It seems to be everywhere, right? #detox. Quitting sugar. Juice cleanse. #cleaneating. The new way to be trendy is to eat healthy, eat the perfect ‘clean diet’, post instagram shots of green things and impressive banana ‘nicecream’ sundaes. Pretty sure I’d class Ben and Jerry’s as a nicecream too. Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely not complaining about the new focus on healthy eating. I love that more people are shifting towards eating a whole food diet – they are probably eating a lot more green stuff than me. But I have a rant I need to get out. Here is what I don’t love so much:
WHEN WE OBSESS A BIT TOO MUCH
It’s great when people are eating well, eating real foods, trying to improve their health through their diet. I like this. 10/10. But I can’t help getting frustrated when I see unhealthy obsessions with the ‘perfect clean diet’ – leaving no room for treats or foods that aren’t ‘allowed’. I feel sad thinking they never get to eat normal chocolate or in some cases, coffee, again – the tears are coming. Of course it’s a different story if you have a food allergy or intolerance and I completely understand wanting to avoid certain foods because you feel like death after eating them – it happens to me with gluten. Even though I would love a croissant, I’m not going to have it just to look like I’m not a control freak or obsessed with a perfect diet. However, in the case of dairy or refined sugar, which my body doesn’t exactly LOVE, I still like to have it occasionally. Because I like chocolate, cheese, and cheesecake. Although I don’t feel amazing after having these, giving myself permission to eat them gives me so much more freedom to enjoy social events and avoids any psycho chocolate binges (in a cupboard because I’m a student nutritionist and I’ve got a rep to protect…).If you can happily stick to a perfect healthy diet that is awesome, but for us who don’t have that kind of willpower – there is so much less stress around eating if we allow ourselves to enjoy foods without feeling ‘bad’, to eat those foods that we love, to avoid developing an unhealthy obsession with the perfect healthy diet. Because beans, especially those of cocoa and coffee, were created for a reason, right?
WHEN HEALTH IS PORTRAYED AS A 10-DAY DETOX
Want to be healthier? Make lasting changes. Doing a temporary detox or juice cleanse might make you feel great for a little while, but what happens when you go back to your normal way of eating? Detoxification is a constant process performed by your liver so if you want to be healthy, supporting overall health and those detoxification processes by eating real foods & living well everyday is the way to go. For people who already do this by having an overall healthy diet and find that these cleanses help their bodies reset that’s great, but doing anything temporarily or for a quick health fix does not equal instant health. Let’s eat real food everyday because that is what will set us up for better health.
WHEN SINGLE FOODS ARE MADE PUBLIC ENEMY NO.1
When did single foods become the reason for all our health problems and therefore labelled as ‘toxic’ or ‘poisonous’? The latest example is sugar and so many people, including myself, have tried to quit it. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should definitely eat less refined sugar, but demonising one food and going to extremes to try to eliminate all sources from the diet only makes eating and food more stressful. Not to mention when it gets really out of hand and results in the elimination of completely healthy foods like fruit. Refined sugar isn’t good for us and definitely has a lot to answer for – it can negatively affect our health and is something we should definitely try to cut down in our diet, but is not the cause of all the world’s problems. Don’t let a focus on one nutrient cause you to neglect other aspects of your diet that are just as important. Want to know something that could be seen as toxic? Stress. And all the stress about cutting out certain foods isn’t doing any good in itself. Cut back on sugar, gluten, or whatever else that might not be necessarily good for your own body -but let’s remember to breathe + not bang our heads against the wall when we eat something ‘bad’ + stress less about food. Please.
WHEN WE ASSUME EVERYONE SHOULD EAT LIKE US
Everyone is different and every body has different nutritional needs. What is the best diet for one person may be awful for the next because although we all have essentially similar biological makeups, so many other environmental, lifestyle, genetic and physical differences determine what foods nourish us or cause more harm than good. Just because I personally don’t eat gluten doesn’t mean that everyone should cut it out completely (doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t either – but that’s another story). Just because I avoid chickpeas like the plague (they hate me), doesn’t mean everyone in the whole world will have the same reaction. Just because someone has found perfect health on a low carb diet, doesn’t mean I will too (trust me on that one). It sounds so obvious but is something that many passionate health advocates (including me at times) forget when they are encouraging others to try what has worked for them. It’s great that people are finding health and wellbeing after making changes, but let’s be real and recognise everyone is unique & aren’t failures if they don’t eat like we do or fail to have success with what has worked for us.
SO WHAT DO I EAT??
With the crazy amount of nutrition advice everywhere you go, it’s no wonder many people are really confused about what they are supposed to be eating. We go to buy some yoghurt, a pretty normal looking food and harmless on first glance right? But then we remember we read somewhere that dairy causes inflammation or is pumped with hormones so we better get organic or it will cause acne or it’s got lactose and that’s bad…and don’t even look at the sugar content on that nutrition label. I’m not saying any of these claims are correct or not (have got to do my own research on that), but I’m just acknowledging the fact that there is so much information out there about these seemingly normal foods – and some are slowly getting pushed into the toxic food category. Let’s calm down please.
The best thing I have learned is to listen to my own body and see how it reacts to the foods that I eat. If I feel awful after eating certain foods, I’m not going to keep eating it (crazy talk) – not matter how many people say there is no reason I should be feeling that way. Many of us have opinions about what people should or shouldn’t be eating but only we are responsible for what we eat and our own health, so let’s start listening to our bodies instead.
It’s taken me some time to learn what my body can handle and what it can’t and there are still times I rebel against this knowledge and eat the food anyway. Cheesecake has a strong hold over me. I avoid the things that make me feel awful aka gluten but give myself permission to eat those other foods that may not make me feel amazing occasionally. Because I really want them and stressing about food does enough harm on its own. The one thing I have found is that if I base my diet around real foods – plenty of fruit and vegetables (working on the veg one), meats, fish, eggs, nuts, healthy fats (I love you avo), with
many some…extras (coffee and chocolate anyone?) my body is happy. Some common sense also never goes astray – there’s obviously too much of good things. Let’s just eat delicious real food that was created just for us.