The above is a picture of a Sunday roast in our house…. do I consider this ‘clean eating’ ? … Abso-fu**ing-lutely!!!!
Is it vegetarian?…. clearly not, as there’s a great big roast chook … is it dairy-free?…. hell no, as I consider halloumi a gift from above!… is it animal fat free?…. not in a million years …. my roast chickens are infamously stuffed under the skin with a mix of butter (Lewis Road Creamery sea salt butter as I also consider this to be in the same gift box from above!), sage, cranberries and orange rind and my salads are drizzled with olive oil and balsamic…. is it sugar free? … Nope… there is maple syrup in my salted almond chocolate bars (maple syrup is still sugar and I love it so much I would gladly drink the bottle!!)… is it carb free? … Nada…. there is roasted sweet potato and squash in my veggie salad… Is it organic…. no… the chicken is free range but none of the ingredients are organic.
However – every element of this meal was made my me and cooked from scratch. I can certainly name every single ingredient in the meal. To me – that’s clean eating. Real food (or ‘wholefood’ as it is sometimes called), nutritionally balanced and all made lovingly in my kitchen!
This term has become one of the most abused food terms on social media and seems to have been created by supposed food experts (most of them unqualified) who have coined it as a ‘diet term’ to encourage extremely negative thoughts and feelings towards good food. It is now associated with restriction, denial and ridiculous food fads, that have no real foundation.
I loved a tweet (ps. I’m not actually on twitter and don’t know how to use it! Had to say this as I can hear my daughter huffing !!) from the actor Ryan Reynolds… “People in LA are deathly afraid of gluten. I swear to God, you could rob a liquor store in this city with a bagel!”
I’ve been reading some interesting articles of late, by qualified dieticians and nutritionists (and I mean fully qualified!) who have exposed the term and the way it is used by countless celebrity health food chefs (not really chefs!), bloggers and social media influencers. In fact, many of those who coined the term and are responsible for the misinterpretation of it, are now removing it from their pages and vernacular for fear of backlash. Also – because they have no idea what it really means and have no proof of their claims!
An article I read yesterday, called it ‘the evangelism of wellness bloggers’ ! Evangelism is a term I have been using over the last year to describe so much of the Health and Wellbeing industry – it is preying off peoples insecurities and lack of knowledge. Dare I say it – women seem to be the easiest to mislead as we now live in a culture of utterly warped body image, exacerbated by social media and photo manipulation.
As another article summed it up – “Because someone is famous, or thin, or both, does not give them a qualification in nutrition!”. And if they spend hours in the gym every day to attain the body beautiful – then so they should possess it!! As quite frankly, if it is their job to look like this, then they should! If I see one more young, female, (now) celebrity food blogger post a picture of themselves doing a headstand or a yoga pose on instagram to show you how amazing their diet plan is – I may vomit!!!! I’ve been doing headstands for over 20 years, had brain surgery AND eat most of the stuff they tell you not to!!!
The other, major criticism of many of these so called ‘clean eating’ cookbooks, blogs, insta feeds and diet plans is that they are created by very young women in their 20’s. It is sadly, very dominated by female wellness personalities, as we females seem to be the most gullible. We will believe pretty much anything new if it is accompanied by a photo of a young, beautiful, slim woman who we believe we should look like. I feel like we are living in an episode of Mad Men and come nowhere on this supposed journey of female emancipation at times! We seem to forget the part where we acknowledge they are very young, they take hundreds of promo shots to get just the perfect one that you see and they have made it their business to look like that – to sell you something you will buy into hook, line and sinker! You are NEVER seeing their bad days, NEVER seeing their mood swings and I guarantee …. NEVER seeing the days where they grab pizza and a chocolate brownie to break free !!! Those are the days they ‘take a break’ from social media to help heal themselves and became even more holier than thou! I say , like the rest of us, they are feeling bloated, wrinkled like a prune or had too many vinos and have eyebags like suitcases! OK… that’s me describing my bad days but you get the gist!
