Why we fell for clean eating

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

The long read: The oh-so-Instagrammable food movement has been thoroughly debunked but it shows no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger “ve noticed that” her hair was falling out in clumps.” Not cool” was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a” gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan “. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a “wellness” blogger in New York City, one of thousands on Instagram( where she had 70,000 followers) rallying under the hashtag #eatclean. Although she had no qualifications as a nutritionist, Younger had sold more than 40,000 copies of her own $25, five-day “cleanse” programme– a formula for an all-raw, plant-based diet majoring on green juice.

But the “clean” diet that Younger was selling as the route to health was making its inventor sick. Far from being super-healthy, she was suffering from a serious eating disorder: orthorexia, an preoccupation with ingesting merely foods the hell is pure and perfect. Younger’s raw vegan diet had caused her periods to stop and devoted her skin an orange tinge from all the sweet potato and carrots she ingested( the only carbohydrates she permitted herself ). Eventually, she tried psychological assistance, and began to slowly widen the repertoire of foods she would allow herself to feed, beginning with the fish. She recognised that their own problems was not her veganism, per se, but the particularly rigid and restrictive diet regime she had imposed under herself.

As Younger slowly recovered from her eating disorder, she faced a new dilemma.” What would people believe”, she agonised,” if they knew the Blonde Vegan was feeing fish ?” She levelled with her adherents in a blogpost entitled Why I’m Transitioning Away from Veganism. Within hours of announcing her new diet, Younger was receiving irate messages from vegans demanding fund back from the cleanse programmes and T-shirts they had bought from her site( featuring slogans such as” OH KALE YES “).

She lost followers “by the thousands” and received a daily raft of angry messages, including death threats. Some responded to her confession that she was suffering from an eating disorder by accusing her of being a” fat piece of lard” who didn’t have the discipline to be truly “clean”.

For as long as people have feed food, there have been diets and quack remedies. But previously, these existed, like conspiracy hypothesis, on the fringes of food culture.” Clean feeing” was different, because it established based as significant challenges to mainstream ways of eating, and its wild popularity over the past five years has enabled it to move far beyond the fringes. Powered by social media, it has been more absolutist in its claims and more popular in its reaching than any previous school of modern nutrition advice.

At its simplest, clean feeing is about ingesting nothing but “whole” or “unprocessed” foods( whatever is meant by these deep equivocal terms ). Some versions of clean eating have been vegan, while others espouse various meats( preferably wild) and something mysteriously called ” bone broth“( stock, to you and me ). At first, clean eating sounded modest and even homespuns: rather than counting calories, you would eat as many nutritious home-cooked substances as possible.

But it quickly became clear that” clean eating” was more than a diet; it was a belief system, which propagated the idea that the way most people feed is not simply fattening, but impure. Seemingly out of nowhere, a whole cosmo of coconut oil, dubious promises and spiralised courgettes has emerged. Back in the remote mists of 2009, James Duigan, owned of The Bodyism gym in London and sometime personal trainer to the model Elle MacPherson, published his first Clean and Lean book. As an early adopter of #eatclean, Duigan notes that he “battled” with his publisher” to include ingredients like kale and quinoa, because no one had ever heard of them “. Now quinoa is in every supermarket and kale has become as normal as lettuce.” I long for the working day when clean eating entailed not getting too much down your front ,” the novelist Susie Boyt joked recently.

Jordan - Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Jordan Younger, AKA The Balanced Blonde, formerly The Blonde Vegan. Photograph: Whitford/ BFA/ Rex/ Shutterstock

Almost as soon as it became ubiquitous, clean eating triggered a backlash. By 2015, Nigella Lawson was speaking for many when she expressed “disgust” at clean feeing as a judgmental sort of body fascism.” Food is not dirty”, Lawson wrote. Clean eating has been attacked by critics such as the baker and cookbook writer Ruby Tandoh( who wrote a much-shared article on the subject in Vice magazine in May 2016) for being an provocation to eating disorders.

