So you want to eat CLEAN… but what does that even mean!?


That’s a fantastic question actually! 


The word “Clean” means to be free of dirt, marks or stains or to be morally uncontaminated, pure or innocent.


Well the last time I checked there was no moral code that food was policed by and that farm fresh eggs stay fresh longer when you left the poop on them… so are eggs no longer a good food to eat???


Hopefully your starting to see where I’m taking this…


The History


Back in 2007, a Canadian fitness model named Tosca Reno wrote a book called The Eat- Clean Diet. The release of this book is being stated as the start of the clean eating movement. Since that time the terms clean eating and eating clean have sparked massive popularity in social media, inspired the writing of thousands of books, spawned multiple “diets” within the diet and is touted as gospel by some celebrities. There are also digital magazines and recipe sites devoted to clean eating as well as multiple IG accounts related to the subject. I searched #cleaneating and found 45.3 million posts. I searched #eatclean and found 58.5 million posts. Unfortunately not a single one of those accounts or hashtags explains a full list of metrics that encompass what it means to eat clean.


The Truth


To be completely honest there is no true definition of what it means to Eat Clean according to my searches; only ambiguity and even more questions. Some claim that eating clean means only eating whole, real foods and not consuming processed foods. Some claim that it is eating foods without added sugars, colors, chemicals and preservatives. Still other groups say it means eliminating foods containing GMOs and that are not organic. It would seem that no one can agree on what it means to eat clean, so how do you know you’re doing it correctly? 


To continue in my path of honesty and transparency, this lack of consensus is a really big problem for several reasons. 


The Problems


The problem with having a movement without clearly defined parameters is that it leaves too much room for personal interpretation and that large grey area left open for interpretation can lead to even larger issues. I see three problems with the clean eating movement. 


1- It is based on a platform of restrictiveness. In my own dieting history and in the work I’ve done with clients over the last 5 years, I’ve found one truth stand above the rest; restriction does not work. Most clients I’ve ever worked with have attempted multiple diets in their past; every one of them focused on restricting something. Whether it’s the  calories, carbohydrates, dietary fats, number of meals per day, or the foods allowed, every single “diet” restricts something… and that’s where they all fail us. Diets are doomed to fail from the start because they paint you into a corner and tell you that things aren’t allowed anymore and I don’t know about you, but when I’m told I can’t do/ have something it only makes me want it that much more. So you get stuck in this negative feedback loop of restricting, longing for the things being restricted, giving in to that longing and then having to start back over again. 


2- It could lead to increased levels of restriction. I’ll be the first person to tell you that I’ve been on the clean eating train. I rode it for several years… all the way to a place called Orthorexia. For those of you who don’t know what Orthorexia is it is a pattern of disordered eating that is defined as the obsessive pursuit of a healthy diet. Sure some people hop on the clean eating train and they give up processed foods and sodas and opt for a balance between whole real foods and some healthier packaged/ restaurant foods and start crushing life. Other people, like me, take the term clean food to another stratosphere and go from eliminating processed foods to eliminating added sugars, food dyes and preservatives, to only purchasing organic, non gmo foods to the point where it becomes physically and emotionally difficult for them to allow themselves to eat foods outside of those categories leading to extreme food anxiety, caloric restriction and possibly even anorexia. I have to say it again to drive it home. Restriction never works. 


3- It doesn’t allow for living your life on your terms. Let me clarify. If you have lived your entire life as an all organic vegan because it aligns with your faith (a good friend of mine) then you have no idea what you’re missing and your entire life has aligned with those eating principals and you’ve never known any different. FANTASTIC! The rest of us have had birthday cake and Gramma’s famous dressing and just love an amazing slice of pizza every now and then. Have you taken into consideration how you are going to navigate holidays, family vacations, birthdays and your best friend’s wedding within the realm of eating clean? My guess is no, and so you hop on the train and you’re chugging along just fine right up until one of those above mentioned events blind sides you and you’re either left in a puddle of bitterness and despair because you didn’t allow yourself to enjoy the occasion or an equally messy pool of guilt and disgust because you fell off the side of the Grand Canyon into the dessert table. This, my friends, is no way to live. 


The Solution


The solution is quite simple actually, and something I teach my clients every single day. If it’s not about restriction, than how can you create a healthier you? You find the happy medium between the bitterness/ despair and the guilt/ disgust cycle you’ve been putting yourself through. It’s called balance or the 80/20 rule, whichever you prefer, and it will change your life and your relationship with food like nothing else will. 


There is a LOT that can be said for making food quality a priority. I’m a huge food quality proponent. Through my journey to Orthorexia and back though I’ve also learned that life is worth living because we only get one of them and there’s no point in wasting it being miserable the entire time because you’re restrictive dieting. Now I not only subscribe to the 80/20 rule myself, but I teach it to everyone I can because I believe 100% that it’s the key to giving us all a more positive healthy relationship with food and our overall health. 


Living the 80/20 rule means that 80% of the time you are filling your body with wholesome, real, nutrient dense, good quality foods while the other 20% of the time you’re allowing yourself to enjoy all that life has to offer. Maybe that means that you try real Italian Gelato in Venice. Maybe that means you enjoy bangers and mash with a pint at a pub in Manchester. Maybe that means you make s’mores with your kids over a bonfire on the beach. Maybe that means you go to the wing cook off and try one of every different kind so you can vote on your favorite. 


No guilt. No Punishments. No having to say no because you’re “dieting.” 


Living an amazing healthy lifestyle that you can finally enjoy. Now that sounds amazing doesn’t it! 


Talk soon,



Photo by Freddy G on Unsplash