Clean Eating is a Scam and Why You Should Abandon It

Please watch this video as it’s the follow-up to all three of my clean-eating articles:

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Clean Eating

Photo Credit: epSos.de

Clean eating – it’s a term we’ve all used and have surely heard a million times.  We’ve stumbled upon it in the magazines, seen it in our favorite diet books and have probably even heard it on TV.  Heck there’s even a magazine titled Clean Eating.

Now I have no problem with the magazine – the recipes are great(love them, by the way) and the pictures are something I enjoy looking at.  I do, however, have a problem with the negative connotation it presents to the minds of many health and fitness enthusiasts and even some professionals unwilling to consider other ideas.

The first thing I want to ask is this: what exactly does clean eating mean?

Most everyone will have somewhat of a different answer to the question. And every answer all boils down to some kind of belief system they’ve created – how they view certain foods. One person, perhaps a Paleo dieter, might actually say that fresh orange juice is off limits because it has too much sugar. However, they might feel a piece of fruit is okay, even though the amount of fructose and sucrose is very similar when comparing the fruit and the OJ.

Another example is someone who labels whole grain foods clean and foods like white bread dirty or off limits.  While the whole grains may have a bit more nutrients or fiber, the impact is minimal and hardly an issue as long as your diet isn’t completely out of whack.

And then we have the group of people who label all foods with any kind of preservatives of chemicals in them as completely off limits only until they get a craving for something or decide to compromise and have that bag of Oreo’s anyway.

As I mentioned earlier, it all boils down to a belief – whatever one believes to be good or clean and bad or a cheat meal. I don’t particular care for such a mindset because it’s very limiting.

While I don’t believe this to be true for everyone, for many who adhere strictly to the clean-eating principles, it cripples our relationship with food and can have a negative effect our social lives.  For some, it has much steeper consequences.  An obsession with clean eating and meal timing can be the cause for dysfunctional eating down the road for those with such tendencies.

I cannot say that clean eating is the cause of any particular eating disorder, but my hunch tells me ideas behind the concept are partly responsible for many health and fitness folk developing a tragic relationship with their cheesecake.

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An Obsession in the Making

Keep in mind, the following section is a personal story. I live a very relaxed life these days, but in the beginning, I was quite obsessed with my diet and fitness regimen.

In my first year of college, I was very fortunate to get involved with a great group of people the opening weeks of class.  Most of these people also happened to be very physically active like myself and enjoyed competition as much as I did.

It turned out that every year a little contest was held during a student conference over Christmas break.  It was secret and non-commercial.  They labelled it the “best-body competition” although it had no formal name. I was invited to compete.

The cost was $60 to enter and there were about 15-20 participants.  There was first, second and third place prize money to be had and I made up my mind to be a placing contestant.

At the time of my joining, I was pretty chunky.  I was still athletic as I continued the resistance training I participated in for football but I really needed to lose about 35+ pounds to have a shot at this thing.

So what did I do?  Just like most everyone does, I scoured the internet and every magazine for all the info on clean eating and losing body fat that I could find.  Many of my sleepless nights spent searching were successful as I found a ton of information to get me very lean.

So for about 3 months straight, I put my new found knowledge to good use.  I ate 6-7 small meals daily, all of which contained about 30-40g of protein, fiber, healthy fat and some form of clean carbohydrate. In this context, clean meant foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes and lots of oatmeal.

What couldn’t I have? Everything from table sugar, to milk, to most fruits (due to GI index, which is complete bunk), and to anything white (rice, bread, potatoes).

I trained on the weights about 4-5 times all the while doing 20+ miles on the elliptical or treadmill every 7 days.  Smell a disaster?

Weekly schedule
Up at 7 to do my cardio.
Breakfast right after.
Class.
Weights after class.

In all reality, the only reason I believe I didn’t burn out had to be a result of my previous athletic conditioning and from the sheer amount of food I was eating.

I had an unlimited meal pass to the cafeteria, therefore in between classes, I used to roll in and grab some lean protein and a few pieces of fruit (bananas mostly) for a snack.  All my meals were deemed clean as I ate lots of egg whites (cholesterol is bad, so I thought), bland brown rice (no MSG from seasoning), oatmeal (not the packets either), cottage cheese, steamed broccoli (no butter), the occasional spoon of natural peanut butter and dry chicken breast.   The diet was miserable as I watched all of my friends eat greasy pasta, ribs and ice cream cones – they were as active as I was and in fairly decent condition, too.

