Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets

clean eating's dirty secrets

Recently, blogger Grace Victory filmed a documentary for BBC 3 investigating the dangerous side of the ever popular Clean Eating trend. As a nutrition student studying an accredited course at university, I knew this would be right up my street. And it highlighted many of the things I have been thinking. The documentary was clear and easy to understand and I would highly recommend anyone to watch it to start a discussion!

You can watch it here.

As described by fellow blogger Hazel Wallace, clean eating is the new fashionable trend to follow and thought to be ‘the new black’. Considering the number of instagram #cleaneating and #fitspo accounts, I would have to say I agree.

Clean eating is on the rise and a lifestyle many people strive to achieve. According to the documentary, healthy cook book sales have doubled in the past year showing a clear movement towards eating well. This is no bad thing. You hear the words kale, quinoa and chia seeds more often. Cow’s milk is replaced with almond milk and coconut water is preferred over tap. I think it’s great people are trying new foods and expanding their diets but for some people it’s not simply about introducing new foods. It’s about replacing and restricting the old ones.

For me as some of the girls on the show mentioned, clean eating is about balance, not restriction.

Why are we labelling foods as clean and dirty?

All foods help nourish the body, of course some are better than others, but should we really restrict ourselves?

Surely we should eat what we want.

Is it really so bad to eat fast food once in a while.

When did this become not normal?

One of the diets included in the show, along with the bizarre potato cleanse, was vegan/plant based diets. Apparently there are now 3 times as many vegans than there were 10 years ago which I think is amazing. I think it is so important to care about the implications of what you’re eating and I really admire vegans. However it also spoke about the negative attitude some vegan people have towards  non-vegans. Grace’s words ‘you eat what you eat and I’ll eat what I eat’ rang through and I think this is important for respecting other people’s dietary habits.

The clean eating trend has created a platform for people to look down on those they view as not following it correctly. I find this concerning as when does this constant, clear focus on what you eat become dangerous and, ironically, unhealthy? In comes the introduction of the eating disorder many people may not have heard of – orthorexia.

Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with eating foods that one considers to be healthy. Sounds scary, right? Clinical director of The Recover Clinic, Emmy Gilmour, says she has heard from about 1/3 of the clean eating bloggers which makes me wonder why are they giving diet advice?  Gilmour also states people are aiming for wellness by restricting food groups and doing so ‘under a veil of something positive’. They are praising people for depriving themselves and encouraging them to be self critical. Technically they are glorifying restricting calories in a way that is seen as more acceptable. Pasta is switched for courgetti and rice swapped for cauliflower. Yes this is a good way to introduce more vegetables into the diet but is cutting out carbohydrates – essential for the body – really necessary?

The diet ‘experts’  and wellness bloggers whose advice many people are following was one of the main topics. Mentioned were Deliciously Ella, Madeline Shaw and the Hemsley Sisters to name a few. None of whom are dietitians or registered nutritionists. It raises the question – why  do we believe what they say? Anyone can become a ‘nutritionist’ by completing an online course which takes around 20 hours to complete. But this does not make you  qualified to give dietary advice. To become a ‘real’ nutritionist you have to study an accredited course – for me this will take 3 years – before you can join the registry and become a registered or associate nutritionist. This is professional.

Not only do many of these people lack the proper food related qualifications, many people promoting fitness advice lack the personal training qualifications. We’re living in a world where we should second guess who we trust. Just because this person has a good body and appears healthy does not mean it’ll work for you.

Grace also touched on the cost of having a clean diet and suggests it is a class thing. Since then I have seen many people disagree with this and I agree there are always ways to eat cheaply. However, apparently gluten free food is 4 times more expensive than non gluten free food. Many of the wellness bloggers mentioned previously promote a gluten free diet. ‘Gluten is like sandpaper for the gut’ according to Madeline Shaw. But in reality only 1% of the population are thought to have coeliac disease and a genuine intolerance to gluten. Yet many people think they should avoid it. A dietitian with a PhD in nutrition on the documentary ‘debunked’ this along with a few of the other claims made by these bloggers. For example ‘protein is bad for your body’ and ‘consuming milk draws the calcium out of your bones’.

Further proving we should second guess their advice and trust the professionals.

I would highly recommend you watch this documentary to learn more. If I could take any piece of advice from the show it would be dietitian Ursula Philpot’s  words to ‘eat a little of what you fancy in moderation and eat food that looks like food’. Balance is key.

Thank you for reading,
LindyC

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