I don’t see McDonald’s as that big a deal & every now & again I love a big mac with fries & a milkshake. But I received some comments on that lunch through social media & it made me think of the comments I have personally received from people both in-person & online, most of these were friends & family, over the past few weeks about the foods I eat.

“Diet coke makes you fat.”

“I thought you were an athlete.”

“Nutella is fattening.”

“McDonald’s is bad for you.”

You get the idea. These bold statements have been adding up over the past couple of weeks & I really felt like it was time to publicly discuss this. Now I am no nutritionist, I am a personal trainer who can give nutritional advice from evidence-based facts, but nor were any of these people. Now, these comments didn’t offend or upset me personally but it really made me think about peoples attitudes to food & how it could really affect someone’s food choices & perceptions they have around food. It is easy to see how people can be so easily led to believe what’s good or bad & can lead people to have really poor mental attitudes or poor habits towards their nutrition.

As someone who has previously struggled with an eating disorder, this is a subject very very close to my heart. I now have the knowledge & the confidence to understand food & nutrition for what it is, I eat what I like and have a balanced approach to my diet which I now see as healthy. Trust me it has taken a long time for me to get to this point.

However, if someone had said those comments to 16 year old me I would of either not eaten the food or chucked it. If someone told me something was bad or it had 800 calories in it I would quite frankly panic & not eat the “bad item”, I would fully have believed it would make me fat if I ate say a Percy pig. It is a really dangerous place to be & as a coach I have a big belief to share facts with people and help them to move away from poor eating habits & mental attitudes towards food to one of a healthier, far more sustainable approach that gives flexibility & leaves the binging & dieting habits in the past.

Food is calories right. So some foods have more calories than others, some foods have more nutritional goodness in them so are therefore more beneficial to your health and your bodies. But there is no such thing as;

“Good food or bad food”

That’s just ridiculous & there is no such thing as the above; remember that. Just some foods are better choices than others to give your body the nutrients it needs for optimal health & function. Including foods you enjoy within your diet as well as healthier options, that to me is a balanced & healthy approach that is sustainable in the long run regardless of if your goal is to maintain or lose or gain weight.

Connotations around fast foods, Nutella, fizzy drinks lead people to believe if you touch it you are forever doomed. Ever heard;

“A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips.” (Yes another tacky phrase I absolutely hate but people believe this nonsense!)

These foods as I have said are not the best options you could pick, of course, there are far healthier and better foods you could choose to consume. These types of foods tend to be higher in calories, contain high levels of saturated fats and are made using more refined ingredients. All the things we want to avoid too much of to avoid gaining weight. But it is not these foods specifically that are “fattening” or make you fat. The science of excess weight gain is a simple mathematical equation;

Simply put what makes you gain weight & excess body fat is eating more calories than you expend in a day (calorie surplus) & a lack of physical activity, not a particular food and that is the bottom line. Energy balance.

When you don’t understand the simple basic principles of weight loss or gain then it is easy to believe a certain food is “bad” for you as such, but for me both as a coach & someone who has struggled with mental attitudes towards food I find this such a dangerous mentality. In a high pressured competitive environment such as riding it is easy for food to end up triggering negative connotations but it is so crucial to see food for what it is.

Food is fuel and if you want to perform to your best you need fuel.

Just as your horse does, you wouldn’t expect him to go clear in the time around an 8-minute track if he had eaten nothing all day or equally been chowing down on Maccy D’s, would you?

For riders, it is important to understand your basic food principles. When you are on the road a lot in the season travelling to and from lessons, competitions, clinics it can be hard sometimes to make the best choices & ultimately if you’ve had a bad day you may just fancy a McDonald’s on the way home and that is fine! It is important to know & understand that one big mac isn’t going to ruin your progress or make you gain weight overnight.

Yes, foods that are high in calories & highly refined should be eaten in moderation of course but to me a healthy approach to food is one where you include all of the foods you like within your diet, a good 80/20 balance if you like focusing on 80% of your diet coming from nutritious, whole food sources & then 20% to include foods you like & treat type foods whether that be chocolate, wine, gu pudding, McDonald’s, Nutella whatever you like!

Restricting or labelling certain foods as many popular diet brands do is a very dangerous thing to do. Categorising food as being bad, then avoiding it as you believe it is bad for you is not a healthy approach & utterly unsustainable in the long run. Trust me a banana is not a syn!

Over time you will struggle with the restriction & ultimately it will lead you to say F this I’m having dairy milk & a bottle of Chardonnay. This leads to the constant binge & restrict cycle which is not a good or healthy place to be for long term health or sustainability.

For me, as a coach & person, my beliefs and ethos are all about bringing you guys the facts & science behind subjects to help you understand the truth and weight loss and gain is one of those subjects. There are many myths & inaccurate information out there & you will all find that you have that one mate who is an absolute nutrition expert but remember there is no such thing as good or bad food, a healthy approach is a balanced one & if you want a Maccy D’s on the way home from an event every now and again do it! Educate yourself with the facts & have the confidence to include flexibility within your diet & enjoy your food. I hope this helps to dispel the myths for some of you.

Katie x

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