Writer Chris Mandle, 26, cut out some food groups in a quest to improve his digestion

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Image: My week on a punishing elimination diet

Chris cut out refined carbs, wheat and dairy for a week

I am a good cook. I love food. If I'm honest, I'd happily spend a Saturday night watching the melted cheese bubble on top of creamy macaroni.


My diet’s not perfect, but like many people I’ve always thought I might be a little intolerant. To ... things. I feel a bit rubbish after eating mountains of carbs and bread or pasta, so I’m cutting out foods that give me digestive bad times to see if I can live without them. How hard can that be? I'll let you know.


For the next seven days there’ll be no wheat or refined carbs in my life. And no dairy, either, since despite my fondness for scoffing a ball of mozzarella like it’s an apple I find dairy makes me feel really unwell. Could this be what's slowing me down? There’s only one way to find out ... *

Day 1

Normally I have something hot and bready that I can smother in butter. Now I start the week in full-on pretentious mode by making granola bars. The result was pretty amazing if tooth-numbingly sweet. Lunch was a chicken salad and for dinner I had a chilli con carne with brown rice.


Mood: OK, quite smug about the granola, not missing a thing.


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Meal Makeover Moms / CC BY-SA 2.0 / adapted / Flickr: mealmakeovermoms

Chris is feeling pretty smug about the granola

Day 2

Purchase quinoa (pronouned 'keenwah'). This is one of those grains that’s marketed like granulated gold, but I think it tastes like wet sand. Loaded it with dressing to combat zero taste factor. Lack of starch means I’ve now created a new mealtime at 10pm. It involves stuffing my face with cashews.


Mood: good due to cashew intake but general mood low due to quinoa.


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meal 2

Photo: Chris Mandle

Soup of 'everything in the slowcooker'

Day 3

Hungry ALLTHETIME. Bored of granola bars so I had omelettes for breakfast. Bit of a faff. It's hard cooking early in the morning! I crave toast. Barely have the energy to do the washing-up.


Lunch at work has become a bit of a production. Getting looks from colleagues as I peel and slice my energy-giving avocado. I moan. Yearning for creamy pasta. Friends suggest I "get into" lentils. Will try anything instead of quinoa. I buckle and buy lentils on the way home. As a result dinner’s a triumph. Black lentils, rocket, shredded pork and roasted carrots. And filling. Result.


Mood: feeling like Gywneth. Don’t think breakfast omelettes are for me any more.


Day 4

Breakfast is a smoothie with a splash of apple juice instead of yoghurt. Self-conscious about whizzing fruit about at 7am because neighbours have a young baby. I don’t want to be evicted for my exuberant lifestyle choices. Drink smoothie. Which is filling, probably because I just ate a pint and a half of PURE FRUIT.


Lunch was a "deconstructed sandwich" aka "things I’d put in a sandwich but in Tupperware". Take emergency backup cashews (now my safety net) to scoff.


Dinner is getting harder. I picked up a butternut squash which is the size of a child’s head and costs just 80p. Bargain! Grilled chicken with mashed carrot and butternut squash. Delicious. Filling.


Mood: cautiously optimistic. Occasional mood swings.


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meal 2

Photo: Chris Mandle

Chicken sald with rocket and spinach. Dressing: oil, lemon juice, salt, chilli flakes, whisk it manically

Day 5

I have a LOT of squash to get through. Don't really want to eat any more of it today. Breakfast granola again, lunch is chicken, thyme, veg and squash salad.


Dinner is er, squash and carrot soup. Getting pangs for macaroni cheese around 9pm at night.


Mood: starting to wonder if two evening meals should be the new normal. Feeling sorry for myself.

Day 6

Look healthier. Feel better. Sleeping pretty well. Hangover sensation I get from dense meals has gone. On my way to work I realise that bacon has been suspiciously absent from my diet. Make mental note to put time aside in busy schedule for bacon.


Get to work with soup for lunch but turns out what I thought was a microwave is a photocopier. Leave office to buy "bread free sandwich" which is just dollops of salad in a box. Soup for dinner again. I want a giant French stick and a moment alone. There's a work night out planned. I will stay strong. 


Mood: Expletive-ridden. Fondue dreams.

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Photo: Chris Mandle

Chris is really pleased with the results of his enormous butternut squash chilli

Day 7

My head. Wake up, fully clothed. Smack lips. They taste of cheese. After work drinks got out of hand. There are leftover pizza slices on the floor like foodie roadkill.


I do feel nauseous. Probaby because I just found my receipts from the night before, but maybe it’s the wheat and cheese.


Mood: euphoric it’s over. Celebrate with lots of red wine.

The verdict

Apart from a shameful moment of weekend weakness it’s been resounding success. I feel perkier and as a result of raring to get out of bed and do something even started fitting in a run before work.


I look a bit better and crucially didn’t bust the bank. That was the worry, that healthier eating was going to be expensive, but I spent about the same amount. I also calmed down about having meat at every meal.


Would I do it again? Yes, although breakfast was tough, so I’d be more likely to rely on a bagel than the faff of omelette or granola bars.


Still, being able to live a slightly healthier lifestyle without Gwyneth Paltrow-levels of obnoxiousness feels like a victory to me.

*It's not advisable to eliminate entire food groups. Always consult your GP or a qualified nutritionist before making any significant changes to your diet.