So let me just preface this post by saying: I don’t want to come across as a virtuous, judgmental vegan who thinks everyone should eat my way or 100% clean. I think everyone’s entitled to eat the way that makes them their healthiest and happiest, whether it falls under a dietary label or not. Like for example, I claim the label of vegan because that’s how I eat 99% of the time, but I also eat raw honey and don’t question every last ingredients when I’m out at a restaurant so I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m trying to be the perfect eater or whatever. These are just my observations on a very big blog world trend.
Clean eating. Probably one of the most popular, yet polarizing phrases out there in the nutrition world today. Remember when people just used to call themselves healthy eaters, and left it at that? Now, everyone’s jumping on the ‘eat clean’ bandwagon, and for good reason. Errr…or maybe not? Yes, eating as many whole foods as possible and avoiding certain additives is certainly conducive to good health in most cases, but what about when it’s taken too far? As mentioned in my orthorexia post, I’ve taken a ‘good’ thing to the extremes and a lot of people, especially those who have struggled with EDs, can fall into the trap of cleaning up their eats…to an unhealthy point.
Not only that, but clean eating can be an unhealthy competition. I feel like Instagram, and just showing off food/fitness photos in general, can create an atmosphere of jealousy and guilt. If you don’t eat 100% clean, like so-and-so from this blog or this-or-that user you follow on IG, you’ll never achieve their bangin’ bod. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with having a certain body ideal, but if it’s unrealistic or causes you anxiety, it’s not a healthy goal to pursue. I have to admit that I’m guilty of this mindset sometimes, likely because I still have really bad body image most of the time, and I feel like I have little power to change how I see my body outside of drastically changing my eating patterns.
The actual definition of clean eating bothers me too. Mostly because there isn’t one clear cut meaning–it’s variable depending on the person who follows it. Nothing wrong with that, but there is when it becomes deceptive. How many people out there say they like to eat clean, that they never eat anything processed or packaged…and then they post all these low-cal faux foods made with sugar-free syrups and low fat peanut butter. Uhhhhh…that’s not processed? Again, I’m not trying to be virtuous, but to me, real maple syrup is a hell of a lot healthier and more real than sugar free maple syrup filled with who-knows-what. I feel like clean eating can sometimes be synonymous with restriction. Not necessarily restriction in the form of counting calories and limiting them, but restricting themselves to ‘diet’ foods in order to achieve their physical goals and possibly stay in their safe, disordered comfort zone.
Clean eating can become such a slippery slope. For me, it’s started to take over my life. I’ve cut out certain things, even things traditionally considered healthy, because they fail to meet my high clean eating standards (mostly just focusing on all natural, no weird ingredients and cutting down on grains). I pore over nutritional labels in stores and online to figure out what I should buy. I feel guilty when I go out to eat and have no idea exactly what’s in the food I’m eating. And all of those signs point to something that’s not so healthy for me. It’s become my new way to restrict, and even if it’s not putting me at physical danger, it’s putting my mind in a really bad place. It’s making me focus way too much on my perceived imperfections, both with my body and with what I’m putting in my mouth, it’s making me obsessive over exercise and food choices and it’s not leading me in the path I want to be on–the path to full recovery from my ED. So this is why I think clean eating may not be the best thing for everybody…at least not if it turns obsessive, restrictive and deceptive.
What do you think about clean eating?