A few years back now I was interviewed for a health magazine on clean eating. Looking back, I wished I’d known better and said what I know today.
On the surface, clean eating looks like a great thing – it’s just about avoiding processed foods and going for minimally processed foods. So what’s the big deal? That’s what I originally thought and I may have even eye rolled back then when I saw someone on twitter say ‘clean eating’ was a bad thing. Now I’m eye rolling at myself for being so ignorant.
So what’s ‘wrong’ with clean eating? Well for starters there’s nothing wrong at all with wanting to eat more minimally processed foods and more wholefoods. But the problem with clean eating is that by definition we’re labelling foods and creating a diet mentality. If a food isn’t on the ‘clean’ list then often we’ll feel guilty or bad for consuming it. It becomes a diet of virtue. You feel great when you’re following the ‘clean’ list but if you slip up, you easily fall into the diet mentality of eating everything that’s not on the ‘clean’ list and think you’ll start again on Monday.
We need to get away from labelling our food in terms that are moralising. Instead of asking ourselves if something is ‘clean’ or not, instead we should ask the questions “Am I hungry right now?” “What do I feel like eating”? “Will this nourish me?” The nourishment may be nutritional but it might also be nourishing for the soul.
When we change our perspective from good foods and bad foods to thinking about what we want to eat and how that food makes us feel, we learn to make choices that work well for both our body and our soul. You find you WANT to eat healthy food most of the time because it makes you feel good, and because you want to feel healthy not because it’s on a ‘good’ or ‘clean’ list.
With this perspective, you don’t feel bad for eating your favourite brownie that mum makes because it reminds us of home and it brings us pleasure. But you don’t eat the whole tin because that makes you feel unwell and you know you can eat it again next time you go!
We like things such as clean eating because it’s simple. It appeals to us because there’s no grey area and it feels like when there’s no room for ambiguity, then we’re in control. But while this feels like it works, it doesn’t. In fact, it’s this black and white thinking that leaves us feeling out of control. If you don’t eat ‘clean’ – then you kinda think what the hell, I’ve ruined it I may as well enjoy the weekend and then I’ll start clean eating on Monday.
It’s not easy to change your food mindset – but when you learn to, it’s a liberating feeling. You no longer feel out of control around food. You trust you and your body to make decisions that work well for you.This type of mindset leaves you feeling balanced and at peace with food. And that’s something that we all deserve to feel.