"Clean Eating" has been the newest diet trend as of late,. It emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods and cuts out added sugars, salt, and refined grains. On the surface, this sounds like a great diet to not only lose some weight, but to actually get healthier too. Unfortunately, there are still some instances where "eating clean" may not be working, and possibly even causing weight gain or other health problems!
Eating Too Much "Clean" Food
By viewing foods as either "clean" or "dirty", we may fall into the trap of thinking that we can eat unlimited amounts of "clean" foods. Unfortunately as nice as that would be, no matter the source, "clean" or "dirty", all foods contain calories and it's calories in vs. calories out that determine weight gain or loss. If you consume more calories than your body burns, you will gain weight. And if you consume less calories, then you will lose weight.
Take almonds for example. They are a whole, unprocessed food, full of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Clearly a "clean" food. However, these almonds still contain calories! A small handful of almonds could easily be 100-200 calories. Being in the mindset that all "clean" foods are fair game, you might consume a few handfuls of almonds throughout the day, and easily end up overeating an extra 300-600 calories without even thinking about it. It's important to realize that moderation is still important when it comes to healthy foods, not just the "junk"!
Not Eating Enough. Period.
"Clean Eating" is such a vague concept and may have different implications for different people. Back to the almond example, some people may consider them to be processed, and therefore "dirty", if they weren't raw. This becomes a slippery slope as people cut out more and more foods from their diet in the name of "health". Soon there won't be anything left! And despite good intentions, such a limited diet may leave you lacking some very important nutrients.
In addition, a truly healthy diet is all about balance. What will you do if your friends invite you out to eat? Are you going to say no just to stick to your diet? This kind of restriction can easily lead down a dangerous path toward an eating disorder and should be avoided at all costs. It's no surprise that with the rise of "clean eating", a new classification of eating disorders, known as orthorexia, has also risen as well.
Going along with the aforementioned general under eating and the health implications associated with it, by restricting certain foods, it is likely you will also feel extremely deprived! This is especially true if "eating clean" is a drastic change from your normal diet. By cutting out all of these foods you will likely start having cravings, experience mood changes, and possibly even physical discomfort from the added fiber and increased vegetation.
With all of these combined, it is no wonder that many people attempting to "eat clean", often find themselves bingeing or feeling the need to have cheat days every weekend. Despite eating well all week, a person can easily undo all of their progress by "letting loose" and giving in to everything they've been craving throughout week.
So What Do I Suggest?
Moderation. It's as simple as that! I personally like to live by the 80/20 rule where 80% of the foods you choose are "clean", whole, and healthy foods and 20% are "extras" or treats. I don't deprive myself of things I want, I just eat them mindfully. No foods are off limits. I try to choose options with vegetables and lean protein when I go out to eat, but I don't stress over the pasta being processed. And if I'm given a cookie on my birthday? Heck yes I'm going to eat it!
Dieting shouldn't be stressful or complicated. And if it is, maybe it's time to reevaluate your approach ;)