Others have pointed out that, as a method of healthy eating, it’s founded on bad science. In June, the American Heart Association suggested that the coconut petroleum beloved as a panacea by clean eaters actually had” no known offsetting favourable effects”, and that eating it could result in higher LDL cholesterol. A few weeks later, Anthony Warner- a food consultant with a background in science who blogs as The Angry Chef- published a book-length assault on the science of clean eating, calling it a world of” quinoa bowl” and “nutribollocks” fuelled by the modern info age.

When Dr Giles Yeo, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge, presented an episode of the BBC’s Horizon this year that examined the scientific evidence for different schools of clean eating, he found everything from innocuous recipes to serious malpractice.

He reported on the” alkaline diet” of Dr Robert O Young, who peddled the idea that disease is caused by eating “acidic” foods. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer in her 20 s, Naima Houder-Mohammed, an officer in the British army, paid Young more than $77,000 for treatment( including meals of avocado, which Young calls” God’s butter “) at his” pH miracle” ranch in the US in 2012. She died subsequently that year. Separately, Young was incarcerated in June this year after being convicted of charges including practising medicine without a licence. While he may represent an extreme case, it is clear that many wellness gurus, as Yeo’s programme concluded, tell a” troubling narrative” founded on falsehoods.

As the negative press for clean feeing has intensified over the past year, many of the early goddesses of #eatclean have tried to rebrand- declaring they no longer use the word “clean” to describe the recipes that have sold them millions of books. Ella Mills- AKA Deliciously Ella, the food writer and entrepreneur whose coconut-and-oat energy balls sell for PS1. 79 apiece in British supermarkets- said on Yeo’s Horizon programme that she felt that the word “clean” as applied to eating originally entailed nothing but natural, real, unprocessed food.” Now, it means diet, it entails fad ,” she complained.

But however much the concept of clean eating has been logically refuted and publicly vilified, the thing itself shows few signs of dying. Step into the cookbook section of any volume store and you will see how many recipe writers continue to promise us inner purity and outer beauty. Even if you have never knowingly tried to” feed clean “, it’s impossible to avoid the trend wholly, because it changed the foods available to all of us, and the style they are spoken of.

Avocados now outsell oranges in the UK. Susi Richards, head of product development at Sainsbury’s supermarkets, told me earlier this year that “shes been” taken aback by the pace at which demand for products fitting with the clean eating lifestyle have grown in the UK. Families who would once have eaten potato waffles are now experimenting with lower carb butternut “squaffles”( slicings of butternut squash cut to resemble a waffle ). Nutribullets– a brand of compact blenders designed for building supposedly radiance-bestowing juices and smoothies- are now mentioned in some circles as casually as wooden spoons.

Why has clean eating demonstrated so difficult to kill off? Hadley Freeman, in this paper, identified clean eating as part of a post-truth culture, whose adherents are impervious, or even hostile, to facts and experts. But to understand how clean eating took hold with such perseverance, it’s necessary first to consider just what a terrifying thing food has become for millions of people in the modern world. The interesting question is not whether clean feeing is nonsense, but why so many intelligent people decided to put their religion in it.


We are not the only generation to have appeared in disgust at an unhealthy food surrounding and wished that we could replace it with nutrients that were perfectly safe to feed. In the 1850 s, a British chemist called Arthur Hill Hassall became convinced that the whole food supply of London was riddled with toxins and fakery. What’s more, he was right. Hassall had done a series of investigations for the medical periodical the Lancet, and found that much of what was for sale as food and drink was not what it seemed: “coffee” made from burnt sugar and chicory; pickles dyed green with poison copper colourings.

Years of exposing the toxic deceptions all around him seems to have driven Hassall to a country of paranoia. He started to see poison everywhere, and decided that the answer was to create a define of totally uncontaminated food products. In 1881, he set up his own firm, The Pure Food Company, which would only use ingredients of unimpeachable quality. Hassall took water that was ” softened and purified” and combined it with the finest Smithfield beef to attain the purest beef jelly and disgusting-sounding” fibrinous meat lozenges”- the energy balls of Victorian England. The Pure Food Company of 1881 sounds just like a hundred wellness food businesses today- except for the fact that it collapsed within a year due to lack of sales.