While I never counted calories (I didn’t know how at the time), I’d guess I was eating between 2500 and 3000 calories on most days.  Some days were well above 4000 calories (when I would binge out of deprivation).  Keep in mind I was walking everywhere, training twice daily and always attended social functions (standing, dancing, lots of moving about).

To cut myself short, the moral of the story is this.  I lost a good 35-40 pounds in both fat and muscle and got the 2nd place prize money.  This was also the very first time in my life that I’d ever seen a full row of abs when gazing into the mirror.

And here is where it gets dark.

I was obsessed with this lifestyle.

But before we get into what I went through, let’s first establish what clean eating means to some people and why it makes no sense – no matter how you look at it.

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Clean Eating Exposed

While there is no real basis as to what constitutes a clean and a dirty source of food, the idea is still prevalent to this day.  Allow me to educate you on why this faulty type of thinking stands firm.

I have no clue where the concepts came about or who originally coined these terms but I think they’re awful and here’s why.

Typically, clean foods are considered to be whole, unprocessed, low-calorie choices and dirty foods tend to be higher in calories, full of flavor, the occasional man-made compounds such as artificial sweeteners or trans-fats, and they’re only acceptable every once in a while (and for some – NEVER).

Many people think that clean eating will produce the muscle gain and fat loss results you want, while a diet full of dirty food will give you subpar results at best.  However, this makes no sense when looking at the macro composition of foods that are often referred to as clean or dirty.

If I were to sit the stereotypical, fitness junkie down for a flash card test, in which he/she labelled foods as dirty or clean based upon a picture, this is likely how I imagine it would go.

Flash Card: Pizza
Fitness Junkie: Dirty
Flash Card: Tomatoes, olives, shredded cheese, onions, beef
Fitness Junkie: Clean

Flash Card: Stir fry with white rice
Fitness Junkie: Dirty
Flash Card: Brown rice, broccoli, asparagus, chicken
Fitness Junkie: Clean

Flash Card: White bread
Fitness Junkie: Dirty
Flash Card: Whole grain, wheat bread
Fitness Junkie: Clean

Without further ado, I’m certain you get the point.  And here’s why it makes no sense.

Let’s take a pizza pie for example.  I love pizza and I love even more so to make my own at home.  I eat the same foods day in and day out so spicing up my diet with something like a fresh pizza is always a treat.

The typical ingredients for a pizza are dough, crushed tomatoes, cheese, meat (beef, pork, chicken), olive oil, lots of veggies and sometimes fruit like pineapple.  All of these foods by themselves are typically deemed clean by the informed fitness enthusiast.

Combine them for an awesome pizza pie and you have a solid, tasty meal.

We’ve garnered some sort of negative connotation with these foods that are traditionally higher in calories mainly because of the fast-food way of preparing them (lots of oil and other high fat items) but in reality, there is nothing different about the macro composition.

And this is why many people will allow their social lives to take a nosedive – all because of some false belief that a slice or two of pizza will make their waistline expand but an equal caloric amount of brown rice and chicken won’t.

Sure, you have trans-fats, some extra sugar, and processed flour, but from an energy balance standpoint, it’s pretty much the same – one is just more calorie dense.

Now let’s take a look at how this myth began to cripple me.

How a New Hobby Turned into Mental Chaos

After the competition was finished, we headed over to the local 24-hour diner.  I ordered the fattest plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, hash browns and cheesy grits you’ve ever seen.  It would’ve made Adam Richman (man vs. food) very proud.  If I had the money, I would’ve gotten the entire dessert menu for my appetizer.

For most, after long periods of clean eating, you’re supposed to have a cheat meal.  Mine was epic.  The mental anguish I experienced a few days later was more than I could bear.  After seeing a full row of abs completely blurred out as a result of the sheer amount of food and sodium I inhaled – I was in shock.  It was traumatizing to witness all of my hard work completely undone.

Little did I know that it was only water retention and I would return to normal a few days later.

Now when this happens I just brush it off because I know in a few days the water will flush out and I’ll return to my previous aesthetics.  Then, however, I had no such clue.

And this is where a bad cycle began.  All because of this view I had about clean eating and what I thought it was.

