Why I'm done with clean eating


I was recently lucky enough to have a question answered by one of the health and fitness industry's most well known and respected nutrition experts, Ben Coomber. As part of the newly launched #AskSFNShow I asked Ben for his tips on dealing with binge eating. You can watch the full video here. I was surprised by his answer and how relevant it was to me. Admitting this is not his expertise, Ben focused not so much on tips to stop, but actually a few thoughts on how binge eating can even start. One of the first things he mentioned was clean eating, which got me thinking...

Clean eating

When I was first introduced to clean eating, it was like a lightbulb moment. I was exercising regularly and eating reasonably well but I'd hit a plateau with my weight loss and had been stuck there for a long time. My diet wasn't exactly horrific - I'd already cut down on takeaways, fry ups and pizzas! Some days dinner would be wholewheat pasta dishes with homemade tomato sauces, but with half a garlic baguette. Other days it was breaded chicken fillets with rice and a jar of Uncle Ben's sweet and sour sauce... granted not the healthiest, but these had been an improvement on my previous diet and had helped me go from a size 16 to size 10, but I was still always unhappy with my podgy little belly. 

So the day I learned about the concept of clean eating, suddenly everything made sense. I'd been consuming processed meats and sugar filled sauces, cereals and yoghurts all this time! Cutting them out initially made a huge difference to my body. I started fitting into size 8 clothes and was the leanest I'd ever been! A few months into this great new "lifestyle", I went to Amsterdam for a weekend, where I wore pencil skirts and crop tops with confidence. I was feeling great but over indulged (like you do on holiday!) and came back feeling bloated and annoyed at myself for eating rubbish. Of course I got straight back to clean eating in an effort to undo the damage, and that I reckon, was the beginning of my long and exhausting battle between my love of food and my fear of getting fat. 
The beginning of my binge eating. 


I don't remember having such strong feelings of guilt and shame about food before then. I ate what I wanted to, when I wanted to, and didn't care. I just enjoyed it! These days my whole life revolves around food and trying to lose fat. I'm a comfort eater and always have been, but it's only over the last couple of years that I've spent evenings eating so much food I feel sick, and then continuing to stuff more and more chocolate into my mouth, until my belly is so swollen and painful that I can't even find a comfortable position to lie in bed! I wake up the next day full of guilt and regret and vowing to get back to eating well.

I've always prided myself on the fact that I've never been on an actual "diet" throughout my entire weight loss journey. However, lately I realise I've been lying to myself! According to the Oxford dictionary this is the definition of a diet:

a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

Clean eating restricts you to particular foods - nothing processed, no refined sugars or grains, everything in as natural a state as possible. For some people this kind of restriction may lead to orthorexia - an obssession with eating foods one considers to be healthy - and ending up underweight and malnourished. For me, it lead to binge eating. I'd eat "good" for so long and then "fail" by eating a bar of chocolate. Well now I've ruined it, I might as well make the most of it and eat every bad thing ever before I get back on the clean eating wagon tomorrow, right? I'd go on to eat a tub of ice cream, a packet of biscuits, 4 slices of nutella toast and half a jar of peanut butter. Not even exaggerating

Food should be enjoyed!

Nobody can argue that meat, fruit and veg aren't good for you, with their many nutritional benefits, but restricting yourself to them? Not so healthy. The weeks that I promise not a single naughty treat shall pass my lips, are the weeks that end in a 1000+ calorie binge. Some foods might not be great for your health or your body composition, but they are good for your soul!

I couldn't disagree more with this meme and it pisses me off every time I see it on social media. If you don't enjoy something, you're not going to stick to it so you're not going to reach your goals! Yes, I am on a pre wedding diet, I am trying to eat healthy and I am counting macros. I may not be eating my soul foods every day, but I am definitely not cutting them out!

Food is a wonderful thing that fuels our bodies and brings people together and it should be enjoyed. Don't deprive yourself. Don't punish yourself for eating the odd burger. You're only human! You wouldn't watch a tv show you don't like, so why should you force yourself to eat things that don't bring you joy? If you don't enjoy running, don't do it! If you don't enjoy salad, don't eat it! If you do enjoy a chocolate chip cookie...? Go ahead and bloody well have one every now and then. Eat it, enjoy it, and carry on with your life. Never think about the cookie again - except to remember how much you enjoyed it! 

I'm slowly working on changing my mind set and feelings towards food. I am done with clean eating. There should be no "good" or "bad" foods. No guilt or self hatred. Scott Baptie did a very interesting talk on this subject at last year's SFN Expo, pulling the whole idea of clean eating apart by forcing you to look at it from other perspectives and making the whole damn thing seem ridiculous in the process. Yes some foods do have more health benefits and I still believe they should make up the majority of your daily food intake, but a little bit of what you fancy does not make you a terrible failure of a human being!

Life is short.
Stay fit and healthy but do what makes you happy, spend time with the people you love & eat the foods that bring you joy!


