Have you seen these inflammatory articles and statements that have been lighting up the internet?
Let's have a look at the Clean Eating Scam concept in a little detail.
First of all, what is a "scam"?
It can be defined as a way of tricking people out of money or other value by deceiving them with some kind of fraudulent scheme.
Probably the most famous scam was selling the Brooklyn Bridge. Many con-men sold it several times each. Not only did the hustler have to be a smooth talker and a great persuader, their real trick was being able to "prove" they owned the title.
Who owns the title Eating Clean or Clean Eating?
I can't find anyone – even though various combinations of the two words plus an extra word do seem to be registered. Every definition I read is a fair bit different to the next or last one I read.
And every eating movement has entirely different definitions of what food is "good" and what food is "bad". They can't all be right but they can all be wrong.
-The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself": A Fish Called Wanda, 1988 British comedy film.
When everyone makes up their own version of something (like Buddhism, above) it can end up becoming the complete opposite; we know this happens in the old game of Chinese Whispers. If the core definition of an idea or movement is tightly held by those who claim they own it, it can become a bit of a cult or too firmly-held belief.
I think that's why we see so much passion and righteousness in the discussions that can sometimes surround clean eating.
Have you ever wondered about the church of clean eating where some of the main clergy are so adamant about their particular view of religious observance? They preach against the sins of not following exactly down the path they advocate yet they have no trouble working elaborate manufactured supplements into their own eating regimes.
Clean eating is a great concept as long as it has at its core, healthy eating
Healthy eating should lead not just to a healthy body; it should lead to a healthy mind.
Birthday parties, Christmas dinner, being invited to eat at a friend's place … you are going to face foods you don't normally eat or that you prefer to avoid, even if you absolutely love them.
It isn't really such a good sign for a relationship if one of you brings their own, pre-prepared clean eating box to a romantic dinner.
Is it healthy to isolate ourselves from our family and our society? Are our eating beliefs creating anxiety and a serious loss of flexibility in the way we live our lives? For most people, eating the odd to-be-avoided meal here and there will do no harm and may in fact be good for your spirit and social enjoyment.
It might be just what you need at the time.
I'm a big believer in eating clean as a concept and as a set of sensible guidelines that keep us focused and on the path of a healthier way of life – not just a diet.
Six meals a day to lower the risk of eating too much when you get too hungry; maintaining good hydration (not going crazy with gallons of unnecessary water), favoring local grown, fresh produce, avoiding processed foods with additives and added sugars, keeping fat intake down, keeping an eye on carbohydrates – these strike me as good sense. Even better than just concentrating on the food we intake, it is good to combine it with exercise and fresh air and an open and inquiring mind.
There are risks with a fanatical approach to clean eating as it can squeeze your mind and body. That squeeze usually leads to a complete breakout from the "diet" aspect and that's why so many people fall back into bad dietary habits once their clean eating bubble bursts. They lose confidence in themselves and beat themselves up with negative self-talk that doesn't lead them back to clean eating, it forces them away as "failures".
Forget about those extremes of "failure or star" – it's not healthy. Rigidity only leads to cracking. Stay flexible and forgiving. There's nothing wrong with eating the occasional treat as long as you stay aware and pay it back as soon as you reasonably can.
The body equation is fundamentally pretty simple; calories in minus calories out. Calories are in good and bad food so it doesn't really matter where those calories come from, if you don't burn them up or use them somehow, you will get fat. Being fat leads to many healthy problems that none of us want.
Clean Eating and Bad Foods
If you know that some particular food is going to have a serious negative effect on you, obviously you should rigidly avoid it. When you know you have celiac disease, phenylketonuria, peanut allergy, hypercholesterolemia, insulin resistance and so on – you know what you can and cannot eat.
Strict clean eating can lead to low-iron status or anaemia in young women and that's not good when they try to fall pregnant. Protein is also at risk along with calcium levels so you need to be alert and take corrective action if you find your intake is not maintaining proper levels that your body needs.
Juicing is another area you should watch. Fruits and vegetables provide us with valuable fiber that juicers remove from our diet. I prefer to blend them whole and they still taste great as a smoothie.
Clean eating is something to enjoy. If it doesn't make you feel better, freer, more energetic, happier, enjoying your meals and engaging openly with your family, friends and people you meet in your daily life – it's time to give it a re-jig.
The middle path can also be a clean path with a clear mind and a glowing physical presence to revel in without restrictions and fanatical good-and-bad burdens.