I’ve been watching different interpretations of the phrase “clean eating” and scratching my head a bit. Clean eating has more interpretations than many other “diets” out there, and I like to think that’s because it’s is an eating lifestyle, not a diet. But are you making clean eating work for you rather than trying to change your life for clean eating? And are you confused by what eating clean means exactly?
What is Clean Eating?
If recipes like “clean eating fudge” put a hopeful smile on your face, think again. Some websites call anything without processed ingredients “clean eating.” But to me, clean eating consistitutes foods that are closest to their natural state and include these qualities:
- Low in fat, particularly saturated fat (and zero trans fat)
- Low in sodium
- Low in refined sugar
- Shorter ingredient list
- High in fiber
- High in vitamins in minerals (nutrient dense)
The clean eating version that has worked for my clients and myself is a lifestyle – it includes eating consistently, following the 80/20 principle, advance prep, reading food labels, a combination of complex carbs, healthy fats, and lean proteins at every meal, and generally just eating nutrient-dense foods instead of commercially packaged foods. When you follow these principles, you automatically limit the amount of processed or unnatural ingredients.
My version of clean eating is to limit sugar and fat, even if it’s “natural.” In my world, eating clean means striving to get as many natural foods and as few unprocessed foods as I can. Notice the words striving to. There’s no way I would realistically follow a strict diet or eliminate certain ingredients altogether; therefore, I’ve found ways to eat as natural as I can without becoming obsessive.
Obviously, scrubbing your food to make it “pure” is a bogus way to describe clean eating and if someone wants to demonize an eating method, there’s always a way. And any diet you obsess about it isn’t a good one (people do that with all kinds of diets).
My Own Story
Put simply, I don’t eat junk – chips, sweets, fast food, etc. – because I don’t want to, not because I’m on a restrictive diet. I remember what if felt like when I used to eat junk and I don’t want to feel that way again.
My eating lifestyle has evolved over a period of years; it didn’t change overnight. In my twenties I ate cheeseburgers, candy bars, and beer almost every day. I also suffered from irritable bowel syndrome and debilitating digestive pain and lethargy. I had high cholesterol too, and I didn’t even consider that my diet could alleviate any of these symptoms. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I learned about clean eating and my symptoms disappeared.
So I do remember what it’s like to have little awareness of what you eat. I remember wanting to satisfy cravings and hunger that was out of control due to low blood sugar. I had no idea that what I was eating was making me feel terrible physically and raising my bad cholesterol too.
Although I’ll indulge on special occasions, I’ve lost all appetite and cravings for junk. That, coupled with memories of what junk makes me feel like is what keeps my clean eating lifestyle going day after day.
I should mention that I don’t believe in “good” foods and “bad” foods… I believe we can simply make healthy choices. That’s it.
Your background and reasons for wanting to eat clean are different from mine. When I say make healthy choices, I mean to educate yourself about what makes you healthier and feel the best. You’re doing that right now by reading this blog. Keep going and find out what works for you instead of trying to adapt your body and life to a rigid set of eating rules.
If you’re on a mission to lose weight, you can abide by temporary calorie restriction until you’ve reached your goal weight. After that, studies show that trying to maintain a strict diet is almost always unsuccessful (unless you’re a bodybuilding competitor who employs the use of a coach) and lots of regular moderate-intensity exercise keeps the weight off the best (as much as 300 minutes per week).
If you’re at a point of weight maintenance, you already know you need to be selective about what you eat. If you choose clean eating, adapt it to your own schedule and lifestyle instead of making your lifestyle fit clean eating. That’s the only way you’ll sustain this eating method over the long term.
Are you following a “diet” or eating lifestyle? Is it working for you or do you need to give yourself permission to change it up?
You might also enjoy:
- Start the Day Right with Easy Clean-Eating Breakfasts
- Clean-Eating Lunches are Easy and Fast
- Clean Eating Snacks for All-Day Energy
- Does Junk Food Fit Into Your Diet?
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.