We are once again living in an environment where ordinary food, which should be something dependable and sustaining, has come to feel noxious. Unlike the Victorian, we do not fear that our coffee is fake so much as that our entire pattern of eating may be bad for us, in ways that we can’t fully identify. One of the things that constructs the new wave of wellness cookbooks so appealing is that they assure the reader that they offer a new way of feeing that comes without any anxiety or guilt.

The founding principle of these modern wellness regimes is that our current style of feeing is slowly poisoning us.” Much of the food on offer to us today is nutritionally substandard ,” write the Hemsley sisters, best-selling champs of “nutrient-dense” food. It’s hard to disagree with the proposition that modern diets are generally “substandard”, even if you don’t share the Hemsleys’ solution of running “grain-free”. ” All of these diets have a kernel of truth that is spun out into some bigger fantasy ,” Giles Yeo says- hence their huge appeal.

Melissa - Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley. Photo: Nick Hopper

Clean eating- whether it is called that or not- is perhaps best seen as a dysfunctional response to a still better dysfunctional food supply: a dream of purity in a toxic world. To walk into a modern western supermarket is to be assailed by aisle upon aisle of salty, oily snacks and sugary cereals, of “bread” that has been neither demonstrated nor fermented, of inexpensive, sweetened drinks and meat from animals kept in inhumane conditions.

In the postwar decades, most countries in the world underwent what the prof of nutrition Barry Popkin calls a” nutrition transition” to a westernised diet high in sugar, meat, fat, salt, refined petroleum and ultra-processed concoctions, and low in veggies. Affluence and multi-national food companies replaced the thirst of earlier generations with an unwholesome banquet of sweet beverages and convenience foods that teach us from a young age to crave more of the same. Wherever this pattern of feeing travelled, it brought with it dramatic rises in ill health, from allergies to cancer.

In prosperous countries, large numbers of people- whether they wanted to lose weight or not- became understandably scared of the modern food supply and what it was doing to our bodies: type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease , not to mention a host of other complaints that are influenced by diet, ranging from Alzheimer’s to gout. When mainstream diets start to sicken people, it is unsurprising that many of us should seek other ways of eating to keep ourselves safe from harm. Our collective anxiety around diet was exacerbated by a general impression that mainstream scientific advice on diet- inflated by newspaper headlines- could not be trusted. First these so-called experts tell us to avoid fat, then sugar, and all the while people get less and less healthy. What will these “experts” say next, and why should we believe them?

Into this atmosphere of nervousnes and disarray stepped a series of guru offering messages of wonderful simplicity and reassurance: feed this style and I will attain you fresh and healthy again. It is very hard to pinpoint the exact moment when” clean eating” started, because it is not so much as a single diet as a portmanteau word that has borrowed notions from numerous pre-existing diets: a bit of Paleo here, some Atkins there, with a few remnants of 1960 s macrobiotics thrown in for good measure.

But some time in the early 2000 s, two distincts but interrelated versions of clean eating became popular in the US- one on the basis of the creed of “real” food, and the other on the idea of “detox”. Once the concept of cleanliness had entered the realm of eating, it was only a matter of time before the basic notion spread contagiously across Instagram, where fans of #eatclean could share their artfully photographed green juices and rainbow salad bowls.

The first and more moderate version of “clean” food started in 2007, when Tosca Reno, a Canadian fitness model, published a book called The Eat-Clean Diet. In it, Reno described how “shes lost” 34 kg( 75 lb) and transformed her health by avoiding all over-refined and “processed foods”, especially white flour and sugar. A typical Reno eat-clean meal might be stir-fried chicken and vegetables over brown rice; or almond-date biscotti with a cup of tea. In many styles The Eat-Clean Diet was like any number of diet volumes that had come before, advising plenty of vegetables and modestly portioned, home-cooked meals. The difference, which Anthony Warner calls a piece of “genius” on Reno’s part, was that she presented it, above all, as a holistic route of living.

Meanwhile, a second version of clean eating was spearheaded by a former cardiologist from Uruguay called Alejandro Junger, the author of Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Mend Itself, which was published in 2009 after Junger’s clean detox system had been praised by Gwyneth Paltrow on her Goop website. Junger’s system was far more stringent than Reno’s, requiring, for a few weeks, a revolutionary elimination diet based on liquid meals and a total exclusion of caffeine, alcohol, dairy and eggs, sugar, all veggies in the” nightshade family”( tomatoes, aubergines and so on ), red meat( which, according to Junger, makes an acidic” inner surrounding “), among other foods. During this stage, Junger advised a largely liquid diet either composed of home-made juices and soups, or of his own special pulverized shakes. After the detox period, Junger advised very cautiously reintroducing” toxic triggers” such as wheat (” a classic trigger of allergic responses “) and dairy (” an acid-forming food “).

