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Discussion Question

Sunday, July 07, 2013

I want a discussion about this. If it's upsetting to you, don't worry about it.

I've seen this term tossed around in here quite a bit - "Eating clean." It has very OCD connotations to it to me (I have a Ph.D. in psychology).

It's the trendier, updated version of "being good on my diet." I think it has stronger eating disorder/orthorexic vibes though.

What does "eating clean" even mean? Washing your food first (haha)? Only non-processed food (and what do you define as processed?)? No "junk food" (same problem again). Eating all vegetables? No bread? No refined bread? No sugar?

I guess what gets me about this whole "eating clean" thing that I see tossed around quite a bit is that it has unhealthy connotations - especially if you say, screw up and eat a piece of pizza or something (that is apparently dirty?). The unsaid known that if you eat something "unclean" that you are now dirty yourself. That you need to be purified. And in that sense, it's a little puritanical as well.

What do you ladies think about this? I have to be honest, the term is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. Can't we eat food without loading it with all of these latent cultural, disciplinary, spiritual and psychological meanings?

For more on OCD - check out this guy:

I mean, there are many of us on here (me included, in the past especially) who rather than cut out entire food groups, will focus near obsessively on the calorie content in food. Measuring out to the exact gram. And at the end of the day, if we are "over" our calories, we will comb through our food record that day.

"Where may I have mismeasured?"
"Oh, I guess maybe I only had a SCANT cup of that taco salad, so I'll say it was .9 cups..."

Or -

"Oh crap - I'm over my calories. I guess I'll do an exercise video before bed."
"I ate waaaaay to much this weekend. So today I am going to the gym to work off some of that food, and then I'm going to count my calories today and stick to the bottom of my range."

Sounds like typical weight-loss behavior, doesn't it? But there's something more sinister there. Who is in control, first of all? YOU? Or your compulsion to stay within some arbitrary (way too low, by the way) calorie range?

I think - and I know I'm not the only one who has this hypothesis - that the Empire (diet and weight loss industry) starves us, and tells us we have to perform these OCD behaviors or we will be punished with weight gain (and we ARE, to some degree, because we are in a constant state of starvation, and as soon as we can eat again, our bodies are like F*CK YES FEED ME YOU WH()RE I'M F*CKING HAAAANNNNGGGRRRY). Like the guy in the video, if you perform the behavior (see the el camino) your anxiety skyrockets, and you have to "correct" for the behavior.

The "clean eating" is just too much of a tie! Hand washing vs. clean eating. Is there really much of a difference?

So - before you tried to lose weight the FIRST time. Did you get fat eating bad for 3 days? A week? A month? No. But now we can see, that 3 days off a diet and we are 5-10 lbs undone. Because we're hungry, and our bodies are terrified. And it's making us crazy.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    WOW, sounds like just a lot of negativity to me. I find that if I just stay positive about my own doings regarding my eating and fitness habits then what everyone else does isn't of importance to me at all. If it works for you and it doesn't reflect on me or anyone else in a negative way then do it.

    We all need to be more concerned for our own selves and our own resposnibilities in the is world unless we are doing good for others.

    just sayin' ........

    hope I haven't offended anyone.

    PEACE !!!!
    1592 days ago
    Interesting points raised by all:) I love blogs like this that actually generate discussion and people share their ideas.

    To me:
    clean eating=free from chemicals and as natural to the original source as possible.
    my diet=a combination of a bunch of different "styles" I eat what I like. Yes I count calories, yes at times it drives me nuts, yes at times I eat too much sugar, yes at times I overeat.
    I hate the scale. I weigh myself more often that I would like to, but it does hold me accountable. It is a control thing, no doubt. If the number is too high I push harder at the gym, try eating less sugar, etc.

    Had to add you as a Spark buddy:)
    1593 days ago
    I completely agree with AMANDARAQS when she says people use it as a way to feel superior to others. I think there is some real definition of the concept in exisitence someplace, however, most people using the term have not spent the time to investigate the real meaning. I'm with ADARKARA on her points. If you like to cook like I do, good for you, make your meals. If you don't like or know how to cook then however you get your food prepared is also awesome as long as you're the nutrients you need.

    1596 days ago
    This is an interesting blog post. Personally I think there is a lot of "smug" surrounding the concept of clean eating. (I'm better than you, or a better person than you are, if I don't eat processed food or McDonald's.) You get to promote yourself as the superior human being because you only shop green, or you drive an electric car, or whatever the trend is.

    (I'm not dismissing people who legitimately want to lower their carbon footprint, but it's so freaking TRENDY right now to base your social value on how expensive your blueberries are, and pooh-poohing any packaged food whatsoever.)

