"Clean Eating." It seems to be the mantra of fitblrs these days; I hardly ever see anything on my dashboard besides "eat clean eat clean eat clean eat clean." While I have nothing against people who eat clean, I do have a problem with the general message I believe is being sent here. I’d like to talk about some of the "darker" aspects of clean eating, because frankly I’m getting a little tired of seeing and hearing about it.
There is no solid definition of clean eating. Most people will tell you that clean eating means eating no processed foods. But then those same people will use protein powder, dairy, whole grain bread, etc. What gives? The problem is that a solid definition of clean eating has never been established - it varies from person to person. Some people think dairy is clean, some don’t. Some clean eaters approve protein bars; others say they’re way too processed. How can one possibly follow a diet when there’s not even a clear definition of that diet? It just makes things unnecessarily complicated. Some say that clean eating means eating nutrient-dense foods, but even pizza can be nutrient-dense with the right toppings. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Clean eating is not the key to weight loss. It needs to be said. If you go from eating junk all the time to eating clean, will you lose weight? Almost definitely, yes! But that’s because you’re consuming less calories throughout the day, therefore creating an energy deficit in your body, which leads to weight loss. Obviously eating a big mac and fries for dinner has a lot more calories than eating grilled chicken and leafy greens. So if you start eating the chicken regularly instead of the big mac, sure you’ll lose weight. But that’s because you’re consuming less calories, not because there’s anything magical about grilled chicken that is causing your weight loss. This is why “eating clean” is always recommended for weight loss: it’s an easy way to make sure you keep your daily calories low enough. But there is nothing special about “clean” food that causes you to lose weight. (Don’t believe me? Check out the twinkie diet - yes, it’s real.)
Clean foods don’t necessarily make you healthier. I’m going to get a lot of hate for this one, but it’s true. How can it be, you ask? While it’s true that most foods labeled “clean” contain essential vitamins and nutrients for your body, there are plenty of studies out there showing that weight loss with a diet of “unclean” foods is just as beneficial for health as weight loss while eating “clean.” Let’s revisit the Twinkie Diet - dude lost 27 pounds, dropped his “bad” cholesterol by 20% and increased his “good” cholesterol by 20%, and decreased his triglycerides by 39%. By any measure of health, those are great numbers! Experts in the field of health and fitness also tend to agree that the idea that you need to “eat clean” to be healthy is a myth (source). Basically, general fitness (maintaing a healthy body weight and exercising) are much bigger contributors to overall health than the actual foods you eat. Could you be even healthier by sticking to a clean diet? Probably, but it’s just not as big of a deal as everyone makes it out to be.
Labeling foods as “good” or “bad” needs to stop. The major problem I have with clean eating is that it encourages a “good vs. bad food” (or in this case, “clean vs. unclean food”) mentality. Frankly, this is a common mentality among people with eating disorders and it is NOT a good message to send to people who are just starting out with dieting and fitness. Am I saying people who eat clean are disordered? Of course not!! But I do think that mental health is just as important as physical health, and encouraging a fear of “bad” foods is simply not healthy. I often see people on my dash who are freaking out because they “binged” and ate something “unclean.” Then they feel like they’ve screwed up all their progress and they might as well give up. Why would we encourage that kind of thinking? Instead, why don’t we let people know that it’s okay to eat their favorite foods sometimes, that there is no such thing as a “bad” food, and that food should never be a source of guilt? There is no reason getting healthy should have to be miserable, but by telling people they’re bad or wrong for eating certain things, we’re making it that way.
Clean eating does not make you better than other people. In my personal experience, clean eating sometimes encourages a “holier than thou” attitude. It’s incredibly frustrating. Of course not everyone is like this, but I see it way more than I’d like. Eating by your definition of “clean” does not make you better than anyone else. You have no right to judge others by their food choices. When you go out to eat with friends and order something healthy and then secretly judge them all on their “disgusting” “unclean” foods, you’re being generally shitty and you need to stop. Just like having designer clothing doesn’t make you any better than someone else, eating clean or organic or whatever doesn’t either. Move on.
The bottom line: I have absolutely no problem with eating foods that are healthy for you - in fact, I encourage it! My own diet is actually pretty “clean” by most people’s standards, though I do love to treat myself to “junk” when I feel like it. I just want everyone to know the actual facts behind clean eating and stop feeling like they HAVE to do it to be healthy, which is the general idea I see around here.
Basically, eat what makes you feel good and helps you reach your goals. If that’s “clean” foods, then wonderful!! If it’s a lot of the same junk you used to eat but in smaller portions, that’s totally fine too. No matter what you choose to eat, know that diet is a personal choice and there’s no reason to force your personal diet beliefs on others.
finally someone else who understands
Some good points here and I like to be informed…to me it is just picking the best ingredients to put in your body.