Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Realistic Perspective on Eating Clean

I've mentioned "Clean Eating" before in this blog. "The Eat Clean Diet" and many other books on the same subject are written by Tosca Reno.  In recent years the diet has gained huge popularity as a healthy way to eat, and has strongly influenced my own eating habits. The basic principles of Clean Eating are eating frequent, small meals of lean protein, lots of vegetables, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. You should drink lots of water, and avoid processed food, especially white flour and sugar...and alcohol. There are other rules too, but there's no calorie counting, no weighing food, and no starvation in clean eating.

I had thought about writing a full post on this subject before. But I always felt like I wasn't a good enough "clean eater" to deserve to tell other people about it. I definitely don't follow all the rules laid out in Tosca's books. Like when she suggests that instead of using salad dressing you just top your salad with a squeeze of lemon? Fuuuuuuck that. I eat chicken breast and friggin lettuce almost every day, sometimes twice a day, often even on weekends. I refuse to believe that the universe would be so cruel that a little salad dressing on that boring combo is going to make me fat. But I feel like maybe that sort of thing is exactly why I should write about Clean Eating, and how it influences-but doesn't completely dictate-my eating habits. Because even though it's presented as one of those diets that's not really a diet, but rather a lifestyle, I really think that if you followed it's rules strictly, Clean Eating is definitely a diet. So maybe I can offer a more realistic view of how the Eat Clean Diet can be loosely followed by people who don't want to be on a diet, and still be hugely beneficial to the way you feel and look.

For me, Clean Eating has really changed the way I feel about food. I am not embarassed to say that I have had a lot of issues with body image and food. I don't want to get too in depth on that now(although if anyone ever wants to talk about that kind of stuff I'm open to it. So many people go through that shit). But I've been pretty messed up in the past when it came to having a good relationship with food. The past few years, when I've adopted many of the principles of Clean Eating have been the healthiest I have felt in a very long time. And it's the first time I've really thought my body looked good because of healthy habits, not destructive ones. So even though I make jokes about it, I really do believe that Eating Clean is an amazing, healthy way to eat, and I do try to follow it as much as possible without making myself feel deprived.

The majority of the food I eat on a daily basis is clean. I eat lots of lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats like avocado and nuts. I drink lots of water-mostly thanks to Fiji water coming in 1.5 L bottles. I very rarely eat white bread or white flour products, and I never eat fast food.

Here's a typical breakfast for me:

Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal, with hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and mixed berries. Honestly it takes your palette a little while to adjust to eating this kind of thing with no added sugar. But this is quick to make and not too filling for first thing in the morning.

I also try to cook in batches-this is a great tip in Tosca's books. If you spend the time to cook a large amount of clean food, it's just as easy to reach for that throughout the week as it is to eat unhealthy fast food.

Mmmmm chicken breast forever
And I really do find that eating vegetables and protein is satisfying. You feel full, without feeling gross.

Turkey Burger, no bun topped with vegetables and avocado, and a salad. And Fiji water
Big salad with Chicken and Avocado

So far looks like I keep it pretty clean right? And on a day to day basis I do, mostly. But then sometimes I really don't. I've read a lot of Tosca's books and articles in magazines and on her blog. Sometimes she refers to unwinding with a single glass of wine, or treating herself to a square of 70% chocolate. Um.....wut? When I "unwind" it's with about 2 Budweisers, 6 vodka sodas and a few shots of Tequila. And when I know I'm going to be drinking, I always eat pizza, and maybe some chicken wings too. Because I'd rather feel a little bloated for a day than experience the week long shame spiral that inevitably occurs when you get black out drunk because you only ate salad for dinner. I do limit myself to drinking maximum once a week, and that means I don't even have an odd beer or glass of wine here and there. But when I go for it, I go all in, and I have a good time. And I don't treat myself to chocolate, I eat it almost every day. Seriously. I can say no to almost all junk food, but I am not going to stop eating chocolate. It's not like I mow down a couple Oh Henry's every day-but I do usually somehow get a little chocolate in there. Like this week I baked cookies (to give away to other people,  I don't eat cookies, are you crazy?) and only used half a bag of chocolate chips. I could have sealed the bag up and used it for more cookies, but no.

Oh fuck yeah, girl. Imma be eating those right out of the bag, no doubt. I don't care. Chocolate is part of what makes me love being alive. I'm not even going to pretend I want to give it up.

Overall I like to say I eat "pretty clean". The majority of my meals and snacks are clean food. But I don't keep it as strict as suggested in Tosca's books. I also don't eat 5 or 6 meals a day, as she suggests. That's just not realistic for me. I try to make healthy choices without making myself feel like I'm really on a diet. There are times where I will really tighten up my eating habits, like before a vacation or just a few random times through the year where I want to look my absolute best. But I find that even loosely following the rules of Clean Eating, combined with regular exercise keeps me happy with my body, and with the way I feel. For me the number one thing seems to be staying away from white flour, and really bread in general (other than the crucial pizza nights). I think it's also important to see all treats as one big category. Like don't eat pizza 'just this once' and then the next day eat a donut 'just this once' and then fish and chips 'just this once'. I think it's totally ok to treat yourself or "cheat" with whatever you want to eat-but don't have a different treat every day. Be honest with yourself, and don't think that because you eat some clean meals that will cancel out whatever other garbage you're eating.

Or honestly eat whatever the fuck you want. Food, and the way you feel about it is a totally personal thing. Eat what makes you feel good. Unless it's Taco Bell. That shit is just nasty.

Also, it's important to remind yourself that the person writing the "Eat Clean" books is a fitness professional, whose livlihood depends on her body looking a certain way. Yes, eating clean can transform your body, but you will have to make sacrifices. It's up to you to decide which sacrifices you're willing to make, and what just isn't worth it for you. Not everybody wants to look like they are prepping for a fitness competition. With this, and all other diets, you should be doing what makes you feel good.  Decide what your personal goals are, and adjust your eating and activity habits to get where you want to be. The only person's ideals you need to live up to are you own.

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