    As to the OCD -- well, isn't the whole "diet" concept is based on control? Control your eating, your portion sizes. People who binge eat "out of control." Anorexics often say their eating habits were the only thing they felt they could control in their lives. I can easily see this kind of thinking spinning into something very dangerous, or developing into (or further exaggerating) a mental illness.

    Personally I FULLY understand the person who obsesses on counting each calorie or measuring with atomic precision. When you're trying to lose weight you almost can't help thinking about it 24/7, and yeah -- I've been the person doing exercise at night to "burn off" an unplanned dessert. Is it normal? Kind of. Is it a good sort of normal? Probably not.
    1597 days ago
    As a person who has lived with a diagnosis of OCD for the last 25 years, I often wish that people who use that term so loosely would trade places with an OCD person for one unmedicated OCD person who has had no CT or BT. It isn't a light phrase -- how would you like to spend your day doing the same thing over and over and over -- or thinking the same thing over and over and over from the moment you go to bed and the moment you get up....feeling like you were in a hole with a blanket over your head smothering.

    Okay enough of the OCD rant, I am very lucky as medication and CT provided me with the tools to live a healthy productive life but eating clean to me means no processed food whatsoever.....and that's it!

    BEECHNUT -- the OCD info wasn't really for you but others reading the thread as you are probably very familiar with the term and its true connotations. I am glad you posted the thread, very interesting and informative.
    1597 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/10/2013 9:19:49 AM
    Your blog had me thinking. I posted a comment to a group and realized that I was talking to you.
    I'm tired of the restrictions that are based on bits and pieces of diets. Over the years I've limited a wide variety of foods and ingredients only to find out later that they didn't deserve the bad reputation. Like nuts. And even carrots.

    I think it is logical to eat less "white" in favor of whole foods but there are times that the "white" stuff does not have a good replacement or substitute. I discovered white whole wheat flour. It is a whole grain without need for added vitamins. It does not have the strong flavor of traditional whole wheat flour. Different sweeteners have different flavors and I pick and choose based on the need of the end product. I don't use a lot of sweetener. I rarely use white sugar. But sometimes I use it (gasp!) and I keep a canister on a shelf.

    A diabetic diet is important for anyone diagnosed with diabetes. A gluten free diet is important for those who have a diagnosed condition that makes it hard to digest gluten. It doesn't make sense to track and limit without a condition unless there is a good chance that you are likely to develop a condition. The world of diets has gone more than a little bit overboard on restricted food items and I am personally trying to move away from that type of thinking.

    1597 days ago
    emoticon I was never sure what they meant by eating clean. at first i thought it was eating organic foods only brown rice and pastas only. no desserts or sweets and lots of grains and tasteless foods. even after reading some of the responses i am not sure about the whole eating clean thing. for me eating healthy well balanced meals and getting my fruits and veggies in each day is what is important.
    1598 days ago
    "Clean" eating to me isn't cutting stuff out, eliminating full food groups me its just trying to make more things from scratch rather than eating from a box. I still eat out at restaurants( if i want wings, i get wings),eat bread, drink milk, drink booze and love myself some ice cream but like CHODGES83 said its not all time time.Its better to make your own pasta sauce from fresh veggies than to eat a can of chef boyardee, ya know? for many reasons. For me its just having a bit more control over whats going into my body(salt content for instance) especially since the food industry I feel keeps alot from us (its all profit based in the end). I don't feel what I am doing is a "diet", its just trying to be more conscious of that i'm consuming.
    But i do agree in the OCD tendencies I've noticed in some people with the whole losing weight thing. But they are the ones that really need to step back and realize its not about obsessing, being healthier & stronger shouldnt be stressful. I track my food but very loosely, I'm a visual person. Its just to give me a good idea of portion size (something i struggle with) but i don't see myself doing it forever, same as tracking my fitness. Its more so i can visually see my progress & getting better, stronger.

