Is it just me, or is it hot in here? Last week, my homeboy JC set the internet ablaze with his article addressing the concept of clean eating, touching on why it should be buried and added to the list of words never to be uttered again, right next to “bling” and “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” I, for one, couldn’t be happier to grab a shovel and start digging.
Why So Serious?
All it takes is one look in the comment section of JC’s post to come to the conclusion that people are highly protective of their food choices and, when they are threatened, are likely to resort to verbal diarrhea in its defense.
Take for instance this gem from the comment section:
I tried to read your article with an open mind. But as the author of a clean eating recipe blog and somebody who has been eating clean for over 3 years now, I have to strongly disagree with you on just about every level….you also state, “Food is neither clean nor unclean, but merely energy my body needs to function and survive.”
NOT true! The body processes different foods very differently. The more refined and processed a food is, the worse it is for your body. The body processes refined foods very quickly and dumps the glucose into the blood stream. The pancreas than has to kick into overdrive to make up for the excess. Do this often enough, and you end up with diabetes.”
The inaccurate claims made here are an entirely separate issue, but if nothing else it highlights one important fact – this person didn’t read the article. At all.
The fitness and health industry is home to some of the internet’s finest alarmists. In one camp you have those who swear that carbs, especially when consumed mere moments after the moon rises, will magically don pimp attire and invite all the neighborhood fat into your body for a night on the town. They often worship at the alter of fat; if carbs are the problem, then unlimited amounts of fat are the solution. Then of course you have those who place the blame of the globe’s ever expanding waistline on the consumption of fat. These folks are responsible for more egg yolk homicides than Humpty Dumpty and they are more than likely to push an elderly lady into oncoming traffic if she even offers them a bite of her cheeseburger.
These are only a few examples of the many camps and factions running amuck today, but they all represent reductionist thinking, which is at best unproductive, and at worst misleading and acts as a roadblock on the path to objectivity. Nevertheless, when debate sparks and ones ideology is challenged, unsubstantiated statements and straw men arguments are without a doubt lurking nearby. Their baby is under attack, and it is their duty to defend her with all the zeal they can muster, and if that means cherry picking scientific research or downright creating facts out of thin air in order to back up their viewpoints then so be it.
In the above quote, the commenter barely made it past the headline of the article before diving headfirst into an emotional response due to thinking that their way of eating was under attack when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Do you see the problem with this trend? I’ll admit that when you feel justified in doing so, its hard to not respond emotionally to particular topics, and its something all of us have done at one time or another. But here is the thing: you don’t have to give in to your emotions when responding. Take a step back. Breath in, breath out. Woosa. Come back after you’ve had time to reflect on the merits of the argument and can respond in turn. That is the power of the interwebz. You can be as cool, calm and collected as you wanna be, or fly off at the mouth making false claims only to end up looking like a supreme turd muffin. The choice is yours and yours alone.
Pitfalls Of Extremism
The worst part about maintaining an extreme point of view is that, in most cases, you are hurting yourself the most. Taking such a stance ensures that you are often so far to either side that no sort of middle ground can be see from your vantage point and there is no room left for the possibility of learning something that may change your mind for the better. You are shut off; your thoughts have been crystallized and that’s that. Excuse me, are you saying somethin? Nuh uh, you can’t tell me nothin’.
If that road is one we’d like to leave less traveled, what is the alternative?
Clean Eating: The Problem
The best way to level up your knowledge game is to become a student of life again, realizing that what you know now isn’t all that there is to know, and that within every interaction is the opportunity to learn more. Leigh Peele wrote a fantastic article on subject of cheat meals and how the way we’re approaching them is fundamentally wrong and I couldn’t agree more. By setting yourself up to “cheat” you are operating under the false assumption that what you are about eat is wrong and that you shouldn’t be having it. As I expanded on in a previous post, by placing certain foods into a different category than those that you normally eat, you are putting them on a pedestal, which increases the likelihood that you are craving said foods because of the simple fact that you told yourself that you shouldn’t be eating them.
