I really hate the phrase “clean eating”. When I hear it, I involuntarily shudder and pull a face, and want to run in the other direction. I try to be a tolerant person, but there are some things that I really struggle with; one is babies screaming (no maternal instinct here whatsoever), and the other is pretentious elitist attitudes towards food.
“Clean eating”, as far as I understand it, involves eating foods that are simple foods, with very little ingredients, not processed, probably organic, and “chemical-free”. Let’s break this down step by angry step.
Simple foods, few ingredients, not processed…makes sense. I can deal with this part. Simple foods like fruits and veg and grains are wonderful and healthy and should be eaten in all abundance (even meat and fish if you choose, I’m not here to judge)! I firmly believe in encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables; unless you have allergies there’s no major downside to eating these in abundance. Hooray for veg.
Organic: if you don’t know my stance on organic please feel free to read about it here. I go into a lot of detail about the myths and science behind organic. What I didn’t mention there is how intensely I dislike the pretentious attitude some (many?) people have regarding organic food. Most of us in the UK, Europe, and US have the privilege to be able to choose between good food and good food. If you like organic, great, just don’t wave it about in my face like you’re a better person than me. No one should be made to feel guilty for not choosing or not being financially able to choose organic. That’s elitist and self-righteous.
“Chemical-free”: Oh god, really? Let me remind of you of this blog post, and this wonderful image.
In the nicest way possible, anyone who uses the phrase “chemical-free” needs to be directed towards a high school chemistry textbook immediately. Everything is chemicals. Repeat it to yourself. Make it your daily mantra. Also please stop saying “only eat foods you can pronounce”, because I can pronounce cyanide really easily, whereas allyl-isothiocyanate (naturally-occurring antioxidant in cabbage) is a lot trickier. My point: don’t let your lack of chemistry knowledge dictate what you put in your mouth.
“Clean eating” implies that foods which don’t fit into this category are dirty. And it implies that if you eat those foods you are dirty. I know, your body is a temple and you only want to put “pure” things inside of it, but if this is how you view yourself then clearly you’ve never looked inside the human body. Spoiler alert: it’s a little bit gross.
I think “clean eating” started with good intentions – more fruits and veg, less processed food – but it’s being taken to an unnecessary and even potentially dangerous obsessive extreme. Having a healthy relationship involves balance, not having a strict set of rules and being afraid of anything processed. Balance means being able to go out for a meal at any restaurant without stressing or making several substitutions to a dish, it means enjoying a greasy takeaway pizza in front of the TV on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it means not stressing about the macro/micronutrient content of food but just enjoying it!
Food and eating is a social activity, and needs to make you happy. For me, that means balance, and eating whatever I want. I don’t think “clean eating” is a healthy relationship with food, and I think the phrase and intention behind it is pretentious and such a ridiculously white, middle-class, female, first-world notion.
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[Side note: my rants are usually always triggered by something I read. That is also true in this case, but I don’t want to give the article in question any additional exposure thanks to me, so I’m choosing not to provide a link.]