Let’s Talk About Clean Eating


I’ve been putting forth a lot of effort into maximizing the joy and efficiency within my home with minimalistic methods and practices.  I’ve also started changing what and how my family eats.  I often search for “clean eating” inspiration on Pinterest.

Now.  There are quite a few opinions on what clean eating is and whether or not it’s a positive change or a dangerous trend.  I’ve even seen people imply *cough*state word for word*cough* that clean eating is a rouse term used by those unwilling to admit they have an eating disorder.  

I’ve seen snippets shared from this page as conclusive evidence that clean eating is dangerous and a sure fire way to end up with severe disorders.  (This is not me being facetious or sarcastic.  I’ve literally read and heard people say clean eating is dangerous.)

An excerpt from the page linked above written by Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, LD/N.

Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”  An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style. Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise). Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.

This is an explanation of orthorexia nervosa.

This is not an explanation of clean eating.

Let’s please not confuse the two.  By doing so, we dismiss the validity and impact of both.

Here’s a list of questions to help determine the possibility of a person having orthorexia.

  • Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
  • Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?
  • Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else – one single meal – and not try to control what is served?
  • Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
  • Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?
  • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
  • Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?
  • Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat?

Now let’s take a look at some of the factors that can contribute to eating disorders.

Risk Factors for Any/All Eating Disorders: Body dissatisfaction, negative affect, thin-ideal internalization, dieting, family social support deficits.

Risk factors identified in a small number of studies include: Low self-esteem, maladaptive coping, parental separation, solitary eating, reading teen fashion magazines, social pressure for thinness, female sex, higher childhood BMI, social problems, social withdrawal, negative comments about eating, history of psychiatric disorders.

Risk Factors for Anorexia Nervosa: Low body mass index (BMI).

Risk factors identified in a small number of studies include: Childhood eating conflicts, struggles around meals, vaginal instrumental delivery, cephalohematoma, premature birth, low birth weight, delivery of multiple babies at once, perfectionism.

Risk Factors for Bulimia Nervosa: Thin-ideal internalization, social pressure for thinness, body dissatisfaction, dieting/fasting, negative affect.

Risk factors identified in a small number of studies include: Ineffectiveness (general feelings of inadequacy), alcohol use, low interoceptive awareness, psychiatric symptoms, eating too little during childhood, early puberty.

Risk Factors for Binge Eating Disorder: Social pressure for thinness.

Correlates that may contribute to eating disorders

Some factors have been shown to be connected to the development of an eating disorder. While these factors are not necessarily predictive, they may contribute to the onset of disordered eating behaviors.

Biological: Scientists are still researching possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders. In some individuals with eating disorders, certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite, and digestion have been found to be unbalanced. The exact meaning and implications of these imbalances remain under investigation. Eating disorders often run in families. Current research indicates that there are significant genetic contributions to eating disorders.

Psychological: Low self-esteem; feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life; depression, anxiety, anger, stress or loneliness.

Social: Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” or muscularity and place value on obtaining the “perfect body”; narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes; cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths; stress related to racial, ethnic, size/weight-related or other forms of discrimination or prejudice.

Interpersonal: Troubled personal relationships; difficulty expressing emotions and feelings; history of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight; history of physical or sexual abuse.


So… what IS clean eating then?

Here’s the really great news.  “Clean eating,” as a phrase, actually is a trend.  It’s not a new concept, it’s just the words currently being used as a catchall for whatever each person decides to tag to it.  It can mean organic, non-GMO, additive free, from scratch, unprocessed, naturally derived, unadulterated, humanely raised, eco-conscious, healthy, etc.

Clean eating can mean whatever you want it to mean.

For me, it’s about making better choices inside my little world.  It’s not about putting myself into debt for the “bestest” meats or wrinkling my nose at the mom buying strawberries in December.  It’s me making improvements that fit ME.  It’s me realizing that I’d been avoiding making changes that can make my life easier, healthier, and happier.

It’s lifted burdens.

It’s more peace in my soul when I sit down to supper with my family.

Again, a quote from that same page.

Following a healthy diet does not mean you are orthorexic, and there is nothing wrong with eating healthfully. Unless, however, 1) it is taking up an inordinate amount of time and attention in your life; 2) deviating from that diet is met with guilt and self-loathing; and/or 3) it is used to avoid life issues and leaves you separate and alone.

As with my personal minimalism, my personal clean eating shall now be called “clean & happy eating.”  If your choices, in any aspect of life, are interfering with your peace and overall wellness, asses it NOW.  Seek assistance NOW.  If your choices are bringing you joy… true, fulfilling, honest-to-goodness joy, then keep on keepin’ on.

Food is not the enemy.  Clutter is not the enemy.  The enemy is our own obsession.  Find your balance, y’all.


9 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Clean Eating

  1. Someone close to me is absolutely living with orthorexia nervosa. She became vegan last year out of fear of diabetes (because it’s strong in our family) and because she was unhappy with her weight (she was only slightly overweight). Since then, it has changed every part of her. She is now judgmental of others’ eating and attempts (sometimes even successfully!) to convert those around her. She is self-righteous. 😦 It has had an effect on our ability to spend time together because it’s all about the food now. :/ Sorry to vent on your post, but it definitely hit home for me when you were talking about eating disorders.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Eating disorders are serious business. They’ve affected my life as well, and that’s a huge reason I shared this post. It’s very frustrating (and scary) to me that life-damaging and deadly illnesses are getting lumped together with healthy eating choices. I’m so sorry you and someone you care for have experienced the sadness and havoc of orthorexia 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Food is such an interesting discussion. Especially if you’ve spent any time learning about it. My wife and I have, for medical reasons, spent a lot of time researching food, food science and food production. We also discovered that being the food gestapo is not sustainable for us, much less those around us. Like you said, we do the best we can for our family, which works for us, but may not work for someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great post! I like your definition of clean eating – I try to stick to organic and seasonal, but I have never considered myself ‘clean’.

    The problem I have with this current trend, is that it implies that there must be an opposite – e.g dirty food? Clean – is a catchphrase for good – or nutritious.. etc. You make a great point!

    While the website you are quoting is someone’s view, there was an interesting programme investigating the ‘trend’ on the BBC. (I am with you, words mean different things to different people) However, on the programme there were so called ‘nutritional experts’ who were advocating these diets to cure illnesses and cancer. It also showed that there is a woman in Australia facing jail because she advocated a diet that did not cure cancer.
    you can see the programme here

    You might need a UK post code to view but it does make interesting viewing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The first time I heard the term “clean eating” I envisioned myself washing the dinner dishes with the food still on them. I didn’t realize I’d more or less started clean eating when my husband got his feeding tube removed after cancer treatments. Of course, I darned near give him gravy as a beverage trying to get weight on him. And I’d love a mild case of anorexia; say between the hours of 8 p.m. and midnight.
    Food police kind of annoy me but I’m applying to the academy anyway. I need to start behaving.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s