I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian. I am not going to put out a diet or a meal plan for you. I am not sponsored by supplement companies and I’m not trying to sell you anything.
So, why am I going to tell you how to eat clean if there’s nothing in it for me?
Because I’m your friend, I care about you, and I totally believe that you are capable of eating in a way that supports your health goals. Also? I happen to know that what you are putting in your mouth is vital to your health.
The thing is, everything you’ll ever need to know about eating clean comes down to this one sentence:
THINK ABOUT IT
Wait. What the hell am I talking about? You came here expecting me to write up a list of foods you should never eat and some rules about how many calories or how many meals per day, or some other crap like you can find on thousands of other “self help” websites.
But you know what’s even more awesome than me telling you what to eat?
You, figuring it out for yourself.
Here’s how, in four simple (but definitely not easy) steps:
Seriously question everything you read or hear about nutrition and health. Even the words you’re reading right now! (Yes, I just told you that you should be skeptical of me.) I’ve already mentioned that I’m not a nutritionist, and maybe the things I’m telling you don’t apply to you. You are an experiment of one, just like we all are.
You are the expert on you.
When you start looking for information about eating clean, you’ll find that there are a lot of opinions put forth on the subject. So while you’re reading, just ask yourself, “Do I believe that this information is true? Does it apply to me? And can I make this work in my life?”
That last one is the biggie. Personally, I find that any diet with a name (paleo, low carb, IIFYM, intermittent fasting, Weight Watchers, etc.) is always a little “off” for me. Even though I believe in some of their merits, I can’t always apply the rules in my daily life, and that’s where being skeptical comes into play.
For example, how do you feel about grains, beans, and sugar? If you read the paleo and Whole 30 people, they are very anti-grains, -beans and -sugar, with some pretty compelling arguments against them. The Weight Watchers and IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) people believe that nothing is off-limits, that you can enjoy moderate amounts of anything, as long as it adheres overall to your eating and health goals.
So what do you think about that? Not just, what do you want to believe because it sounds easier, but what do you feel in your gut (both literally and figuratively) to be true? These are super broad generalizations, by the way, and not meant to be an in-depth look at any of these particular eating styles.
The point I’m making is that all of these camps are putting it out there that their way is “clean” or “healthy” eating, but they can be pretty mutually exclusive. So, if they can’t all be right, it’s up to you to think critically, be skeptical and choose for yourself.
Ask Yourself, “Is this Food?”
In addition to being skeptical of the information out there about dieting and nutrition, it’s time to start questioning the things you put in your mouth. We, as a society, use the word “food” pretty broadly. On a daily basis, we ingest plenty of things that would be far more accurate to call “products,” rather than “food.”
Think about it. Do you call Cheetos food? Yeah, I think we all do. Except that it’s totally not. I mean, we know objectively that it offers us no nutritional value, and yet there we go, calling it food.
So, let’s think critically about this, too.
I have a couple of guidelines I like to follow when making a decision about whether or not I should eat something:
- Did it grow in the ground or walk on the earth? If my answer is yes, then I’m almost guaranteed a go-ahead, but there’s one more step:
- Is it still recognizable as the thing that grew in the ground or walked on the earth? Yeah, this is where you have to be honest with yourself. An apple still looks almost exactly like it looked on the tree. (Meat of course, is tougher to apply this rule to, but I don’t think most of us are all that interested in killing our own chickens.) But cereal? Pasta? The label says “whole wheat,” but have you ever seen actual wheat growing out of the ground? Bread doesn’t look like that.
So does that mean the only things you can eat are vegetables, fruits and meat?
Well, yes and no. What do you think? For me personally, the answer is no. I choose to eat as naturally as I can as often as I can, but I am definitely willing to make exceptions.
Decide on Your Dealbreakers
Every good rule has an exception, even clean eating rules. If you know that there are certain things that you just love to eat, that don’t leave you feeling crappy afterward, and that you are never, ever going to pass up, then skip the guilt and just include them in your healthy eating plan.
Wanna know what my cheats are? (Yes, cheats. Plural.) I drink creamer in my coffee and I always leave a little room for dessert.
So, where do I get off saying that I eat clean?
Because I decided for myself what that definition looks like, and you should, too.
Eat for YOUR Goals, not Somebody Else’s
You have health goals, and you are going to need to eat a certain way to achieve them. What way is that?
Do you feel like you have to eat perfectly 100% of the time? Then do that. Maybe follow a 90/10 rule? Sounds good. Do you want to have your cake and eat it, too? Well. Cake’s not really my thing, but if it works for you, then go for it!
Be critical, be skeptical, make informed decisions, be honest with yourself, and then make your goals happen without feeling like you have to fit into somebody else’s mold.
If you’re not getting the results you want, then do some more research and make some changes. It can take months or years to really get this “eating clean” thing to work for you, so be patient and go confidently in the direction you want to go.
You are in charge of your eating. You are in charge of deciding what “clean” looks like.
Think about it.
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