Clean eating is an expression that gets thrown around a lot these days. From fitness blogs to Pinterest boards and book titles, it’s everywhere. While I’m all for making healthier choices and choosing foods that fuel our bodies, I cringe every time I see this expression. Why, you might ask? Well…
It has no meaning
The first thing that comes to mind when I see “clean eating” is: what the heck does that even mean? Ask different people, and they will give you different answers. Some will claim it is choosing less processed foods, while others will say it is cutting carbs, salt or fat. However, they all have one thing in common: they demonize certain foods, food groups or nutrients. They create foods rules. Eating foods labelled as “off limits” may now lead to guilt, shame and self-hate.
It suggests there is a way to “eat dirty”
If one can decide to eat clean, then this means they used to eat dirty, right? Since everyone has a different definition of clean eating, this leaves a lot of room for judgement towards anyone that doesn’t eat the way we do. There is no one magical way to eat. Different foods work for different people. And this is okay! If certain eating habits work for you, don’t let anyone tell you they aren’t clean.
It cripples our relationship with food
Instead of choosing foods we enjoy, we ask ourselves: “Is this food clean?” and spiral down a road of doubt and shame. Ultimately, it can take the joy out of eating. By obsessing on the nutritional quality of our muffin, we miss out on the pleasure of its sweet flavour, its soft texture and its delightful aroma. Food doesn’t just fuel us physically; it also plays a role in our mental health.
Food is neither clean nor dirty. Food is morally neutral.
Basically, labelling foods as “clean” or "unclean" comes down to sorting foods as “good” or “bad”. The reality is, there is no such thing as a good or bad food. Food is just food. And choosing to eat (or not eat) cake, carrots or a sandwich doesn’t make you a better or worst person. It just makes you a human being eating food you enjoy. Period.
The bottom line is this: I don’t like the expression eating clean because it can become an obsession and lead to a lot of guilt. Food shouldn’t be a source of shame.
The most important thing is to pick foods we love and that make us feel good while listening to our bodies.
What is your opinion on clean eating? Please share in the comments! :)