From Instagram feeds, over Facebook groups, to diet books. The "clean eating" trend seems to be everywhere.
While on first sight there's nothing wrong with reducing the amount of junk and processed food, I feel like clean eating is getting increasingly unhelpful.
What exactly is clean eating?
Clean eating is more like an ideology than a specific diet. When you're eating clean, you're not following a set of restricted rules. However, you are encouraged to eliminate refined sugar and processed food completely out of your diet.
Generally speaking, everything that comes in a box, bag, can or package is a no-no. But that's not all. Many clean eaters also cut out or minimise the intake of gluten and dairy, and substitute them for more whole foods, or "real foods" as they call it.
See, this trend is nothing new and on paper there's nothing wrong about it. Actually, it's the way our ancestors ate.
My problem with the "clean-eating" trend
Don't get me wrong. If we go back to where clean eating started, forget about the marketing hype, remove all these nonsense labels and ignore all the extreme clean recipes (with ingredients I never heard of before) on social media, we're left with a decent diet: Fresh fruits and veggies, high quality protein, healthy fats, complex carbs. If you ask me, all stuff that doesn't need to be overly expensive.
However, as with nearly every trend, the clean eating trend is not without problems. I mean, we know how marketing works, right? Successful trends get noticed by businesses. And that's where the commercial bandwagon comes into play. Next thing you know, the cake in the grocery store is labeled as "clean" and chocolate spreads as "gluten-free". I mean, come on!
Same goes with overpriced green juices and superfoods, which aren't necessarily good for your health, even though marketers want to make you believe that. In fact, one of the most successful and valuable food rebrandings in the diet industry is the gluten-free market, which is worth £200 million.
Wake up! Unless you have allergic reactions, celiac disease or a gluten/wheat sensitivity, there is no reason to remove gluten from your diet. Still, people buy gluten-free labeled foods to lose weight or live healthier. Do you know the spread 'Fluff'? It's also gluten-free and contains mostly sugar. Healthy, right?!
For me the most worrying thing is the rise of eating disorders as a result of this trend. False clean eating messages, which promote strict food rules are on the rise and reach us 24/7 via social media, TV advertisement and the internet. Because of that, the pressure of being 'perfect' is growing. Guys, you aren't unworthy just because you want a Snickers bar! Go, eat and enjoy the damn Snickers (but in moderation).
Desperately trying to eat clean resulted in people eating spoonfuls of coconut oil, becoming too obsessed with what they’re putting into their mouths, replacing yogurts with pots of nut butter and not giving their bodies the fuel it needs.
Extremes are never healthy, remember that!
So what now?
Don't do any specific diet unless you really know you feel good with it! Always do, what feels and works best for you! Personally, I love balance. In my opinion health is just as much about mental wellbeing. And why not eat a very wholesome and nutritious diet and enjoy my beloved Snickers bar every now and then? You don't have to feel guilty if you crave something chocolatey.
Health isn't a size or a specific diet. Healthy living should enable you to live a happy, fun and amazing life. That's the fuel your body and your soul needs. If you feel restricted on your diet, you restrict yourself from enjoying and embracing. Plus, a too restricted diet will most likely lead to binge eating. Balance is the key.
It's so important to remember that no hyped food trend should eliminate certain food groups from our diet. Nothing ever is black and white. If you love it, build it into your diet. After all, no single food can be seen as "clean" or "unclean", "healthy" or "unhealthy" (except for trans-fats and alcohol). Too much of anything is unhealthy for you! Heck, you can die from overconsumption of water!
It's food. We need food not only for our physical health, but also for our social and emotional health, too. The term "clean" implies a moral judgement, which can be quite manipulative.
So, let's take "clean eating" back to what it originally was: healthy eating with satisfaction and no restriction or labelling. There's no need to buy hyped, overpriced and not even healthier foods, just because they are labeled as "vegan", "gluten-free" or "organic".
Long story super short
What started out with the right movement towards more whole foods, feels now like a commercially-driven fad. Always use common sense, when surfing on social media and try to see the bigger picture. Do what feels best for you, not what the media tells you.
After all, it’s good for the soul to have a ‘little bit of what you fancy’ once in a while. Listen to your body and trust your gut.
What's your take on this trend? Let me know in the comment section below!