In defense of clean eating

We’re nearing the end of Week 1 of the Performance Fitness End of Winter Clean Up – our 28 day nutrition challenge to eat super clean. We’ve cut out sugar (real and fake), alcohol, processed foods and refined carbohydrates from our diets, all in the hopes of establish some new habits, being healthier, achieving our goals and perhaps, reshaping our bodies.

I’ve heard some wonderful success stories during week 1; stories about weight loss, increased energy and starting to overcome food addiction.

I’ve also heard tons of objections – some from participants who are having a hard time making the change, many from those who are in the contemplation stage and most from those who aren’t doing the challenge:

  • Clean eating is not something I can deal w/….it does not even sound fun.
  • Life is too short to be miserable.
  • I could never give up my Coke, Diet Coke, Chocolate (fill in the blank here).
  • No alcohol for 28 days? Are you kidding me?!
  • We were just talking about how we’re not doing your stupid Clean Up (not an objection but a comment that definitely irked me and put me on the defensive).

People in my business are fond of saying that nutrition is like religion. An emotional and often polarizing subject that’s best left out of cocktail party conversation.  Efforts to change someone’s opinion or food choices are met with resistance and judgment.

Food and fitness are like my second religion, and as I do in my “main” religion I try to be a quiet witness for what I believe to be a “right” and healthy lifestyle.

So, here’s my response to one of those objection emails I received. My defense of clean eating.

The “clean eating …does not sound fun” was so emphatic – made me laugh.

Well, fair enough if you’re out. I applaud you for knowing what you want to do and owning that. ..

I have to disagree with you, though about clean eating being “not fun or exciting”, and I certainly don’t feel miserable.

I’m a TOTAL foodie. I LOVE food and all the aspects of it (I’m a “food is a 5 senses experience” type of gal). I don’t eat clean 100%. Ideally I would eat clean 85-95% of the time. Lately, with a new baby and business to manage (not trying to make excuses, just stating the facts), it’s more like 75%. I need to work on that [edit: which I’m now doing through the Clean Up].

I’m never bored. I eat an array of vegetables and fruits and other foods, but like everyone else I do have my go to foods. Actually, any of us, whether we eat a strict plan or whatever we want, tend to eat the same 10-20 foods day in day out, week in week out. When I have been stricter I actually have more excitement because I’m not consuming easy, convenience foods. That means that I cook more and try new recipes more often because I don’t want to get bored. There are a ton of clean yummy recipes out there.

I guess I just think of clean or “strict” eating as a choice, sort of like when I was a vegetarian (funny, both choices illicit the same kind of incredulity). I didn’t eat meat for 13 years but I never felt bored (well, only if I got lazy, as we all do, and ate the same foods over and over) or miserable. Being a vegetarian opened up a whole new food world for me. Eating the way I have for the past year has opened up another new food world for me.

You may or may not know that I eat Paleo now. It’s even stricter than what we’re doing for the Clean Up. The skeptics ask me “Why would you eat that way? Do you like it?”

I eat “that way” because I like the way I feel and I like the way my body feels when I do it right, and yes, I like it.  Do I do it 100% of the time? No. Have I done it 100% for months on end? Yes. Could I do it all the time? Yes, if I chose to. But I still like certain foods on occasion, so I make conscious choices not to do it 100%. Sometimes because I want my Friday night cocktail and dessert or Challah French toast at Sunday brunch, or sometimes because I’m being lazy or because I’m stressed and I just say “F%$k it”. I’ve never claimed to be perfect, but I do know that if I ate “that way” 100%, 95% or even 90% of the time I’d be closer to my “perfect”.

Like most people I’m constantly striving to get there. A continual work in progress.