The idea of clean eating has often been viewed in a positive light. Terms like “raw”, “organic”, “gluten-free”, “dairy-free” etc. seem to be associated with healthy eating and better health. And the trend does not appear to be stopping, with further food items being added to the “good” or “bad” list. However, if you begin to look closer at the research behind the clean eating fad, it will become apparent that this trend may not always be as healthy as it seems.
For starters, it can be quite confusing to determine what clean eating actually is. The idea of clean eating can mean different things to different people – for some it may mean eating only raw, organic food options, while for others, it may mean avoiding processed foods. There’s also quite of bit of contradictory reports out there, with conflicting information regarding whether a particular food item is unhealthy or not. This can be quite frustrating for us as consumers to really know which food items we should avoid, versus which foods we should add to our diet. Therefore, because the idea of clean eating is so vague, it can be quite tempting to avoid this trend altogether and choose unhealthy options to avoid the hassle of determining what is healthy or not.
At its core, clean eating is a belief system that promotes the idea that unless you follow the clean eating methodology, you are choosing to follow a diet that is impure. This idea of viewing food as either “good” or “bad” can have damaging effects to our well-being. Food should not be viewed as either clean or dirty, as it creates a mindset of restriction and shame. Feelings of inadequacy can also occur, when unable to sustain the clean eating lifestyle.
The focus on clean eating can also have detrimental effects on your physical health, especially when it’s taken to the extreme. Due to the unhealthy food parameters and food rules, eating disorders can easily develop. Take popular wellness blogger Jordan Younger for example who went public on how her clean vegan eating had made her sick. Formally known as The Blonde Vegan, Jordan Younger “broke free” from her veganism after her period stopped, and after noticing that she continuously felt lethargic. She then realized that her mindset towards food had become greatly obsessive, and has since identified with having Orthorexia (an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession towards eating healthy food). Other people have since come forward, raising awareness of the dangerous implications of the eating disorder.
However, I must note that the idea of making natural food choices does have health benefits. Obviously, I am not promoting a lifestyle of processed unhealthy foods, and some people with health conditions do require a specific diet and need to avoid particular foods. But it’s important to acknowledge that when taken to the extreme, clean eating can take away from a focus on a more healthy way of living that involves balance and peace towards food.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON CLEAN EATING?