War On Clean Eating

It is not uncommon today to hear someone talk about how they're starting a healthy journey lifestyle that is accompanied by 'clean eating'. 

Every time I hear that word being uttered from someone's mouth I cringe. Literally. 

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What does it even mean? Are you washing your food with Windex? Maybe you're preparing your food differently than me? I don't know. But the term "eating clean" is really popular in today's society. 

If you ask a group of people, who would consider themselves clean eaters what the term 'eating clean' means, you will get some different answers. The answers may include responses like no processed food, low-fat, low-sugar, low- calorie, low-glycemic index, or only foods our ancestors ate and a variety of other answers.

There is no set definition of the trendy term taking the health and fitness community by storm. Foods that are processed aren't inherently bad anyway. We should all try to eat more whole foods like fruits, vegetables and minimally processed whole grains and protein. And I usually eat mainly whole foods. But I also don’t freak out about foods that aren’t ‘clean’ because I know that the majority of my diet is pretty nutritious and I like to enjoy my food whether it is healthy (usually) or not (sometimes).

While labels on diets can be a good thing at times (obviously gluten-free is essential for those with celiac and those who use a certain type of diet, like low sodium, to manage a health condition), but for the most part, I think labeling your diet is stupid. Especially if you need a ‘cheat day’ from your so-called diet. 

Labeling your food clean implies that other foods are dirty or have some negative result on your health waiting to be unleashed. ‘Clean eating’ may have started with good intentions, but it has gone too far. It has turned into yet another food shaming diet fad that fuels terrible eating habits. 

Clean eating is used to sway people toward certain foods as well. It has a health halo effect on people. The “health halo” effect occurs when a food that has some healthy attri­butes is perceived as being virtuous in all respects. For instance, many people mistakenly think that organic foods are more healthful than their conventionally grown counter­parts. Couldn't be further from the truth. You can eat an organic cookie all you want. Guess what? If you eat too many of them, you can still gain weight. Calories are still KING regardless if you're eating organic or not. 

‘Clean eating’ can lead to an unhealthy obsession with food. With social media making it possible to be constantly immersed in a culture of health food and fitness, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison and thinking that your food is not healthy enough because it doesn’t look like the health and fitness guru you follow on social media. It’s a slippery slope that can lead to disordered eating patterns or full-blown eating disorders. 

Clean eating has no set definition. What’s considered a clean or nutritious food differs from person to person based on their situation, preferences, and goals. Don't put yourself in the box of 'clean eating'. You will find yourself finding ways to "cheat" and will end up down the yo-yo dieting path that you don't want to be a part of.