Clean eating. It’s one of those terms I hear bandied about a lot.
Whether it’s from personal trainers, or in magazines and diet books.
The truth is “clean eating” has no real definition.
In fact, it probably means something different to each who use it. And there’s not a shred of scientific evidence to support the notion.
For most, it’s simply a term they use to describe how they eat.
But unfortunately for some, it has the potential to be a dangerous type of eating disorder that masquerades under a ‘healthy’ title.
So, if you’ve ever felt a sense of fear that eating something would lead to diet failure on your part, this article is for you…
Defining “Clean Eating”
We use terms like “healthy,” “clean,” “safe,” “wholesome,” “good” on a regular basis.
These words help us to describe the foods we believe we should be eating.
But at the other end of the scale we find the negative of the above.
Healthy becomes unhealthy. Clean becomes unclean. Safe becomes unsafe. Wholesome becomes unwholesome.
Perhaps it isn’t particularly helpful to label our eating at all, lest we become overly obsessed with trying to obtain what we deem to be the perfect “healthy,” “whole,” “clean” diet.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is a difficult thing to get the balance right in.
I personally use the term “healthy” on a regular basis. In fact, the whole premise of this blog is build around the idea of healthy eating.
I make no apology for that.
In terms of endeavoring to eat a clean diet, though, we need to remember is that,
“Clean eating is nothing more than a belief.” – Click to Tweet
And just like other beliefs, everyone will have a different set of rules or answers.
Common Clean Eating Themes
Here are some of the things you might hear people mention as they try to explain their version of clean eating:
- no artificial sweeteners
- no sugar whatsoever
- no canned foods
- no gluten (without intolerance)
- no dairy (without intolerance)
- no fatty meat or no red meat
- no fructose (including fruit)
- no liquid calories
- only eating organic foods
- no boxed foods
- no cheat meals or ‘days off’
The problem with this notion of clean eating is, those who follow it often feel they must rigidly stick to their way of eating least they consume something toxic.
And so, my main concern surrounding this style of eating, is that it has the potential to become a dangerous obsession.
When your diet becomes so inflexible that you cannot allow yourself a random cookie or slice of cake, this could be a warning sign for you.
Obsession is always problematic.
Of course, I am certainly not saying you should eat cake everyday in life. That would be completely irresponsible and unnecessary.
But a little here and there won’t shorten your life, or lead to massive weight gain overnight.
So, leaving aside this whole idea of “good” and “bad” foods, how can you know what to eat without becoming consumed by it all?
1. How Do You Eat Each Day?
First and foremost, I want you to think about what you eat everyday.
Do you find yourself needing to eat the same foods, otherwise you start to feel like you’ve somehow failed?
If you do, you must ask yourself very seriously what your motives are for that.
If the thought of straying from your ‘healthy’ food plan makes you feel nervous, it could be a sign of a food obsession, or eating disorder.
2. Important Questions to Ask Yourself
Here are a few questions that will help you work out which foods are a good choice for your current state of health.
All of these factors matter when deciding if a food is “healthy” or “unhealthy” for you as an individual…
Are you exercising or sedentary?
For example, if you are sedentary you may need less high sugar foods and starchy carbs.
What kind of exercise are you doing?
You may need more protein or more carb, depending on your personal goals.
What are your goals?
If it’s weight loss, you’ll have totally different dietary needs to someone who is body building.
Do you have a specific medical condition that warrants avoiding certain foods?
Many people avoid gluten without any sign of an intolerance, for example.
Are you hungry or do you feel satisfied throughout the day?
If you feel hungry, your body is telling you something – what is it? Do you need to eat more? Or, are you missing out on certain nutrients?
Also ask yourself what foods worry you most, and what you think will happen if you eat them?
The point of these questions is to help you work out if you are following a certain way of eating because you have a rational reason, or because it is something you think you could be subjecting your body to when the reality is it’s unnecessary.
Is There Ever Room For “Junk” in Your Diet?
I don’t like the term junk when referring to food, but perhaps it conveys the message I’m trying to get across to you.
In virtually all cases, there is room in your diet for a little “junk” food.
In fact, in my weight loss plan I recommend one day in the week where foods are eaten that members don’t normally eat.
This has a twofold purpose.
Firstly, it teaches that these foods can be eaten without stalling the weight loss process.
But, it also teaches that moderation and balance are what’s important.
Flexibility is the key to making any dietary plan work. Otherwise you end up with something so rigid few could follow it happily for any length of time.
That makes no sense!
There is no perfect diet. Please remember that the next time you get stressed about the food choices you make.
If you keep your diet focused on whole, fresh foods most of the time your body will thrive on that.
If you want to have a rule to follow, I suggest sticking to a 90/10 or 80/20 rule (depending on your goals) to keep your eating on track.
That means eating whole foods most of the time, with the remaining 10 percent left for whatever you want.
Have you ever followed a clean eating plan? How did you find it?
If you’re tired of hearing that the only way to be healthy is to completely avoid certain foods, then please share this article with your friends and family. Thank you!