    1598 days ago
    I have thought about this a LOT and I am guilty of throwing around terms such as clean eating. In my mind it's eating foods that are good for me. I still eat pizza, burgers, fries, drink alcohol, macaroni&cheese, reese's cups, etc. For me it's just not eating those foods or foods from a box (my husband could live off hamburger helper) everyday all day. I feel better when I eat fresh or whole foods(there I go again) like fruits, veggies, lean meats. Last night I totally chowed down on frozen burritos drenched in canned enchilada sauce topped with packaged shredded cheese and doritos! It was delicious! I don't know that there is a right or wrong answer to what to eat. I just eat what makes me feel good.
    1598 days ago
    I don't like the term, but I'll admit to throwing it around. Its just something I'll say if I'm talking to someone not actively involved in eating healthy. That's the term I like to use more. Instead of "eating clean" I'll say that I'm "trying to eat healthy." This is a really vague term, but then again, so is "eating clean." I've gone through my obsessive phases and just realized that I'm not the kind of person who can cut out whole food groups completely. I'm going to have a healthy lifestyle. End of story. No "clean" no paleo no keto probably for me... It worries me how obsessive people get once they go on a strict, strict diet. It definitely makes them sound like they have an eating disorder sometimes.
    1599 days ago
  • A*L*P*
    Its funny that you posted this, I have been having struggles with this very concept myself (I just blogged about it today, too!). I am so flipping tired of the whole industry and the whole 'strong is the new skinny' type of mentality. I see this industry as simply trendy. They have to tack labels on everything so people can fit into their little molds. clean eating is a demise and a form of obsession for me. I had to dump that mentalitly because it was killing me. I eat sugar, not by the bucketfulls mind you, but I don't see it as the evil demon that some people claim it to be. And bread, OMFG, really people? Eat the bread, but do so with grace and moderation. I see the cute little trend of bananas being demonized also. Last time I checked they were good for you....

    Sigh. The Empire sucks. Only a sith deals in absolutes. If we remember that, we'll be good.
    1599 days ago
    I might get chucked off SP for saying this but:-

    I feel that weight loss has been turned into a religion. (in the UK we're very secular) Like the various forms of religion, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic etc, all of which are convinced they have the only pathway to eternal life, we have Eating Clean, Atkins, Paleo, all of which have the same basic aim, but different pathways. If you fall off your chosen pathway, then God help you! It all plays on the human need to feel guilt. Yes, it does have overtones of OCD, and also superstition, (if I eat that cake, step on the cracks, I won't lose weight)

    I don't track, I become obsessive, I'm not immune either. I actually fast a couple of days a week, for the other health benefits not to lose weight, and eat whatever I please on the other days.
    1599 days ago
    Well, I am just a tad older than you emoticon
    but it has always annoyed me how people
    (women, I really should say)
    who are 'on a diet'
    (most women my age for most of our lives)
    would talk about being 'good' or 'bad'
    depending on how closely they followed
    their diet du jour.
    'Clean eating' never bothered me as I always took it to mean whole, natural, wholesome, healthy, home cooked food-
    which doesn't make the opposites 'dirty'
    just not 'clean'.
    I actually have always tried to eat that way and feed my family that way as much as possible- long before I ever heard the words 'clean eating'.
    That being said- the occasional pizza, burgers, ice cream, cookies, chips, etc. is not going to kill anybody.
    Occasional being the important word in that statement.
    1599 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/7/2013 9:32:32 PM
    I take eating clean to mean no chemicals or artificial ingredients. I see the merits in it and I don't think the opposite of clean in this case is "dirty", it's artificial, chemically or scientifically engineered food "product". However, your post did get me thinking about the parallels between our common diet behaviors and OCD, even the widely condoned practices of calorie counting and food tracking. I wonder, what is the solution?
    1599 days ago

    In my opinion, and this is just my opinion, "eating clean" is the biggest crock of SH*T I've ever heard. It implies some foods are bad. It creates a difficult-to-maintain set of rules. I f*cking HATE rules. (And personally, while the Paleo diet is a good, general diet, the theory behind it is also a giant crock of SH*T.

    I don't think eating unprocessed foods is a bad thing at ALL, but when you make it into a religion, it turns into bullsh*t.

    PS - I adore your background pic!
    1599 days ago
    I do not like that particular label because it can be interpreted in many ways. I also don't believe in "diets" or diet aids (supplements, pills, etc.). I believe that God made the miracle of our body and if we feed it PROPERLY (good nutrition habits), then it will survive and provide us with good health.
    I hope you find an answer that will suffice.
    1599 days ago
    There are a gajillion meanings for "eating clean".. it started with the body builders but Tosca Reno is credited for making the term skyrocket in use.. as to what it means, you'd have to ask the person using it... I don't use the term personally but I do use "a term" to describe the way I eat ... I follow a version of Paleo.. and Paleo is about as varied as there are people that tell you they're eating Paleo..

    The term "eating clean" doesn't bother me.. as people tend label and define healthy for themselves... vegetarians would think I'm "unhealthy" because I eat meat.. I have a friend who thinks I'm nuts because I don't eat "healthy whole grains".. but to my way of thinking, grains are anything BUT healthy..

