Apr 18th, 2016, 11:44 PM

Is Clean Eating Good For You?

By Anastasija Baiko
Google Images
Clean eating is hyped as a "whole foods" lifestyle — but it can become a dangerous eating disorder.
I tried “clean eating” and it worked. I lost 20 kilos in three months. That’s the good news, if your goal is weight loss.
Now the bad news. I undermined my immune system. I lost hair. My nails became brittle. My skin turned pale. I suffered terrible fatigue. I couldn't concentrate. Clean eating dominated my thoughts and behavior to the point where I was basically suffering from the symptoms that many would call anorexia nervosa. 
If you haven’t heard of clean eating, it is often described as a “whole foods” or “real foods” diet — avoiding all foods that are processed or refined, such as refined grains, sugar, unhealthy fats. Some clean-eating advocates embrace whole grains, poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables, excluding only processed or foods containing high amounts of fat. Some exclude dairy products or poultry that is not organic.
More than a “diet”, clean eating is supposedly a lifestyle — like vegetarianism, gluten-free, and veganism — guided by dietary needs and values. Made famous by stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Katy Perry, clean eating has been promoted as a “health” diet. Paltrow shares her “cleanse recipes”. Perry, for her part, confesses, “Yes, I grow kale. It’s very trendy.” With that kind of star appeal, no wonder clean eating has become popular. There is even a “Clean Eating for Dummies” guide for the uninitiated.
Image credit: Melissalepage.com
In truth, clean eating is merely another diet dressed up as a lifestyle choice. As I learned, it can imprison you. It pushes you to extreme deprivations as you cut out sugar, fats, and refined foods in the name of “cleansing” your body and mind. In my case, I excluded all foods that were fried, looked greasy while cooked, or had the slightest amount of butter. The nutritional value did not matter.
I googled everything I ate to check the health benefits — preferably before eating it, otherwise if the benefits turned out to be low I would immediately be gripped by regret. I was not even concerned about the calories. My obsession was more focused on dietary myths, for example that pasta will lead to obesity and a buttery croissant will inject cholesterol into your arteries.

Image credit: Tinalyzing.
Like all lifestyle choices, clean eating is more about the mind than about the body. Once you go clean, it becomes a form of mind control. Every food you eat must be broken down by ingredient consistency. You begin to associate butter with fat, or white bread with 'bad' carbs, thus leaving them out of your diet, while in truth fats and carbs are just part of the components of food's nutritional value, not things that fill your body with unclean waste.
Once clean eating has taken over your mind, it also limits you socially. You become mentally closed down to people, always thinking about the desire to eat and the consistency of what you are eating. You are unable to communicate and exclude yourself from groups, afraid to be influenced by the eating habits of others. If you are female, like me, under-nutrition can cause you to lose your menstrual cycle and possibly render pregnancy impossible. You can become so closed in in your obsession about eating that you fall into a depression. Soon you need a therapist to help you climb out.
Clean eating can also harm your health. The stress you induce in your body, minimizing the essential nutritional components it needs to function properly, undermines your immune system. Like anorexia, cleaning eating can become uncontrollable to a point where you do not know when to stop. A lifestyle choice thus becomes a sickness.

When Obsessing Over Healthy Eating Turns Dangerous

I learned the hard way how clean eating, which at first seemed like an attractive lifestyle choice, can quickly become an eating disorder. Let's remember that, at all ages, we should be able to treat ourselves to indulgences. The carbs and fats found in an occasional plate of pasta, or the butter on your morning toast, are sources of a complete life. Eat and enjoy.