Clean Eating Conundrum

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.

Is my love for a salad-a-day obsessive or healthy? That can be a confusing part of clean eating.

Is my love for a salad-a-day obsessive or healthy? That can be a confusing part of clean eating.

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.

Never skinny enough. Never pretty enough. Never fit enough. Never perfect enough. This is the mindset a lot of girls (including me) fall in to.

Never skinny enough. Never pretty enough. Never fit enough. Never perfect enough. This is the mindset a lot of girls (including me) fall in to.

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? 

I’m Done…

I’m done…with focusing on calories, rather than nutrients

Larabars might have a ‘lot’ of calories, but they’re healthy and simple!

I want to be a healthy vegan, so what does that mean? Getting enough fats and protein. Instead of seeking out the lowest calorie faux meat products (which do have protein, but aren’t that healthy), I want to buy nutrient-dense things that will fuel my body and help me feel my best, like Larabars and Sunshine Burgers (made from seeds, beans and veggies). I want to stop shying away from coconut products just because of their high saturated fat content. I’m done with being scared of plant-based fats, period.

I’m done…with having tiny portions of everything

Four mini pancakes are NOT enough for breakfast alone!

I know I will always likely have a smaller appetite than a lot of people but that doesn’t mean I have to eat like a hummingbird! I’m sick of eating small amounts at every meal and feeling hungry and unsatisfied an hour or two later. If I want to feel more comfortable with eating more, I can choose to snack more between my mini meals or even just increase the size of my meals a little bit over time. I’m tired of only having 1/4 cup of oats at breakfast (even with toppings it’s not enough) and only allowing myself a teaspoon of nut butter per day.

I’m done…with restricting my calories and my life

Why can’t I feel okay eating an entire (170 calorie) vegan chocolate chip cookie at one sitting and more than a tiny bowl of almond milk ice cream?

I’ve wasted way too much of my life semi-starving myself and listening to ED’s stupid demands. I want to be okay eating the calories I need to live a healthy life. I want to sometimes order something other than a salad at a restaurant. I want to cook vegan things that even my omni family will love, because it’s full of nutrients and flavor. I’m sick of freaking out every day that I exercise a little bit less than I wanted to. I’m done with constantly tallying up my calories and macro nutrients and over analyzing them.

I’m done…with second-guessing my cooking skills

My first attempt at a homemade vegan ice cream pie for Father’s Day…everyone loved it!

I hate worrying about cooking things for my family and wondering if they’ll even like it, just because it’s something they’re not used to. I want to do even more experimenting with cooking for myself. I want to make even more vegan desserts to show my family that vegan things can be just as tasty as normal desserts.

Vegan Ice Cream Pie (vegan)

8 sandwich cookies, any flavor (I used Whole Foods’ store brand, which are all-natural, but Oreos and Newman O’s are also vegan)

1/2 pint vegan ice cream, any flavor or variety like almond/coconut/soy (I used Almond Dream’s cappuccino swirl)

1 tbsp dark cocoa powder or cacao powder

1/2 tbsp agave or maple syrup

splash almond milk (or water)

fresh berries/bananas, shaved dark chocolate, vegan whipped cream, etc. for garnish

Separate the sandwich cookies and set aside the filling. Crumble cookies by hand or in a food processor until finely crushed. Mix in filling until mostly combined and starting to stick together. Press cookie crust into bottom of medium-sized glass bowl or cake pan and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Let ice cream soften and spread 1/4 of a pint over the crust, smoothing down with a rubber spatula or flat wooden spoon. Place in freezer for 30-60 minutes, or until ice cream layer is hardened. In a small bowl, stir together cocoa powder and agave until mostly mixed, and add in a splash of almond milk or water until it becomes a thick fudge-like paste. Spoon over ice cream layer and place in freezer for another 30 minutes. Let ice cream soften again and spread the remaining 1/4 pint over the fudge layer and freeze entire pie for 1-3 hours. Serve topped with berries, shaved/melted chocolate or whatever toppings you’d like. Makes 4 slices. 

What are you “done with”? How do you feel about cooking for others?

Eating Comes at a Cost

It’s probably no surprise that I love eating healthy. That’s the one reason I’m thankful that I struggled with an eating disorder–it made me more aware of what I was putting in my body and made me passionate about healthy eating. Before my ED, I wasn’t necessarily an unhealthy eater but I was a typical picky kid who liked dessert and candy but also loved fruit and always ate whole grains rather than white bread. After my ED, I’m even more committed to eating in a way that’s healthful and works with my body.

So it makes me really mad to see articles like this, which was in the Denver Post opinion section today. You may have heard about states considering taxes on junk food and sugary sodas. Many people are outraged about it, saying they have every right to eat how they want. Of course you have the freedom to fill your body with crap, but you’ll probably end up paying for it with your health. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a fast metabolism, eating fast food regularly is not good for you at all. I might be in the minority here, but I don’t believe these kinds of foods have any place in anyone’s diet, in moderation or not. I know that sounds extreme, but people need to take responsibility for their own health.

This article claims that obesity is caused by a certain number of calories, not the type of calories. Okay, maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for healthy-weight people to chow down on chips and soda all the time. The problem with junk food isn’t always the calories, fat or sugar (though usually it is) but the chemicals and cheap fillers found in these products. Yes, they’re cheap but that’s because they’re filled with things you probably wouldn’t knowingly eat. I have no problem with people wanting to enjoy ice cream every once in a while–I just think it would be better if they chose a brand with as few ingredients as possible. And of course, as a vegan, I think it would be great if people would choose nondairy options sometimes, but I don’t want to be one of “those” vegans (aka pushy and judgmental). I realize not everyone is lucky enough to be able to afford organic or even all-natural products, but that’s exactly why I believe this healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods debate is so unfair. Because a lot (not all) healthy options are more expensive.

I’m not sure how I feel about taxing junk food, but I do know that it’s completely unfair to charge so much for healthier food. I know a lot of things, like beans and whole grains, can be bought pretty cheaply in bulk. But good produce can be hard to come by at a decent price. Fruits and veggies should make up the base of everyone’s diet, yet so many Americans can barely get in one serving a day. Sometimes it’s because of the cost, sometimes it’s because they haven’t learned to like veggies but either way, it’s not fair to sell candy bars for $1 when salad greens cost at least three times that. I’m not saying it’s impossible to eat healthy on a budget, just that so many people don’t know how. So I really think there needs to be more dialogue about healthy food choices and how you can spend roughly the same amount on bananas and black beans as you can on potato chips and Coke. And how making a few small changes will add up over time and make people healthier and more vibrant. No, I don’t believe everyone needs to go vegan or vegetarian, but just being more informed about the choices they make in the grocery store will make a world of difference.

How do you feel about this junk food tax issue? Why do you choose to eat healthy?