Do you find it difficult to lose weight? Is it hard to stick to a plan? Maybe your plan is too tough for anyone to stick to.
All this clean eating and eating “perfectly” business is really getting to me. Everywhere I look: online, on health & fitness blogs, Instagram; I hear it everywhere too from the gym to the grocery store, to… you get the picture. This clean eating fad has made it’s way into our normal conversations, it’s every-freaking-where. I bet you’re thinking, amen, or Rebecca, where are you coming from? Have you been brain washed? Because, you say, clean eating is really the way to go, right? Cut out processed foods, desserts, and you’re going to be healthier, be more energized, and really love life? I guess I can attest to the first two as a general rule, but the third???? Ahh heck no, Ben & Jerrys brings so much joy into my life. Although a good kale salad does the same, it’s really NOT the same.
As my fave fitness instructor says “I’m going to put my personal training hat on and be mean” when she wants us to use proper technique, well guys “I’m going to put on my nutrition education, credentials, and experience hat on, and be mean”. Sorry not sorry, but for a majority of us, sticking clear of those “bad for you” foods (please note the quotations) because I don’t think white bread, potatoes, and triple chocolate brownies are bad-those are their words, not mine. Is smoke billowing out of your ears yet?
I’m the queen of wanna-be moderation, and perfection has no place in moderation or my personal definition of healthy eating. Why is that? Fortunately/unfortunately, eating is much more than straight up nourishing our bodies. We eat to be social, to be satisfied, for enjoyment, for emotional reasons, out of convenience, habits, and tradition. How many social situations, emotional times, and rushed times can you remember still “eating clean” or perfectly? I can’t think of many, unless you’ve surrounded yourself with others whose idea of perfect eating is = to yours. Besides, what the heck does eating perfectly mean? I have to ask clients this all the time, because it means something different to everyone. To me, eating perfectly is following that simple plate method (you know-choose my plate). That’s it. Seriously, but is that too simple for you? There are no rules to follow, just general guidelines, and the sometimes outrageous request to fill 1/2 your plate with fruits/vegetables. Groundbreaking, right?
So why am I saying this is so bad? As I’ve taken on more clients and discussed people’s barriers to changing their lifestyle, I see that common thread. Attempted and failed diets. Again, not groundbreaking, right? I mean in 2012, $20 billion was spent on diet aids, books, diet drugs, and weight loss surgery. In addition to that it was estimated that 108 million people dieted in 2012, beyond that, they averaged 4-5 diets over that year. I’m only guessing that those numbers have continued to rise since 2012 (ABC). And, even with all of that, 69% of American adults over the age of 20 are considered overweight, and 35% are considered obese (CDC). Again, all these stats are from 2012, so I would guess that they’re higher today. Do you see the disconnect? Does this tell you that dieting works? Or that it doesn’t? It tells me that dieting does not work, even when it’s perfect or clean.
There are 2 overlying themes that indicate that this way of eating will likely be more harmful than beneficial. 1 being that it can really increase your stress. This really came to my understanding when speaking to a client who had tried so hard to lose weight. She’d tried a myriad of diets, each of which she quit once she plateaued, or never saw any results. She was motivated, smart, capable, yet very frustrated. Somehow our conversation turned to stress, I asked if the rules or guidelines for any of her diets increased her stress levels. She sat back for a second, looked down, and returned with a timid “yes”. I then asked her if that could have anything to do with her inability to lose that weight she worked to hard to achieve. 2 being that dirty side of clean eating-orthorexia. Although orthorexia is not currently considered a clinical diagnosis, it still is real and could lead to malnutrition. That’s right people, the quest to eat “perfectly” could cause malnutrition depending on what foods one cuts out. Melanie wrote a great post on orthorexia, find it here. And I ranted on the wiley fear-mongering ways of the FoodBabe here. Ugh, I’m exhausted after all this!
Without any further ado, here are 10 reasons why eating perfectly is really ruining your diet/your weight loss efforts:
Following a strict diet can be stressful, increased stress negatively affects weight loss efforts (3)
It’s likely forcing you to give up a favorite (or a few favorite) foods, which makes you want them even more, and potential binging.
It takes a lot of planning, preparation, and time. You may not have lots of time or desire to put the work in, making these changes short-lived.
Foods are categorized as good or bad, most often semi-arbitrarily in my mind. This is confusing, and likely, you’ll be faced with those “bad” foods, and avoiding them is stressful and not at all satisfying.
Food choices are limited by cutting out whole food groups, following broad restrictions is boring, and again, could be difficult to follow long term.
If you’re cutting out whole food groups such as grains &/or dairy (without having a diagnosed intolerance or allergy), you’re likely missing out on key nutrients your body needs to function.
It’s more difficult to be social. Following strict diets makes it difficult to eat out and to eat at others’ houses. This can lead to stress &/or reduced happiness in your daily life. Is it worth it?
A restrictive diet opens the door to binging once it’s over, and increases the risk of regaining all that weight you worked so hard to lose. Again, is it worth it?
So, how then should you eat? Check these out.
Screw your Diet, celebrate No Diet Day instead
The Nutrition Facts Label
Take a Bite out of a Healthy Lifestyle, #NationalNutritionMonth
The #1 Food You Shouldn’t Eat
These are a great place to start.
I would like to close this post with my favorite Amy Pohler quote: “good for her, not for me” I’ve found this quote to be ever true in the nutrition/health world as I’ve gotten more experience. Maybe clean eating works for you, maybe you don’t really enjoy foods that are high in added sugar/fat, and you follow a varied/balanced diet, and you love it! That’s great, but as a general guideline, recommending restrictive diets without any physiological need (like no diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, food allergy….diagnosis) is not anywhere I would ever start with a client.
Restrictive diets typically don’t work as they’re not something anyone can really happily follow long-term. And what’s the point of making changes if it’s not going to be long term. The weight is just going to come creeping back on, your health is just going to return to pre diet & that’s not worth it, and also very frustrating and stressful-which can very easily be avoided by not dieting.
Let’s get chatty!
Does eating clean help you achieve your health goals? If so, how long have you been eating clean?
Does anything we discussed here ring true, or so not true for you?