Why I Hate The Term Clean Eating
- November 2, 2016
- Last Updated: December 3, 2021
- 84 Comments
Did you catch me on Instagram last night? I met Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky and got their New York Times Best Selling Cookbook, Run Fast Eat Slow.
I’ve been scrolling through the book and I’m already SO EXCITED to make tons of their recipes – a sweet potato lasagna, superhero muffins, beet smoothies, berry crumble, teff cookies…so much yumminess ahead. It was also inspiring to hear about their backgrounds and how they came about to write Run Fast, Eat Slow.
So, today’s post is a little bit different. I’m focusing on the term “clean eating,” and why I pretty much despise those words together.
What is “Clean Eating?”
What does “clean” mean anyway? It’s almost like one of those cult words, like IIFYM (if it fits your macros), but still people will have their own definition.
Some may say it’s all vegan, or paleo, or no added sugars, or nothing processed. The reality is that there is no such thing. It’s a subjective term.
What I show on Bucket List Tummy is a real representation of my life. Those who know me well know that I have a super sweet tooth, and I will go out of my way to try something new. I eat balanced most of the time, but I also eat ice cream and cookies and cake.
I eat plant-based when I want to, but I also eat meat when I’m craving it. And I’ll definitely dig in to french fries, nachos or wings if I’m at a sports bar or watching football.
I go through greek yogurt like it’s my job. I drink beer, wine and I’m a huge craft cocktail lover. To me, eating all of those things is balance and healthy. I don’t know healthy any other way.
I still feel pretty good the majority of the time, yet my diet may not be what some call “clean.”
The dangers of clean eating
Let me tell you where I can see “clean eating” going. You’re trying your best to eat clean, and avoid any of the “off limits” foods. You do so well for the first few days, but all you can think about are those cookies at home, or the french fries you want to order out at dinner.
And then, you finally “give in,” because you can’t stop thinking about them. But when you give in, you go all in, rather than stopping when you’re full. And then you disappoint yourself for not sticking to “clean” foods, and then you decide to try again the following day.
This cycle is likely to keep happening because when we tell ourselves that certain foods are off limits, we want them more. It’s totally normal.
We have a high standard as RDs. Yes, we are trained in how the body works, how foods are digested, and why certain foods are linked to chronic disease, while others may decrease risk.
But, just because we have this education and credential doesn’t mean we are perfect or clean eaters. We’re humans! We struggle with many of the same things as the normal population, with weight changes, body image issues, hormone fluctuations, lack of time to meal plan and cook all our meals, etc.
Sometimes I don’t have an answer to client questions because I struggle with some of the same issues.
I want you guys to know that I’m all about being real. Life happens. I eat out. I drink too much wine when I have to be up early sometimes. Sometimes I eat carbs and only carbs for dinner, with no protein to slow my blood sugar spike.
Sometimes I snack my way through a meal, or forget my veggies. These things aren’t worth stressing about day to day.
Health is not dependent on our daily activities, it’s the snapshot over time. Our overall habits, feelings and choices.
Will some people disagree with my philosophy? Sure!
Nutrition is very controversial and ever evolving. And then there are also self-proclaimed people (without credentials, mind you) selling diet books and drinks and meal plans, with their own opinions.
Do I have to put my RD hat on when I talk to clients? Absolutely. Some people just don’t know why they have diabetes, or high blood pressure, or how to eat with PCOS, and that’s what I love talking about and teaching. I’m trained on that.
But I’m not trained in eating perfectly, or clean. Just like each person is so different, each practitioner has his/her own style as well. I can’t preach to my clients what I don’t believe. And I don’t believe in clean eating.
We make so many food choices throughout the day that having to analyze and scrutinize each thing entering our bodies is exhausting!
Think about how much brain power that takes. It’s much easier to just eat what you’re craving at that moment and nourish your body. Health is so much more than just the food we put into our bodies.
I’m just asking you not to freak out over clean eating, or lack thereof. You are WAY more than that, and so is your health!
Yay! Reading about how you eat makes me happy. It basically sums up my dietary goals. I can’t stand the term “clean eating” in part because it has no real meaning and in part because it is condescending, implying that anyone who doesn’t eat in the same manner is dirty eating.
I can’t stand the term either! It makes me think of spraying Lysol on food before eating, bleh.
Couldn’t agree more 🙂 I know that saying “moderation is key” is cliché, but when it comes to having your cake and eating it (and other goodies) too, gimme all the moderation and none of the clean only BS!
LOVE this post. As a fellow RD, I totally agree with you about the term “clean eating.”