Clean Eating

The other day, I watched a documentary on iplayer about something called “clean eating” and before I go any further I would like to say that I am NOT an expert on this at all. It is not a term I had ever come across before but I was genuinely astounded by what Grace Victory (a “vlogger” – again, someone I had never heard of before but actually thoroughly enjoyed watching) had to say on the subject. Apparently, “clean eating” encompasses a whole range of things: protein free, gluten free, dairy free, raw vegan, starch only… The list went on. This trend mainly seems to come from instagram (a platform I neither understand nor use) where people post pictures of food (currently over 36 million pictures with the tag #eatclean) that looks pretty because it literally has nothing in it. eat-cleanAmong those 36 million pictures are countless photos of people with great abs, no body fat and bodies that make even the most comfortable person feel bad about themselves.

Now, all of this, and the claims that went along with it, honestly blew my mind. I was sitting there, eating my malteaser chocolate, wondering what was wrong with these people. Here they were, tall, fit and skinny, promoting something that basically sounds like starvation. Even from my basic understanding of biology (I’m a chemistry student over biology any day) I knew that the things they were saying were TOTAL CRAP. The science was amazingly flawed, and I reckon any GCSE student could tell you that what they were saying was just plain wrong. And these are people with hundreds of thousands of followers, trusting their every word.

The basic idea of “clean eating” is actually sort of sensible, and that is the bizarre thing! What it means, in my eyes at least, is to cut down on the processed food and cook meals yourself from fresh foods. That, to me, makes perfect – and scientific – sense. But what they were suggesting, and trust me there were some strange things, was just wrong. Eliminating any group of food from one’s diet is ludicrous. There is a reason that the “eatwell” plate exists and every kid is taught about it in school! IT MAKES SENSE AND TELLS YOU WHAT IS GOOD FOR YOU! Eatwell_guide_600dpi.jpg

You should never, ever, eliminate one group from your diet. Your body needs all of them to be healthy! It hasn’t really changed from when I learnt it as a child, except they’ve moved the sweets to the outside and added in about healthy oils and fats. It tells you what the government recommend for a healthy diet and in no part does it say don’t eat this. It says “eat less”. THAT DOESN’T MEAN NOT AT ALL. OKAY? By all means, eat your super foods and vegetables, cut down on your red meat, don’t eat as much chocolate but be sensible people!

What also struck me while watching this documentary was the insane cost of eating “cleanly”. It has been noted by others that this trend is basically for the middle classes who want to be a part of something. Looking at a loaf of bread no bigger than my hand that costs £6, I can understand that logic. I know a guy who is a total sweetheart but I can’t help roll my eyes at him sometimes. Every now and then, he does a “detox” where he goes completely vegan and cuts all animal based products from his life. For one, it makes no sense to me at all. It is hardly going to undo any previous damage and has no real health benefit that I can see. For another, when he wants cheese he has to have something that legally can’t be called cheese and has more chemicals in it than ANY processed food I can think of. Plus it tastes awful (I know, I tried some when he brought it round our house).

Apparently, people actually think that these detoxes work. I’ve heard other people around the university talk about it too. How people can buy into something so strange and against everything that I hold to be true about eating well astounds me (note that at this point I am beginning to run out of adjectives to portray my shock and disdain on the topic).

I had a read around on the internet – as one so often should when they want a good laugh – and I found so many conflicting ideas on the subject, along with supposed rules to help you live “long and lean” (what even?!), and one thing that made me laugh was the rule that you shouldn’t eat anything that has ingredients you can’t pronounce. Now, for me, that rules out quinoa – which I only learnt after watching this documentary isn’t pronounced like it looks, instead some way totally different – but means that sodium aluminosilicate, butylated hydroxyanisole, and potassium metabisulfite are all totally fine. wonder-bread-ingredientsSure, I play with chemicals like this all the time so really should be able to pronounce them, but do you see my point? Chemicals are added to foods for a reason. Companies don’t just throw things in for the sake of it. Half of them actually do help our body and reduce the chances of us getting ill from eating these foods. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me all that much. This supposed “wonder bread” has a great number of chemicals in it, and I can say with confidence that I have played with a great number of these chemicals in labs! I can probably draw the structures of most of them too. But that doesn’t mean they will kill you!

I think I may have strayed from the original point I was trying to make. This “clean eating” trend is dangerous in my eyes. Young people are being told that it is good for them but it is at best creating a strained relationship with food and at worst increasing the risk of developing an eating disorder. And what is worse, the people that they are trusting to tell them how great this lifestyle is generally have no idea what they are talking about. But then that sums up most of society now anyway.

In my opinion, not that it counts for much at all, is that all you need to be healthy is a balanced diet. There is a reason that this has been a well held belief for a few centuries now. Eat veggies, carbs, protein, fats, oils, sugars… ANYTHING you want so long as you do so in MODERATION. That is probably the most important word of this entire rant. MODERATION is the best way to a healthy life. Sure, exercise if you want. I don’t go to the gym. I don’t do sit ups or press ups or weights. I walk to and from uni when I feel like it and I eat what I consider to be healthy food in portions that I am comfortable with. I am pretty comfortable with how I look most of the time and have a pretty decent relationship with my food. I hope that, if nothing else, this blog helps you to be a step closer to that too.

Well done for reaching the bottom of what is probably the longest post I have/will ever write. This was just something that truly and deeply shocked and irritated me. Knowledge is the key to power, but it seems that in today’s society lack of knowledge will also give you power over people who want to believe. Before you go doing anything that may end up causing you more harm than good, just think about what you are about to do. As they say on D-News, “more research is needed”. Have a really great day.