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I’m not sure at what age I was exposed to the association of food with morality, but the notions of food being good, clean, and guilt-free were well established before I even entered my teens.
Perhaps it was that one family member that ordered a salad because they were ‘being good’ – an inference that made me look down at my plate and feel criminal for eating fries. I was 13.
Or maybe it was whilst sitting in a full-raw vegan restaurant, glancing up to a poster informing me my meal was guilt-free because it wasn’t cooked, wasn’t processed, and was under 500 calories.
However I became aware of clean-eating, once it happened, it seemed unavoidable, and the reverberations that came with were anything but healthy.
The danger with clean-eating is it, at face value, it seems nothing but logical, but the reality is – it’s intrinsically restrictive, and really, really, unnecessary.
Because the clean eating movement clawed more than it should – demonizing foods that are perfectly healthy, or at least healthy in moderation.
Cooked foods, processed foods, non-organic foods, foods that were high in fats, no matter what kind of fats they were high in, carbs, proteins, foods that were white, foods that didn’t come with a ‘superfood’ label, they all became tarnished with the same brush.
The appeal-to-nature fallacy rung loud because the idea of processing food should not be something to fear or avoid. But the followers of fad diets like Keto and 80/10/10 promoted it to the heavens, and people flocked.
‘Categorizing foods into a moral narrative’
Clean-eating gives you tunnel vision, making you block out the possibility that bread maybe isn’t the worse thing you could consume, and branding all things that aren’t optimum for our health: dirty.
And whilst I would never say junk food is necessary for a healthy mentality, constantly categorizing foods into a moral narrative is maladaptive, its a disordered way of eating, and it can lead to serious problems.
At its best, clean-eating is a clever marketing tactic, at its worse, clean-eating is the gateway to an extremely problematic way of viewing food.
If you’re struggling with eating, click here for help.