Clean Eating: The Solution
Objectivity, commonsense and moderation should act as your guideposts. This was the entire point of JC’s original article, but many people seemed to have abandoned ship before getting far enough into the piece to recognize this fact. Realize that no foods are off limits whatsoever and that having the body that you desire and living the life that you want don’t have to be at odds with one another. Make sure that you get adequate protein, 3-4g fish oil, lots of veggies, some fruit, and fill the rest of your caloric allotment with what is commonly referred to as discretionary calories, which can come from apple pie to zucchini and everything else in between. The human body is a beautiful piece of adaptable hardware, so make sure to experiment and find what is best for YOU, because in the end that is all that matters. As long as you are moving towards your goals, let your results speak for you and leave the worrying to those who are awesome at it.
I’d like to leave you with a quote from Lyle McDonald’s research review in which he tackles this very subject:
Given caloric control, the body’s response to a given set of nutrients, with the exception of blood lipids would appear to be more determined by the total caloric and macro content of that meal more than the source of the food.
In terms of the hormonal response, clean vs. unclean just doesn’t matter, it’s all about calories and macros.
What are your favorite “off-limit” foods that make people stare in awe when they see them disappear into your mouf?
Photo Credit: jibbit
Good idea including Lyle’s research review.
Fantastic post! I especially like your rules for managing your diet. As I put on my blog post, they’re simple, easy to comply with and, most of all, they make sense!
Keep up the good work!
P.S. my forbidden fruit is lasagna. A really big pot of it.
Roger Lawson II says
Those are the most important things to consider when creating a diet or training plan. No matter how effective and comprehensive something it, it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t like it enough to stick with it or fit it into your lifestyle.
“clean eating” is certainly gimmicky. WTH does it even mean? And if you break down the macros, you’re missing the point.
It’s all about the micro nutrients.
I break down food into what will best support my body and help me feel good and recover and things that make me bloat and don’t give me much nutrition per calorie. Seen this way, there are definitely bad and good foods – the best of which are leafy greens.
Our bodies haven’t changed much over the tens of thousands of years we’ve been around. Unfortunately, our food has. We have far too much crap that has very little food in it and plenty of chemicals. Just think…your great grandparents went their whole lives without ever eating a twinkie (how do you even spell it?). No coca-cola either.
So, I eat in a way that supports my health and I make sure that I get my two pounds of leafy greens in every day. That leaves very little room or appetite for greasy junk (I haven’t been near a McDonalds in 15 years and it never occurs to me to even notice where they may be in my town. The last time I was in one, I was there with friends who wanted to eat there and the food was so NASTY, I couldn’t eat it). But, it does leave some room for the occasional pizza or normal sized burger when I want it. As long as I get my base of veggies, fruit, beans and nuts & seeds, and don’t eat until I’m bursting, I don’t sweat the occasional meal of crap.
But saying that all food is equal? No. It’s not. Green leafies fight cancer. Burgers promote cancer. That alone makes food unequal.
Roger Lawson II says
Yep, micronutrients and phytochemicals are without a doubt of great importance in terms of long term health and function, so hopefully you didn’t take this piece as me dissing the importance of them.
It’s not just about the micros and it’s not just about the macros – it’s about having both. Because even if you met your micronutrient needs, I can’t imagine the crappy quality of life one would have if thats all they aimed for. The same can be applied the other way around – gotta love balance!
I’m glad that you found what works best for you, though. I’m still however rebelling against this good food vs bad food dichotomy because it just isn’t so. Every food has its purpose. From an energy standpoint, a pound of broccoli loses out to a pound of meat any day of the week, but from a phytochemical and micronutrient stance, that same broccoli would straight up spank an equal serving size of Jelly Bellies.
You’re right in that all food isn’t created equal, and I would never dream of making such a claim. Why though, pray tell, do burgers promote cancer? Its blanket statements such as that which worry me.
mine’s a big ass bowl of mashed sweet potatoes topped with shredded coconut & 2 shots of vanilla whey 😀
why is it forbidden? no reason…folks just goes ‘thats soooo bad’
Roger Lawson II says
The shredded coconut adds a bit of class to that meal for sure. Does 1 shot = 1 scoop? That terminology sounds so much better than “a scoop of whey”
toss in some cocoa powder and you’re rocking!
1 shot coz’ its a 1:1 ratio of whey & water
its almost like sweet potato ice cream 🙂
Roger Lawson II says
Sweet potato ice cream?! Now you’re just talking dirty on my blog, and I like it.