Woman - Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Photograph: Alexandra Iakovleva/ Getty

To read Junger’s book is to feel that everything edible in our world is potentially toxic. Yet, as with Arthur Hassall, many of Junger’s dreads may be justified. Junger writes as a doctor with first-hand knowledge of diet-related epidemics of” cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and autoimmune cancer “. The volume is full of case examines of individuals who follow Junger’s detox and emerge lighter, leaner and happier.” Who is the candidate for using this programme ?” Junger asks, responding:” Everyone who lives a modern life, fees a modern diet and occupies the modern world .”

To my surprise, I discovered myself compelled by the messianic tone of Junger’s Clean- though not quite obliged enough to pay $475 for his 21 -day programme( which, in any case, doesn’t ship outside of North America ), or to give up my daily breakfast of inflammatory coffee, gut-irritating sourdough toast and acid-forming butter, on which I feel amazingly well. When I told Giles Yeo how seductive I found Junger’s terms, virtually despite myself, he said:” This is their magic! They are all charismatic human beings. I do think the clean-eating guru believes in it themselves. They drink the Koolaid .”


Over the past 50 years, mainstream healthcare in the west has been inexplicably blind to the role that diet plays in preventing and alleviating ill health. When it started, #eatclean spoke to growing number of people who felt that their existing style of eating was causing them problems, from weight gain to headaches to stress, and that conventional medicine could not assistance. In the absence of nutrition guidance from doctors, it was a natural step for individuals to start experimenting with cutting out this food or that.

From 2009 to 2014, the number of Americans who actively avoided gluten, despite not suffering from coeliac illnes, more than tripled. It also became fashionable to drink a whole pantheon of non-dairy milks, ranging from oat milk to almond milk. I have lactose-intolerant and vegan friends who say that #eatclean has made it far easier for them to buy ingredients that they once had to go to specialist health-food stores to find. What isn’t so easy now is to find dependable information on special diets in the sea of half-truths and bunkum.

Someone who find how quickly and radically #eatclean changed the market for health-food volumes is Anne Dolamore, a publisher at the independent food publishers Grub Street, based in London. Dolamore has been publishing health-related food books since 1995, a day when “free-from” cooking was a tiny subculture. In the days before Google, Dolamore- who has long believed that” food is medicine”- felt that books on special diets by authors with” proper credentials” could serve a useful intent. In 1995, Grub Street published The Everyday Diabetic Cookbook, which has now been sold over 100,000 copies in the UK. Other successful books followed, including The Everyday Wheat-Free and Gluten-Free Cookbook by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, published in 1998.

In 2012, the market for “wellness” cookbooks in the UK abruptly changed, starting with the surprise success of Honestly Healthy by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson, which sold around 80,000 transcripts. Louise Haines, a publisher at 4th Estate, recalls that the previous big tendency in British food publishing had been cooking, but the baking boom” died overnight, virtually, and a number of sugar-free books came through “.

At Grub Street, Anne Dolamore watched aghast as bestselling cookbooks piled up from a” never-ending stream of blonde, willowy’ authorities ‘, many of whom seemed to be devising diets based on little but their own limited experience “. If Junger and Reno laid the groundwork for” feed clean” to become a vast worldwide trend, it was social media and the internet that did the remainder. Almost all of the authors of the British clean feeing bestsellers started off as bloggers or Instagrammers, many of them beautiful women in their early 20 s who were genuinely convinced that the diets they had devised had cured them of various chronic ailments.

