Being summer here in Australia, and typically a time of year when a lot of us are thinking more about our health – maybe you’re trying to shed a few Christmas kilos or you’ve made some New Year’s resolutions – a lot of you would have decided (or at least considered) to adopt a “clean eating” regimen.
The term has become so widely used and mainstream these days that I reckon I’d hardly go a day without reading something about it or hearing someone talking about how they’re “eating clean”.
It has really gained popularity in the past few years – on Instagram there are more than 42 million posts with #cleaneating – and frankly, I have a problem with it.
I feel like “clean eating”, while sounding admirable and healthy and clearly Insta-worthy, is really just another way of making people feel guilty about their food choices.
Because (if you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea what I’m talking about) what it entails is eating only food that is unprocessed, free from sugar and wheat and toxins and all those other evil substances – and never, I repeat never, letting a sip of wine or a slice of cake pass your lips.
Now I’m ALL for making better food choices, boosting your health, getting more nutrients and cutting out the junk that makes you feel like crap. But it also has to be sustainable.
Because if it’s NOT then it’s just another diet. Another short-term, band-aid solution that you will eventually (probably sooner rather than later) get sick of and/ or “fail” because it’s not compatible with normal life.
Whatever nutrition and exercise regimen you pick should be one that you can see yourself sticking to – for life. In other words, it should be a lifestyle, not a diet.
If you’re OK with eating chicken and kale and broccoli at every meal for the rest of your life, and never letting a donut pass your lips (AND not feeling depressed and deprived while doing it!), then by all means, make “clean eating” your thing.
But I don’t know many people who would be happy with that, and honestly, it’s not necessary. Truth be told, the No.1 reason I see women struggle with their weight is because they go from one extreme to the next. They think they have to eat 1200 calories of “clean foods” a day and never touch a slice of cake in order to lose weight.
Problem is, eventually they really miss cake. And then what? They cave, have the cake, then they’ve stuffed up and “fallen off the wagon” (in their minds anyway) so they might as well eat ALL the cake and start back on their clean eating regimen next week.
Whereas in truth, it is 100% possible to eat a slice of cake, or pizza, or have a glass of wine every so often and still lose weight. In fact, it is the best and most sustainable way to do it, in my opinion. Because it’s not an all-or-nothing approach, and therefore you don’t feel like you’re on a diet (because you’re not).
If you’re trying to lose body fat, then the only factor that you need to worry about is being in a calorie deficit (ie burning more calories than you consume). So you need to work out the right balance to achieve that. If you aren’t losing weight (or you’re putting it on) then you need to burn more (ie exercise more) or consume less (eg eat LESS cake). Simple. There are loads of ways to do this, I just want you to know that “eating clean” is certainly not the only way, and for most people, definitely not the most desirable way to do that.
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