Why I Gave Up Clean Eating

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In this video, I’m going to talk about what clean eating is, why I personally gave it up, and why I don’t recommend it to my clients anymore.

Hi, it’s Ivana, helping you get fit healthy and strong at any age.

I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while because giving up clean eating was actually how I managed to stabilize my weight after the massive struggles of my twenties, when I was up and down and binge eating.

And now I’ve found a way to be able to maintain my weight and I no longer have to do clean eating.

What Is Clean Eating?

Most of the time it refers to eating primarily whole foods. So things like lean meats, lots of vegetables, fruit, probably whole grains, but not processed refined grains like rice and white bread. Then you’re also going to have nuts and seeds. You’re going to try to avoid sugar. Normally unsweetened dairy is okay.

This is the most commonly accepted definition of clean eating, but there are some variations and different proponents of this philosophy will give you a slightly different ideas about how it works.

Highly Processed Foods

You’re pretty much eliminating all the highly processed foods that many people enjoy including myself. So I start with my favourites, things like ice cream and chocolate. And then for other people, it might be French fries or chips or chicken wings with lots of barbecue sauce. Pretty much all those fun foods that I like to call, treat foods.

Calorie Deficit

Weight loss comes down to a calorie deficit. There is no way around that.

Getting to a calorie deficit, however, can have many, many strategies and claim eating is one of the strategies that people propose for helping people to lose weight. The first problem with clean eating is that there’s no scientific definition. Most people will say it means just eating whole foods or less processed or unprocessed foods.

All food is processed to some extent, unless you’re fighting the side off a cow for your hamburger, or you’re actually pulling that Apple off the tree, then your food has been processed in some way.

It’s probably been packaged.

Processed & Hyperpalatable

In the literature, they refer more to highly processed foods and also hyperpalatable foods. These are super tasty foods that are a combination of fat and sugar. People think sugar is the enemy, but most of us things that they think of as sugar sources also have a lot of fat. So it’s the combination that tastes so good. And that’s what makes us overeat those particular foods.

Cheat Meals & Cheat Days

In some circumstances with clean eating, you can have, what’s called a cheat meal. So all week you’re eating all these healthy whole foods. And then on Saturday you have either a cheat day or just a cheat meal where you just going nuts and having all the processed foods you want. Just anything that you possibly can dream of. And you’ve probably been about it all week because you’ve been depriving yourself of these things that you really want.

Issues With Clean Eating

So here’s the first thing that I don’t like about the system, the cheat meal and the cheat day. I don’t really like the idea of cheating in the first place. And the whole fact that you have to cheat on your diet means that you don’t really have a diet that actually works for you. And so you’ve got a lot of things missing from your diet that you really want, and that would bring you pleasure.

How Clean Eating Can Work

I don’t want to say that this doesn’t work for some people and it did work for me at certain periods of time. I did manage to eat really, really well throughout the week. And then I would just go nuts on Saturday, go back to things on Sunday. And I somehow managed to kind of be in a good position and lose weight for a period of time

Clean Eating With Physique Athletes

for the kind of people who are very disciplined, like physique athletes, bodybuilders, that sort of thing.

They’ve got a very regimented plan and then they might just have one cheat meal and that works for them as a system.

But you’re talking about the 1% when it comes to nutrition.

Why Clean Eating Presents Challenges

Most of the people that I work with are normal people who have to deal with having food available at the office, having their kids bring home certain things or having to buy things for their kids that are going to be sitting on that shelf, staring at them over and over every day. It’s not always easy to maintain that discipline if you’re just living in day to day life that doesn’t revolve around your food and training.

Most of us are not doing that. We need a bit more flexibility in our lifestyle. I really think it makes a lot more sense to have a balanced diet where 80% of what you’re eating is usually that those lean proteins, lots of vegetables, some whole grains and nuts and seeds and that type of thing.

And then about 10 to 20%, depending on your goals is going to be foods that I dove treat foods. So that’s my positive way of looking at it rather than a cheat food.

The Social Value Of Food

I have an a positive association with those foods. They’re part of my own personal experience, but they’re also often part of a social experience. I love eating with my family and we enjoy those same foods. We’ll sit there and each have a bowl of ice cream and you don’t necessarily want to miss out on all those things just to lose weight.

And you don’t have to.

How Clean Eating Works

Now, the reason that clean eating tends to work at least initially is that you’re eliminating all these highly processed refined foods that are very calorie dense. A doughnut might have 200 or 250 calories, some ice cream, which it goes down really, really easy back in my twenties when I was eating quite a lot, I could have two Ben and Jerry’s cartons at a time.

And if you total up the calories for that, it was pretty much a day’s worth of calories. So it’s no wonder that I couldn’t maintain my weight that way in clean eating. You just eliminate all those things, not having any ice cream, not having any French fries, not having any chips, not having any chocolate, unless I think in some cases, if it’s dark chocolate, then a small amount is allowed.

Clean Eating Rules

There’s arbitrary rules that are thrown out here and there, which is a problem with clean eating as a way of eating.

There are so many rules that you’re not quite sure what it’s supposed to be, actually getting leaner through producing a calorie deficit. And you can produce that in many ways. If you produced that by having one chocolate bar a day, but then eating chicken breasts and broccoli and egg whites for the rest of the day, then that’s fine.

You’re still producing a calorie deficit.

The Clean Eating Mentality

And I also want to mention that when I was doing this, I had all these ideas in my head as well.

I was like, “Oh, if I don’t stay clean, well, I’m going to start to build up the fat. I’m going to start to put on weight.”

And that’s what I had in my head all the time. It really becomes a mental struggle to the point where you can become obsessive with food.

And you’re like, “Oh, is this food clean? Can I eat it? I’m not sure. Like it has a bit of sauce. Is that okay?”

The idea that you don’t want to add, like even 50 calories, that’s going to help this chicken breast go down. It seems a little bit silly to me. I use barbecue sauce on my chicken breasts because it’s delicious. And it really helps me get like 40 grams of protein in because it’s so much more tasty that way.

So suffering through everything by having dry chicken breasts all the time. This is a philosophy that a lot of people think is what’s required to get lean. It’s not.

Why I Gave Up Clean Eating

I gave up clean eating because I realized I didn’t have to do it. And I wanted to develop a healthier relationship with food.

This is one of my biggest criticisms of clean eating.

You see food as good or bad. And that, to me, isn’t the way to do things. It’s just food. Unless you have a severe allergy, a small amount of a particular food is not a big disaster and it doesn’t need to send you spiraling.

That’s exactly what it used to do for me. Once I had had a little bit of a particular food that I enjoyed, all of a sudden I was bingeing on that food. Then I threw away that clean eating thing until I could get myself back on track again and eat nothing but clean food again.

And that kind of cycle happened to me for years. I have a lot of clients who’ve been through the same thing. You’re forcing yourself to do something that doesn’t make sense and isn’t necessary for weight loss or your health.

A Sustainable Approach To Weight Loss

Your diet should be sustainable for you. It should include the foods that you enjoy. This.

You shouldn’t be constantly deprived in order to lose weight. If you like the sound of that, please hit that thumbs up for me.

Why The General Idea Of Clean Eating Still Applies With Weight Loss

You do end up eating a lot more healthy whole foods, fewer processed foods.

When you try to lose weight anyway, that’s how you bring yourself into a calorie deficit. You reduce your calorie intake, you increase your protein and you adjust your carbs and fat. As long as those things happen, then it doesn’t have to be a hundred percent clean all the time. Those are my thoughts on clean eating.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 6-year-old boy. She is a writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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