Keep your chia seed smoothies off my Instagram feed

Every wellness guru worth her Himalayan pink salt has a tale of how changing what you eat can change your life.” Food has the power to build or break you ,” wrote Amelia Freer in her 2014 bestseller Eat. Nourish. Glow.( which has sold more than 200,000 copies ). Freer was leading a busy life as a personal assistant to the Prince of Wales when she realised that her belly” appeared and felt as if it had a football in it” from too many snatched dinners of cheese on toast or” factory-made food “. By giving up “processed” and convenience food (” margarine, yuck !”) along with gluten and sugar, Freer claimed to have found the secrets to” appearing younger and feeling healthier “.

Perhaps the best-known diet-transformation tale of all is that of Ella Mills- possessor of more than a million Instagram followers. In 2011, Mills was diagnosed with postural tachycardia disorder, a condition characterised by dizziness and extreme wearines. Mills began blogging about food after discovering that her symptoms radically improved when she swapped her sugar-laden diet for” plant-based, natural foods “. Mills- who used to be a model- stimulated following a “free-from” diet seem not drab or deprived, but profoundly aspirational. By the time her first volume appeared in January 2015, her vast following on social media helped her to sell 32,000 transcripts in the first week alone.

Amelia - Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Amelia Freer. Photograph: S Meddle/ ITV/ Rex/ Shutterstock

There was something paradoxical about the route these books were marketed. What they were selling purported to be an alternative to a sordidly commercial food industry.” If it’s got a barcode or a’ promise ‘, don’t buy it ,” wrote Freer. Yet clean eating is itself a wildly profitable commercial enterprise, promoted employing photogenic young bloggers on a multi-billion-dollar tech platform. Literary agent Zoe Ross tells me that around 2015 she began to be pointed out that” the market was scouring Instagram for copycat acts- specifically really pretty, very young girls pushing curated food and lifestyle “.

After years on the margins, health-based cooking was finally getting a mass audience. In 2016, 18 out the 20 top sellers in Amazon UK’s food and drink volume category had a focus on healthy eating and dieting. The irony, however, was that the kind of well-researched books Dolamore and others once published no longer tended to sell so well, because health publishing was now dominated by social media celebrities. Bookshops were heaving with so many of these “clean” books that even the authors themselves started to feel that there were too many of them. Alice Liveing, a 23 -year-old personal trainer who writes as Clean Eating Alice, argued in her 2016 book Eat Well Every Day that she was ” championing what I feel is a much-needed breath of fresh air in what I think is an incredibly saturated marketplace “. To my untrained eye, browsing through her book, Alice’s fresh approach to diet appeared very similar to countless others: date and almond energy balls, kale chips, beetroot and feta burgers.

Then again, shouldn’t we devote clean eating due credit for achieving the miracle of turning beetroot and kale into objects of desire? Data from analysts Kantar Worldpanel show that UK sales of fresh beetroot have risen dramatically from PS42. 8m in 2013 to PS50. 5m in 2015. Some would argue that, in developed nations where most people eat shockingly poor diets, low in greens and high in sugar, this new union of health and food has done a modicum of good. Giles Yeo- who expended some time cooking a spicy sweet-potato dish with Ella Mills for his BBC programme- agrees that many of the clean eating recipes he tried are actually” a tasty and cool route to cook veggies “. But why, Yeo asks, do these authors not simply say ” I am publishing a very good vegetarian cookbook” and be brought to an end, instead of constructing larger claims about the power of veggies to beautify or avoid disease?” The poison comes from the fact that they are wrapping the whole thing up in pseudoscience ,” Yeo says.” If you base something on misrepresentations, it empowers people to take extreme actions, and this is where the damage begins .”


You can’t discovered a new religion system with the words” I am publishing a very good vegetarian cookbook “. For this, you need something stronger. You need the assurance of make-believe, whispered sweetly. Grind this cauliflower into tiny pieces and you are able to make a special kind of no-carb rice! Avoid all sugar and your skin will shimmer! Among other things, clean eating corroborates how vulnerable and lost tens of thousands of us feel about diet- that is actually means how lost we feel about our own bodies. We are so unmoored that we will set our faith in any master who promises us that we, too, can become pure and good.

I can pinpoint the exact moment that my own feelings about clean feeing changed from ambivalence to outright dislike. I was on stage at the Cheltenham literary festival with dietician Renee McGregor( who works both with Olympic athletes and eating disorder sufferers) when a crowd of around 300 clean-eating fans started jeering and wailing at us. We were supposedly taking part in a clean-eating debate with “nutritionist” Madeleine Shaw, author of Get the Glow and Ready Steady Glow.

