Of course I think it’s a great idea to treat your body well and feed it nutritious and healthy food. But after the recent outrage over the Starbucks unicorn drink; to the point where you might think someone literally committed a crime by daring to try it out, I realized just how big of a problem the whole “clean eating” terminology has become.
Listen, I try to eat foods that are as whole and healthy as possible on any given day because it makes me feel good but that’s because, like Sondra Kronberg says, it’s a PREFERENCE and not a POSITION. It’s great if you choose to eat healthy most of the time, but when you start to avoid social activities because they might not have your organic, sugar free, paleo whatever food, it becomes an issue because there’s no room for the gray area.
I went through a few year phase where I got a little too swept up in the whole clean eating scene. And looking back, I’m sad that I avoided so many social situations that involved food because I didn’t want to put “toxic food in my body.” I even refused to eat a piece of birthday cake that someone bought for me which honestly, is way too extreme and pretty sad to think about. In my opinion, if you can’t eat a piece of cake on your birthday, you might want to reevaluate your priorities.
Of course if you don’t want to eat the cake someone bought for your birthday, that’s your call. But I become concerned when people place their own moral food codes on others as food should NOT be a moral issue (I’m not talking in vegetarian/vegan terms here) and you shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of your personal food choices. I mean, does clean eating mean that you eat in the shower or that ice cream is dirty?
If we’re using the unicorn drink as an example, it was a limited edition drink that was only available for a few days. No one is drinking it on a daily basis for the rest of their lives. And I promise that you cannot develop diabetes from drinking a single drink. But reading comments about the drink would make anyone feel intense shame for daring to try it. And that to me is not ok.
The idea behind “clean eating”, to eat whole and natural food as minimally processed as possible, is obviously not a bad concept. But it’s what society has done with it, that feels extremely concerning to me. The implication that if you’re not eating clean, you’re unhygienic, lazy, dirty, or giving yourself diseases, is ridiculous. To me it sounds like a way to make yourself feel superior by putting down other people. And what’s even more concerning is that it dismisses the people who can’t spend their days preparing their “clean foods” because of a lack of access, time or money.
And let’s be real, the juice cleanses, gluten free diets, and whatever the latest clean eating fad becomes, is often not particularly healthier than anything else in the first place. Gluten is only a problem if you have celiac or sensitivities, juice cleanses are concentrated sugar without the fiber, coconut oil is still mostly made up of saturated fat, and agave hasn’t been shown to be any different than another version of sugar. But people seem to be so swept up in the latest “clean foods” and again, if that’s what you want to do, that’s you’re call. But to imply that others are less than if they make different food choices is unacceptable.
I’ve had many clients that started out trying to eat healthy or “eat clean” until they ended up in my office with orthorexia or another eating disorder. Obviously that’s the extreme version of all of this (and eating disorders are more complex issues) but it’s easy to see why there’s a rise in orthorexia as there is so much food shaming happening in our culture. If you decide to go on the whole 30 diet or become paleo or gluten free, that’s your choice. But let’s not judge others who don’t want to follow your path.
Check out my recent post called, “Dear Influencers, Stop Sharing your Diet and Weight Loss Tips.”