I have to say this, and may get shot down for it, but Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the worst offenders. Sorry – but really! In fairness, she’s not young, but the woman is a multi, multi millionaire many times over, has personal trainers, chefs, hairdressers, facialists, botox doctors, stylists, photographers and makeup artists in her daily life – she does not look like that because she has cut out every food group – except air!!!!
The most dangerous part of this ‘clean eating’ terminology, is that each of them seems to have defined a new way to deny or restrict foods so that you adhere to this supposedly ‘perfect’ eating principle and become a perfect specimen of health, beauty and wellbeing as a result. Some say gluten-free, some vegetarian, some vegan, some organic-only, some raw, some dairy-free, some carb-free, some sugar-free ,some grain-free… blah, blah,blah. If there are so many variations, then how can it even be a principle! Its a marketing fad and that quite frankly, is all it is.
Do they not realise that ‘wellbeing’ is meant to be your mental and emotional health – in what universe is constant restriction and denial good for this part of our lives.
And the refined sugar free obsession that now represents ‘clean-eating’ probably sends me over the edge more than any now. It has become SO badly abused as a ‘diet’ principle. I’m sorry….. but replacing the odd homemade cake, brownie or dessert with a supposed ‘guilt-free’, daily hit of treats made with 5kg of cashew nuts and dates is going to deliver really, really bad results! At least when we make a homemade, delicious, old fashioned cake or dessert we know it is a treat and we acknowledge we can’t have it every day. Somewhere in this ridiculous health food phenomenon, we have decided that when we take refined sugar out, we can eat it every day!!!! If you want to lose weight, or maintain the weight you have worked so hard for – I say just go back to having the odd treat here and there, with discretion, no matter whether it has cane sugar in it, or not.
Obviously if you have a health issue around any of these food groups (I have coeliacs for example so I cannot eat gluten), then absolutely do not include them in your diet as this will affect your health and wellbeing. But be very cautious of any other kind of restriction as if it does not affect your physical health to include it in your diet – then restricting it, is probably seriously affecting your mental health. And chastising others who don’t follow this principle, or just as bad, expecting every restaurant and cafe you visit to know what it means, is just wrong.
Orthorexia is a term eating disorder specialists now give to an eating disorder associated with obsessive healthy eating. It is considered a mental health issue. And I am seeing it around me all too often. Sadly, I see more of it in New Zealand, than I ever did living in London. I’m not sure why yet, but maybe just because its so much smaller, so it stands out more.
I have absolutely no issue with healthy eating … I am a huge proponent of it. I hardly spend my days eating pizza and brownies and I have tried a lot of different ‘healthy’ food fads over the years to help digestive issues and try and be as healthy as I can be. What I have learnt though, is that once you relax and enjoy good, nutritious food as a form of nourishment and joy – this is when your body responds the best. I never considered these supposed diets ‘clean eating’ though – they were diet fads and I knew it.
I do avoid processed food or at least try to only buy minimally processed food where possible, which I have mentioned before. I do read food labels and if there are ingredients I have not heard of – I don’t buy it. If this is also clean eating, then I am a proponent of this. Again – this became important to me when I found out I had a brain tumour, as I wanted to ensure I wasn’t giving the dam thing radioactive material to feed off!
And – a very important and I might add – is if someone has a life threatening illness, such as cancer, epilepsy, MS, a brain tumour (and many more) – and you want to follow a diet that has either been recommended to you or you have studied as a natural way of fighting the disease – then I am behind this 1000%!!!! I’ve been there and am there. This is TOTALLY different. There is evidence that restricting certain foods , or even macros, from your diet to fight various diseases can help in the fight. Using food as medicine is extremely important to me and to millions who lose control, when one of these life crippling diseases takes hold and you are presented with options like surgery, drugs, chemo and radio as your survival tactics. Taking control helps both our physical and mental health, so should never be underestimated. But remember, this has NOTHING at all to do with attaining the body beautiful – this is about cold, hard survival and I would help anyone I know do this to get there.
I am really against words like ‘clean’ or guilt-free’ when it comes to what we eat. What’s the opposite – ‘dirty’ and ‘guilty’ – thats hardly good for the soul, or mind, is it. Food is not a punishment – it is one of life’s greatest pleasures and should be seen as such.
Enjoy your food and cherish eating it with others.