If there is one 'health concept' that has made our jobs harder, it is the phrase 'clean eating'. When a girl we work with insists "nah, I don't need any nutritional advice, I eat really clean!" I already know we are about to turn her world upside down.
To clarify, the term 'clean eating' means eating real foods; foods that are not refined or processed. So nothing that's been through a factory and come out in box or tin.
Don't get me wrong; I am all for eating whole foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. So what could I possibly hate about eating unprocessed foods?
Nothing. I don't hate eating nutritious, wholesome food. What I do hate is the idea that just eating clean will lead to a six pack and toned legs, which leads to an emotional rollercoaster as women can believe they have been eating correctly, but see no change to their body composition. Much of the time, this frustration turns into emotional pain and a belief that there is just something wrong with them.
So powerful is the notion that 'eating clean' will help women lose weight/body fat that we often have to start completely from the beginning and re-educate women who have been sold a lie.
Here is an example of a food diary we often get from people who have been 'eating clean', 'really healthily' and 'very carefully':
- 1 cup organic oats and honey
- 1 banana
- 8 walnuts
- 3 strawberries & 4 raspberries
- Quinoa and spinach salad with beetroot and goat cheese, added grilled chicken (1 breast)
- Freshly squeezed mango and orange juice
Snack: wholewheat dark rye bread with organic peanut butter (1 piece)
- Wholewheat pasta carbonara (homemade pasta)
- Grilled vegetables
- yoghurt, cacao powder, honey, chia seed smoothie
Looks SUPER healthy, doesn't it? Ok, let's look at what food groups she is actually consuming. For the sake of simplicity I will only write down the dominant food group it belongs to (whether it is a protein, carb or fat).
Obviously this doesn't mean all carbs/fats/proteins are equal, for example oats are a denser carbohydrate than a banana. Also quinoa is mostly a carbohydrate but has some protein.
- 1 cup organic oats (carb) and honey (carb)
- 1 banana (carb)
- 8 walnuts (fat)
- 3 strawberries & 4 raspberries (carb)
- Quinoa (carb) and spinach salad with beetroot (carb) and goat cheese (fat), added grilled chicken (1 breast) (protein)
- Freshly squeezed mango and orange juice (carb)
Snack: wholewheat dark rye bread (carb) with organic peanut butter (1 piece) (fat)
- Wholewheat pasta carbonara (homemade pasta) (pasta is carb, sauce is fat)
- Grilled asparagus (carb)
- yoghurt (carb), cacao powder(carb), honey, (carb) chia seed (carb) smoothie
This (example) person is filling themselves with carbohydrates all day long and is horrified that their body composition isn't changing. They bought into the myth that 'clean eating' is the same as 'eating proportionally'.
Eating proportionally is balancing your body's protein, fat and carbohydrate needs in a proportion that suits your goals (referred to as macros). Your body needs protein AND fat AND carbs, and if you are someone who wants to get smaller / bigger / stronger / change body composition, understanding macros is more important than the concept of 'eating clean'.
No matter where the food comes from, if it's homemade, or whether it's considered a superfood, a day of eating 2,500 calories of organic carbohydrates is STILL 2,500 calories of carbohydrates. You can't ignore the necessity of including protein and fat in your diet.
Now before anyone starts shoveling bags of Dorito's into their faces to fulfill their carb macros, remember this: you wouldn't fill a Ferrari with vegetable oil, right? So don't do the same to your body.
At least 'clean eating' and I agree on not eating crap!
Remember - we're here to help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help on nutrition and training.