Before that week, I had never read any of Shaw’s work. As I flicked through Ready Steady Glow, I was reasonably endeared by the upbeat tone (” stop depriving yourself and start living “) and bright photographs of a beaming Shaw.” I often surprise myself by receiving new things to spiralise” she writes, introducing a” sweet potato noodle” salad. Cauliflower pizza, in her position, is” quite simply: the best invention ever “.

But underneath the brightness there were notes of restriction that I found both worrying and confused.” As ever, all my recipes are sugar-and-wheat free”, Shaw announces, only to devote a recipe for “gluten-free” brownies that contains 200 g of coconut sugar, a substance that costs a lot more than your average white granulated sugar, but is metabolised by the body in the same way. I was still more alarmed by step four in Shaw’s nine-point food ” doctrine”, which says that all bread and pasta should be avoided: they are” beige foods”, which are” full of chemicals, preservatives and genetically manipulated wheat”, and” not whole foods “. Shaw’s book makes no distinction between a loaf of, say, bleached sliced white, and a homemade wholemeal sourdough.

When we satisfied on stage in Cheltenham, I asked Shaw why she told people to cut out all bread, and was startled when she denied she had said any such thing( rye bread was her favourite, she added ). McGregor asked Shaw what she entailed when she wrote that people should try to eat only” clean proteins “; meat that was ” not deep-fried” was her instead baffling respond. McGregor’s main concern about clean eating, she added, was that as a professional treating young person with eating disorders, she had watched first-hand how the rules and restrictions of clean feeing often segued into debilitating anorexia or orthorexia.

Madeleine - Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Madeleine Shaw promoting her volume Get the Glow. Photo: Joe Pepler/ REX/ Shutterstock

” But I only find the positive”, said Shaw , now wiping away tears. It was at this point that the audience, who were already restless whenever McGregor or I spoke, descended into outright hatred, shouting and hissing for us to get off stage. In a volume shop after the event, as fans came up to Shaw to thank her for giving them” the glow”, I too burst into tears when person or persons jabbed her thumbs at me and said I should be ashamed, as an” older females”( I am 43 ), to have criticised a younger one. On Twitter that night, some Shaw fans constructed derogatory remarks about how McGregor and I appeared, under the hashtag #youarewhatyoueat. The implication was that, if we were less photogenic than Shaw, we clearly had nothing of any value to say about food( never mind the fact that McGregor has degrees in biochemistry and nutrition ).

Thinking about the event on the develop home, I realised that the crowd were angry with us not because they disagreed with the details( it’s pretty clear that you can’t have sugar in “sugar-free” recipes ), but because they detested the fact that we were arguing at all. To insist on the facts of the case made us come across as cruelly negative. We had punctured the happy belief-bubble of glowiness that they had come to imbibe from Shaw. It’s striking that in many of the wellness cookbooks, mainstream scientific proof on diet is seen as more or less irrelevant , not least because the gurus watch the complacency of science as part of what built our diets so bad in the first place.

Amelia Freer, in Eat. Nourish. Glow, admits that” we can’t prove that dairy is the cause” of ailments ranging from IBS to joint pain, but concludes that it’s” surely worth” cutting dairy out anyway, just as a precaution. In another context, Freer writes that” I’m told it takes 17 years for scientific knowledge to filter down” to become general knowledge, while advising that gluten should be avoided. Once we enter the territory where all authority and expertise are automatically suspect, you can start to claim almost anything- and many #eatclean authorities do.

That night in Cheltenham, I find that clean feeing- or whatever name it now runs under- had elements of a post-truth cult. As with any cult, it could be something dark and divisive if you got on the wrong side of it. After Giles Yeo’s BBC programme was aired, he told me he was startled to find himself subjected to relentless online trolling.” They said I was funded by big pharma, and therefore obviously wouldn’t see the benefits of a healthy diet over medication. These were outright lies .”( Yeo is employed by the University of Cambridge, and funded by the Medical Research Council .)