  1. This post is so perfect! I absolutely agree with everything you have written here. I used to be like you, eating clean and then eating one thing I considered 'bad' and before I knew it I was eating all the bad food and feeling awful. I learned over time that that's no way to live. Now I love food and I enjoy it so much because I let myself have what my body craves. I recently became vegan and that's made a huge difference to how I see food. I love fruit and veg, whole foods and grains, but I also love chocolate and cakes, so I have it all. It's all about balance and being happy in yourself and what you are eating. I never feel guilty for eating something now, food is food, there's no good foods and bad foods. Really loved this post! :)
    Nicole xxx

    1. Thanks for commenting Nicole! Do you find it easy to eat vegan or is it difficult at times? I can see that some people may find it quite restricting too, but then again if it's for moral/personal beliefs rather than aesthetic reasons it may be different!

      Christy x

  2. What a wonderful post Christy! I second all of your opinions and this is the reason I cannot do clean eating and laugh at people who are soooo obsessed with it.

    Clearly no one likes clean eating; since babies we have grown up trying a billion different flavours that you have to avoid when going clean eating, so ultimately life does not taste as good. If anyone says it's a "lifestyle" and "I enjoy it" their nose gets bigger than Pinocchio's...

    I have never been on a diet or clean eating "lifestyle" for two reasons a) I love food-and who doesn't, and b) I have a life, and by this I mean I travel, I work, I have my ups & downs and I cannot restrict myself to eating particular foods when I am in the office and chocolate bars is the closest thing to keep me going on a late night shift, nor will I cook and carry food containers around when I get back home close to midnight and I am exhausted. Similarly, when I am travelling I am not going to avoid eating local food because it is not clean eating.
    If people loved clean eating THAT much then our taste buds would hate chocolate, but we all know this is not the case ;)

    Eat as much as you like just try to balance it during the week. There are days I eat only sugary stuff just because it happened. I am not punishing myself later on though, I know a better eating day will come ;)

    Great reading and good luck with the wedding ready body :)

    1. Thanks Ana! Yes sometimes it just isn't even practical! See you soon :)

      Christy x

  3. Yes, this this this this this. I do not believe that anyone can say that they eat clean 100% of the time, as there is always that one slice of chocolate cake/biscuit/chocolate bar/bag of crisps which is always going to trip us up. And there is nothing wrong with that. If you ever try to completely cut anything out it makes it seem like the most desirable thing in the world, so you will break and you will binge.

    I've never completely cut things out, but what I try to do when trying to eat clean is to either come up with a slightly healthier version of the naughty food (such as a homemade burger, or a cauliflower pizza) or just have a small bit and only buy that small amount. If I'm craving chocolate, I buy a freddo, not a family sized bar of dairy milk, and I find this method has worked really well. Yes, sometimes I creep back up in weight a bit, but I just try to be good again and it soon goes back down again.

    I hope binning off the clean eating does you well, and you enjoy yourself much more without the binge cycle!

    Rachel x
    The Inelegant Wench

    1. I agree, finding healtheir alternatives is a great way to satisfy a craving! Thanks for commenting!

      Christy x

  4. Yes! I love this so much! I've always had a pretty healthy relationship with food (somehow, luckily) so I mostly eat "good" food in sensible sized portions but I don't eat foods I don't like (celery?! WHY?!) and I eat cakes and biscuits and so on without guilt. This is what I want for my daughter. I know other parents who are incredibly strict about what their kids can and can't eat but I don't want Matilda learning that food or hunger is something to be controlled or used to reward or punish herself; I want her to naturally eat well but without feeling guilty about sweet treats.

    I have a real issue with slimming groups using words like "syn" and "cheat" to describe food - words which are laden with negative, guilt-inducing connotations and reinforce dieters' notions that they're bad people for being overweight.

    1. Oh god, same here. This is one of my biggest bugbears, and one that I keep meaning to write about myself. IT'S A BAG OF CRISPS, YOU DIDN'T KICK A BABY.

      More generally, Christy, this was a great post and one that really resonates with me at the moment. I'm not a "clean eater", because I have very little leisure time as it is and don't intend to spend what I do have trying to put together workplace lunches from "raw" foods. But what I have noticed, as I try to exercise more and make more conscious food choices, is that I'm starting to beat up on my body again. I've put on a lot of weight in the past few years, but I was in a relatively body positive place before I started going to exercise classes, cutting out full-fat fizzy drinks and walking more. Now I've gone back to looking at myself in the mirror and calling myself a "fat bitch" again. I don't like it, but at least I recognise it in myself I suppose and I can do something about it.

      Food for thought, to use the obvious turn of phrase...

      Lis / last year's girl x

    2. Ah it's so difficult to get out of that mindset once it starts! Focus on the parts of your body that you DO like :)

      Christy x

    3. Sarah - this is something I've been talking about with a work mate recently! I've heard kids as young as 8 or 9 calling themselves fat in the pool changing rooms before - heartbreaking! I reckon you're a great role model for Matilda - you can be healthy AND have your cake and eat it too! ;)

      Christy x