I don't eat clean. That may sound like an unusual statement from a nutrition coach so allow me to explain. I strive to prioritize whole foods from nature for about 80-85% of my intake, but I don't call it eating clean. Why not?
WHAT DOES "EAT CLEAN" EVEN MEAN?
The issue I have with using the term "eating clean" is that it means different things to different people. Some people define eating clean as consuming whole foods from nature. Others say it must be organic to be considered clean. While some claim it can't include grains, dairy or sugar if it is to be considered clean. Vegetarians eat clean by eliminating animal products. There is no one clear definition.
Of course we are all free to define it anyway that we would like, and eat (or don't eat) whatever works best for our lifestyles and preferences, I prefer not to label the way I eat at all. It's not a diet. I strive to eat food that makes me look, feel and perform my best, while also satisfying my hunger and cravings, whether I eat alone or enjoy meals with friends and family. Food is for fuel and for enjoyment, bonding and celebration.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING CAN BE TOO MUCH
Eating clean sounds like a good thing and of course, consuming whole foods from nature is always a great choice. But sometimes too much of a good thing is...well, too much. What starts out as good intentions to improve our health can actually make us less healthy. How can eating healthy be bad? When you obsess over only eating healthy foods or your choices start to interfere with everyday life or social situations (i.e. you stay home from a party because you don't know if they will have clean food) there might be a potential problem. Orthorexia is a type of eating disorder that is defined as an obsession with healthy eating.
I'd rather separate myself from the hard-core clean eating crowd because for me personally, it almost has a negative connotation. It can be a potential red flag for an unhealthy obsession when our identity is tied to the way we eat.
Been there done that and it sucks. I've struggled with overcoming an all-or-nothing mindset for better part of a decade. I was either on my diet or off. I was either training for a marathon or watching one (or three) on NetFlix. For me, for a long time, there was no middle ground and my weight reflected the inconsistency. It was only something that I was able to get a handle on when I learned to practice moderation, not just in theory, but apply it in real life.
It wasn't all-or-nothing, it was a little bit of everything that worked for me. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have....moderation (or the facts of life, whatever Tootie). Once I learned to make choices on a continuum, everything changed for me. I learned to ask myself, How can I make this a little bit better? What's the best choice I can make in this situation? What's the best I can do with I have right now? Striving for perfection never worked for me. The black or white, good or bad, clean or dirty thinking is what got me in trouble in the first place. Of course, everyone is different, but for me, labeling foods led me down the wrong path.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
I try to stay away from labels. I strive for a balanced approach. I aim to do the best I can with what I have in front of me. Sometimes that means a salad and sometimes it means a cheeseburger with a whole wheat bun and just one (or three) of hubby's fries. I try to make healthy choices most of the time, while enjoying indulgence foods as my brain and soul need them. I have to work on balance because it is something that does not come easily to me.
I am probably overly-sensitive to the term clean eating because I know there can be a dark side to it (insert your own Star Wars joke here). I know a lot of level-headed people may ask, Who cares what you call it as long as you eat healthy? And I agree. Call it what you want. Define it the way you want. Have labels. Don't have labels. Do what works best for you. I am not here to try to convince you of anything other than a balanced approach. It doesn't matter what I think or what some health food guru thinks. If you evaluate your diet and can honestly say that the food you eat helps you look, feel and perform at your best, then you are doing the best you can and that is all anyone can do. No matter what you call it.
I personally don't eat clean. I just eat.
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