It’s increasingly clear that clean eating, for all its good aims, can cause real harm, both to truth and to human beings. Over the past 18 months, McGregor says,” every single client with an eating disorder who strolls into my clinic doors is either following or wants to follow a’ clean’ way of eating “.

In her new book, Orthorexia, McGregor observes that while eating disorder long predate the #eatclean trend,” food regulations”( such as eating no dairy or avoiding all grains) easily become” a guise for restricting food uptake “. Moreover, they are not even good rules, based as “theyre on”” unsubstantiated, unscientific asserts “. Take almond milk, which is widely touted as a superior alternative to cow’s milk. McGregor considers it as little better than” expensive water “, containing just 0.1 g protein per 100 ml, compared with 3.2 g per 100 ml in cow’s milk. But she often discovers it very difficult to convince her clients that restricting themselves to these “clean” foods is in the long run worse for their health than what she calls” unrestrained feeing”- balanced and varied meals, but no anxiety about the odd ice cream or chocolate bar.

Clearly , not everyone who bought a clean-eating book has developed an eating disorder. But a motion whose premise is that normal food is unhealthy has already had muddied the water of” healthy eating” for everyone else, by planting the idea that a good diet is one founded on absolutes.


The true calamity of clean eating is not that it is entirely false. It is that it contains” a kernel of truth”, as Giles Yeo puts it.” When you strip down all the pseudo gibberish, they are absolutely right to say that we should feed more vegetables, less refined sugar and less meat ,” Yeo said, sipping a black coffee in his office at the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge, where he spends his days researching the causes of obesity. Yeo agreed to that clean eaters that our environment of inexpensive, plentiful, sugary, fatty food is a recipe for widespread obesity and ill health. The problem is it’s near impossible to pick out the sensible bits of” clean feeing” and ignore the rest. #Eatclean built healthy eating seem like something” expensive, exclusive and difficult to achieve”, as Anthony Warner writes. Whether the term “clean” is use or not, there is a new puritanism about food that has taken root very widely.

A few weeks ago, I overheard a fit, middle-aged human at the gym castigating a friend for not feeing a better diet- a conversation that would once have been unimaginable among men. The first human was telling the second that the” skinny burgers” he preferred were nothing but” shitty mince and marketing”- and arguing that he was able to get almost everything he needed from a diet of veggies, cooked with no petroleum.” Fat is fat, at the end of the working day ,” he concluded, before bemoaning the “idiots” who tried to eat something wholesome like a salad, then ruined everything by adding salt.” If you have one bad diet day a week, you undo all your good work .”

The real question is how to fight this kind of diet absolutism without bouncing back to a mindless festivity of the modern food environment that is demonstrably stimulating so many people sick. In 2016, more than 600 children in the UK were get registered as living with kind 2 diabetes; before 2002, there were no reported cases of children suffering from the condition, whose causes are diet-related.

Our food system is in desperate need of reform. There’s a threat that, in fighting the nonsense of clean eating, we end up looking like apologists for a commercial food supply that is failing in its basic undertaking of nourishing us. Former orthorexia sufferer Edward L Yuen has argued- in his 2014 book, Beating Orthorexia- that the old advice of” everything in moderation” no longer works in a food environment where eating in the “middle ground” may still leave you with chronic diseases. When sections are supersized and Snickers bars are sold by the metre( something I find in my local Tesco recently ), eating “normally” is not necessarily a balanced alternative. The answer isn’t yet another perfect diet, but a shift in our idea of what constitutes normal food.

Sales of courgettes in the UK rose 20% from 2014 to 2015, fuelled by the rise of the spiraliser. But overall consumption of vegetables, both in the UK and worldwide, is still vanishingly small( with 74% of the adult UK population not managing to feed five a day ). That is much lower than it was in the 1950 s, when freshly cooked daily snacks were still something that most people took for granted.

Among the affluent classes who already feed a healthier-than-average diet, the Instagram goddesses generated a new model of dietary perfection to aim for. For the rest of the population, however, it simply placed the ideal of healthy food ever further out of reach. Behind the shiny covers of the clean-eating volumes, there is a harsh form of economic exclusion that says that someone who can’t afford wheatgrass or spi

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Why We Fell For Clean Eating
Why We Fell For Clean Eating

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

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