    I believe the Empire researches and analyzes the fat, salt and sugar content of manufactured food to PURPOSEFULLY create the desire for MORE MORE MORE... the result of this in MY body is that my cravings are so strong that I cannot resist.. I may be able to "stand strong" one time.. but the effort is mentally exhausting.. and eventually I give in.. I could not understand why others were such much more "self controlled" and I spent a lot of time beating myself up.. flagellating myself for my lack of character.. when the reality was I was up against FREAKING CHEMISTS whose entire job is to keep me coming back for more more more.. See this article
    iction.html or google "Food cravings engineered by industry"

    On 3/2/13 I quit eating grains, legumes, dairy and "added" sugar (cane sugar, etc.) on a whim because my Coach asked me to for a month.. I thought "whatever", I've tried everything else, why not this... . my intention was to do it for a month.. but surprise surprise after 5 days my cravings completely disappeared.. not "moderately" disappeared or "almost" but COMPLETELY.. and I began to lose weight.. and I began to feel healthier than I've ever felt in my life.. sooooo I choose to eat this way.. and I feel like *I* finally am the one in control.. I don't know which one or more of the things I've given up are the reason for the lack of cravings.. but I intend to find out at some point.. I've eaten a bit of dairy and have not had the cravings return.. I've eaten a bit of cane sugar and have not had the cravings return (but did feel it coursing through my blood stream like a drug)... I have not eaten any grains or legumes.. and I don't miss them.. at all.. ever.. because I am still so astounded that the unimaginable cravings are gone - GONE - and I feel like my relationship with food for the first time in my life is "normal"... and as a woman who once weighed 326lbs - currently 260lbs - that's saying a lot!

    So, I don't have an issue with "any" label for the way a person eats.. I have not personally seen the "eat clean" label used in an unhealthy way, ie OCD. and if I did.. I'm pretty sure the OCD behavior could be manifested when "eating paleo", "following WW", "Jenny Craig" or any other way of eating.. it's the behavior not the "eating clean".. like it's the behavior not the "hand washing" itself... washing your hands is fine.. obsessing over it is not. "Eating Clean" is fine.. obsessing over it is not.

    My 2 cents.
    1599 days ago
    I have assumed that eating clean means "unprocessed". But I firmly believe that no food is out of bounds!
    1599 days ago
    I hate "clean eating" too. I hate it almost as much as "a moment on the lips, forever on the hips". It's crap like that that makes people (me included) feel guilty for EATING ANYTHING. Every day I worry all day about whether I'm eating enough or too much. If what I'm eating is what I should be eating. I've cut my calories and it seems to make as little difference as eating more. I've often wondered if it's partially the anxiety and body hatred I hold that is keeping me in the state I'm in. If I was to just relax and not freak out about the numbers so much, would it come off then?? I would definitely be happier to not have to number everything to death.
    I feel like "eating clean" is the same trendy business as going gluten free, or low carb, paleo and everything else out there. Can't you just eat what you want without giving it a label?? I feel like labelling everything makes people different. For example, I have a friend who has gone "gluten free". This is a choice, not related to allergy or anything. She is a diet trend hopper. She now holds the "gluten free" thing over everyone's head... I feel like it's making her kind of pretentious. Like now because she runs and has removed gluten and wheat from her diet, she is better than the rest of us.
    I agree that it's making us crazy. I never used to think about any of these things before. I am, though, trying to break free of such things.

    I may have gone off on a bit of a tangent. I do agree that it's nothing processed.... but everything goes through some sort of process no matter how "clean" it is.
    1599 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/7/2013 6:41:42 PM
    This is very interesting - I am trying to retrain my mind there are not bad or good foods. I am really trying to eat higher protein and less carbs, but do not believe cutting any foods should be required - as long as it is in moderation. Very interesting blog - thank you for sharing!
    1599 days ago
    There is a clean eating group/team on sparkpeople. I think mainly they are about eating food that is not processed. Now to me, that would mean NO pasta, NO store-bought bread, NO food from a box, NO Cheese, NO store-bought condiments like mayo or ketchup or salad dressings.

    You would eat REAL food, no man-made chemicals added. Clean=natural
    So I assume "dirty" food would be like pizza at a restaurant...which if you only ate natural food then you have no reason to stop in at Pizza Hut/Dominoes.

    "Dirty " food might taste good at that moment, but just ask I want to deal with gas, heartburn, any type of bathroom problems later, or any allergy problems including headaches the rest of the day.
    1599 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/7/2013 6:35:02 PM
    I look @ food like medicine. If I eat something that doesn't let me feel healthy, I don't eat it. Being diabetic, I am careful about the carbs I eat . . . not because of calories, but because of how it makes me FEEL. That's what I'm guided by.

    My food choices are those that make me FEEL good. As long as I do that, my body and I get along. It also lets me know when I have eaten a food that isn't what it wants. So, I guess the long and short of it is eating what works for you.

    1599 days ago
    I agree food is food not dirty or clean. Have a good day
    1599 days ago
    Interesting blog.
    1599 days ago
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