I Bet My Lunch Is Cleaner Than Yours *smirk*

…Coz I washed it under running water. With detergent. Twice.

Just kidding! This week is Healthy Weight Week and to join in I’d like to talk about a disturbing, pretentious trend that has gripped us for a while now: Clean Eating and why, just like #fitspo, it’s bullshit.

I’ll admit it- this trend makes me uncomfortable, hence the joke in the opening sentence. Why does it make me uncomfortable? There are a couple of reasons:

The word “clean” can imply a few things, like pure or healthy but its more the antonym I am concerned with. When you eat “clean” you are implying that what is not on your plate is “dirty”, “impure”. Ultimately, it boils down to this: Clean is “good”, other foods are “bad.”

This concept is BULLSHIT- you cannot assign a moral value to food- its just food! Food is designed to nourish us, some of it is very nourishing, some not so but all can and should be enjoyed in moderation. Chocolate is not bad, and you are not a bad person for eating it, it’s just chocolate.

The second reason this trend makes in uncomfortable is this: Clean Eating isn’t just about the food, it’s about feeling superior to others.

“Oh poor Jenny, she’s so overweight, maybe if she just ate clean she’d look better”

Sound familiar? I’m sure we have all heard a variation of this, as simplistic as it might be. We might have even thought it ourselves at some point, lording our vegan lunch choice over our friends who picked a sandwich (with bread!) for lunch. This trend is about feeling morally superior to others through food choices and its’ got to stop.

I don’t have facebook, one of the reasons I deleted the thing was because I was sick of being flooded with images and comments about clean eating. It made me feel bad about my own eating habits (which decidedly did not fit the clean criteria) and like I had to justify every bit of “unclean” food that passed my lips. No, I don’t make my cakes with applesauce as I happen to think that cakes made with butter taste better. THAT DOESN’T MAKE ME A BAD PERSON. I even use table sugar (gasp!) as I don’t have rice malt syrup handy (which is still sugar- sorry to burst your sugar free, paleo bubble).

As a side note I am heartily sick of the following:

Dietitian posts photo of cake/some other drool worthy food: cue comment flood of things like “UH you DISGUST me! SUGAR? Don’t you know how toxic that is? I can’t believe as a health professional you would promote that!”

Even at my gym this is happening. I asked what was in some brownies and the maker was very quick to say “oh, don’t worry they’re clean!” I love my gym – we had brownies after yoga the other week, which were delicious! And I would have eaten the brownies regardless of how “clean” they were but it was interesting to note that that was all the information given, not that they might have eggs and flour in them but that they were clean.

Last week I spoke about the disordered behaviors that can accompany #fitspo and now I’d like to talk about #fitspo’s cousin: “clean” disordered eating.

Strict clean eaters can exhibit some clear disordered eating behaviors:

  • Refusing to eat out, either at restaurants or at other people’s houses, where food preparation is out of their control and therefore potentially “unclean”
  • Spending a disproportionate amount of time thinking about, planning and preparing food
  • Shunning food for “cleaner” alternatives e.g. cows milk. Sometimes almond milk is promoted as a healthier choice, even though it might not be appropriate for everyone.
  • Moral superiority- boasting that they are better than others simply because they believe their food choices are better than those around them

Let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with wanting to eat healthy. There are some great online resources to help you with that and these are science backed and very robust. Most importantly, these guidelines are flexible, promote mostly healthy options but leave room for indulgences.

Remember:

  • Your food choices don’t determine if you are a good person- eat that cake, you are not a bad person and neither is that cake, food is not a moral choice.
  • Everyone has different eating habits and beliefs. None of these are better or superior than others, they are just different
  • Nutrition is not a “once size fits all” approach, just because someone eats “clean” doesn’t mean you have to, and your eating differences do not make you less of a person.

And most importantly,

Food is meant to be enjoyed! Yes, most of the time your food choices should be healthy but that doesn’t mean you need to replace every “bad” food item with a “clean” alternative.

So I’d like to for us to find a better way of eating healthy. One that’s more inclusive and supportive. One that celebrates the little wins and doesn’t tear us down for daring to have “unclean” food. One that acknowledges and celebrates that we are all different and will approach eating differently and can’t all fit in a nice little box.

This is how I will celebrate Healthy Weight Week, by encouraging others to abandon this bullshit cause and celebrate all foods, regardless of calorie content.

Who’s with me?

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