Let’s talk about the elephant in the room…
Francine, happy birthday. Anyone got that reference? 😉
Clean eating has been around for quite a while now, and at this point, is basically synonymous with eating healthy. It’s also pretty ambiguous, and different people interpret it in different ways.
For some, it may mean zero processed foods. For others, it means cutting out all grains and starchy carbs. For many, it’s no sugar.
It seems the common thread here is there is some elimination happening. The idea is that in order to eat clean, which seems to be the thing to do, you need to give up certain foods and make certain sacrifices.
So conversely, to be healthy, you need to give up foods you love.
I call bullshit on that.
First of all, I think completely eliminating any particular food or food group is a surefire way to launch yourself into a never-ending cycle of restriction, binging, and guilt. If you tell yourself you can’t eat a certain food, you’ll be able to think of nothing but that food until you finally give in and eat it. Plus the three other things you ate in an attempt to quench your craving.
Isn’t it easier to just give in to your craving in the first place?
There’s a difference between eating super indulgent foods with minimal nutrition for every single meal, with nary a vegetable in sight, and including those indulgent foods as fractions of an otherwise wholesome diet.
In our current health-conscious world, I hear a lot of phrases like, “oh, I was so bad, I ate cake yesterday” or “I’m going to be good today and not eat any sweets.”
First of all, no food is going to automatically make you a good or bad person. It’s not causing you to commit any crimes or betray anyone or lie for personal benefit.
If you think about it, it’s arbitrary and a little ridiculous to categorize food as good or bad. Every single food has a place on the table. Maybe some foods will make you feel better and should thus appear more often, but the foods that are most demonized are often just as necessary to feed your soul.
So, then, how do you eat clean?
Again, my definition is only mine, but to me, clean eating means eating a diet mostly made up of whole foods, as close as possible to the way they are naturally found in nature. There is a small amount of sugar, but it comes mostly from minimally processed sources, such as maple syrup or coconut sugar.
Your plates are rich in colors, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Each and every one of the macronutrients— carbs, fats, and proteins— are found at almost every meal.
There is no restriction or deprivation. You eat until satiety or satisfaction, and as soon as hunger hits again, you don’t wait too long to satisfy it.
You still eat your favorite granola, even though it’s processed and kinda sugary because it makes you happy, but you only eat that one serving with your morning yogurt, and then you’re satisfied.
You maybe say no to the box of Dunkin’ Donuts that your coworker brings in to work, but you say HELLZ TO THE YEAH to the creamy dreamy homemade tiramisu that your best friend orders for you both to split over your catch-up dinner date.
It’s not about stuffing yourself with everything in sight, but rather about making conscious choices about what you put into your body.
You aim to eat a lunch full of leafy greens and fibrous vegetables to fulfill your 5-a-day, but if you’re really craving a burger on one of the days, you give in. And maybe you go to a place that makes their burgers from scratch using organic meat and order a side of veggies to balance out the meal.
Clean eating is NOT about saying no or eating less or depriving yourself of what you love.
It’s about eating foods that make you feel good, that nourish your body, but also some that nourish your soul.
It’s about kale salads, but it’s also about homemade brownie sundaes.
It’s about grilled chicken and broccoli, but it’s also about a bowl of your favorite spaghetti carbonara.
It’s about tuning into your cravings and not being afraid to give in, even if it may go against the “clean eating guidelines.”
As long as you’re focusing on filling your plate with whole, real foods most of the time, there is plenty of wiggle room for allowing yourself something “unclean.”
Life’s too short to not order dessert when you want it.
Any thoughts on clean eating? Do you think it can sometimes trigger restrictive behaviors?