A couple of weeks ago a friend told me she was researching “clean eating” and I visibly took a shard intake of breath. From research, I see that the concept of clean-eating had good intentions. It seems to be defined as a lifestyle incorporating wholefoods while cutting out processed foods. Unsurprisingly (although everything is clearer in hindsight), this philosophy birthed restrictive, unrealistic and guilt-inducing fad diets. These diets people fall into because of the attractive promises they insist will be an outcome, even though they are realistically instructions to become unhealthily obsessed and/or feel wholly terrible about ourselves if we fail at the first hurdle- which, because of their restrictive nature, we probably will.
At the time of writing, my stomach is in agony and I’m feeling genuinely unwell; probably because of today’s and yesterday’s eating habits. When I eat badly my body lets me know. After two days of not really thinking about what I’m eating, my body is telling me off and man, I feel sorry about it. Today it’s lead to me feeling really quite woozy and unable to contribute to excited discussions (today I sat my last ever exam at university!). I feel horrendous. I have eaten processed foods; foods which I very much so restricted a year or so ago because these hours of unpleasantness aren’t worth it. I made a decision to cut out processed food, choosing to eat any very rarely, because it makes my insides cry; and I don’t adore it anyway. And that’s what it comes down to- it’s a choice. And a choice that doesn’t make me miserable because the alternative never made me all that happy in the first place.
I don’t avoid McDonald’s because of clean eating. It evidently doesn’t make feel fulfilled and ultimately, makes me feel unwell. That’s not what food is there for. Food is for fuel and I don’t blame my body for saying “hey, wait a second” when I’ve put the wrong type of fuel in me. As much as I adored my revision break at a pub yesterday lunch time and a celebration with my friends at another pub tonight, I knew I should have chosen more wisely and the lesson is very well learnt. I enjoy making choices that help the body tick along smoothly. And isn’t the what our lifestyle choices should be about?
No “clean eating” (unwelcoming, scary, restrictive) diet helps relationships with food and the understanding that food isn’t the enemy. They enhance fear and when we want food to be our friend, this is a super unhelpful philosophy. It’s true that everybody is different and no one lifestyle fits all. And yet we as a society haven’t quite shaken off these diets that decide there is this one way to get “skinny for summer” and we most certainly have to follow it. I don’t restrict myself with food and that’s why I believe my lifestyle is a healthy one; far healthier for my mind and my body than a fad diet that references “clean eating.”
What freaks me out about “clean-eating” or the principles that have developed from this kind of mindset is that it sees food choices as a source of guilt and shame. And I watch people all around for me succumb to it. I am not one to use the scales- I don’t believe they are a realistic representation of a lot of things health-wise (although, of course, they can be in some cases). A few weeks ago I stepped on the scales (for the first time in a couple of months) and was a little shocked to see my weight as 4 pounds higher than my normal weight which rarely fluctuates. Because I have a healthier relationship with food than ever, I didn’t feel guilty or even dwell on it past a few thoughts. Realistically, I think it’s a bit of muscle gain and also a bit of not running for lengthy distances like normal (although I’ve been running just as much) because of revision. As my stomach churns, I clearly haven’t been making healthy choices as frequently either, but the number on the scales didn’t send me into panic. It made me think more about my health than my coursebooks were, which, lead to better study sessions because my body was fuelled well. Fad diets and negative mindsets (which I understand are not in everybody’s control) don’t support this pretty pragmatic approach to the scales.
So after I overcome these few hours of discomfort, I’m back on my own personalised healthy lifestyle that ignores confined views and most certainly will be ignoring the scales. I don’t think the “clean eating” movement needed to end this way, but it’s easy to understand that in associating “clean” and “dirty” with food choices, the movement couldn’t have stayed positive for very long. What we need is a lifestyle that promotes healthiness and happiness and ultimately a you do you kind of foundation.
~ Kat ~
P.S. I’ve been blogging every day this month and my last post can be read HERE!