You see, at this point, the only smart thing to do would’ve been to cut back on the cardio, tone down the weight training for a few weeks and take a well-deserved break but I didn’t.

I fully believed in the go-hard-or-go-home approach, so I kept everything up.  Except this time, I was more devoted than ever.  I even started separating my meals into protein/carb and protein/fat portions for fear of fat storage.

What did this mean exactly?

It meant I was the only one abstaining from pizza during social outings.  It meant omitting the bun from my hamburgers during our Sunday evening cookouts.  It also meant I ordered the naked chicken tenders with water instead of enjoying the wings and beer with all my buddies at the bar.

It was all because of my obsession with the clean and unclean myth that plagues many fitness enthusiasts’ psyche even to this very hour.

Someone out there right now is worrying incessantly about whether or not to have some melted cheese on their chicken and rice when in the end, it doesn’t really matter as long as calories are controlled.

This went on for a period of time.  I wasn’t making progress and was tired of spinning my wheels.  Luckily, I found a coach who pointed me in the right direction.

The truth is, people like me, and many others have been on both sides of the fence and not just the clean eating side.  I’ve went through periods of time where all I ate was sugary cereal, and white bread for my carbohydrate sources with no ill-effect.  Nothing.  I didn’t magically gain any fat or lose any muscle.  I’d say the only real difference I noticed was a slight increase in hunger just because there’s very little fiber in those food choices and they’re easier (for me) to overeat, etc.

So yes, I know what it’s truly like to be married to a false concept.  I also know what it’s like to break that bond.  The grass really is greener over here, by the way.  Read my meal frequency article to understand what I mean.

Clean Eating and Cheat Meals – Don’t Get Caught Up

Finally, the last concept I want to mention is the cheat meal situation.  A cheat meal is usually a food that you’ve been abstaining from for whatever reason. It makes it really easy to overeat on those foods when we decide to have them.

But what are you accomplishing as a result?

Since most cheat meals, by nature, consist of a boatload of calories you’ve been depriving yourself of for weeks and even months, it does nothing for your long-term strategy.  The reason is because for many, the few days after a cheat meal (sometimes resulting in a binge) usually consist of excess exercise and a lack of nutrients.  After a few days of deprivation, you have the urge to cheat yet again.

A different approach would be to regularly include off-limit foods into your diet so you never really have to go off your diet. You’d simply just enjoy your favorite foods more often.

“Food is neither clean nor unclean, but merely energy my body needs to function and survive.”

That’s it.  If you look at it this way, there’s no reason you can’t fit a brownie in for dessert a few times per week.  By going about it this way, you eliminate the desire for a full-on cheat meal and you’ll prove to yourself that the clean eating concept is a made-up belief all along.

It doesn’t exist.

What do you think?

1/6/13 EDIT: I’ve since turned off comments on this article. It seems after 250+ comments, a video update, and 2 other follow-up articles, people are still caught up on their own belief systems, and can’t seem to look past a headline that rustles their jimmies. If you’re too caught up in your personal feelings about clean eating, or what it means to you on an emotional level, you might need to reconsider your relationship with food.

If you’re still hung up and wanna send hateful comments, or call me a moron, you more than welcome to by emailing me. also, read this article by Alan Aragon on the topic.

Comments

  1. Kendra says

    I don’t think Clean Eating or any diets are necessarily bad. However, anything that drastically restricts foods or meals can result in obsessive thinking and behavior. Personally, clean eating has worked wonders for me (weight loss, clearer skin, more energy, even better vision). Clean foods are foods in their natural form or as close to natural as possible. I don’t call any foods “dirty.” They are either processed or not. I don’t see Clean Eating as a diet. If you eat mostly clean, you’ll still lose weight and see the benefits. Choose fresh versions of foods instead of processed versions. But nothing is off limits. You can still have a donut or a slice of cake. Just don’t make all of your meals processed. Shoot for eating 80% clean and it will make a huge difference. I don’t see how making healthier choices is a scam.

    • says

      never said making healthier choices is a scam. I merely called the idea of clean eating a scam because it’s just a false belief. it’s different for everyone. and no, just eating ‘clean,’ whatever that means, does not ensure weight loss and that you’ll see ‘benefits.’

  2. Piper says

    I admit…..I am a clean eater! I agree with the author’s premise that we shouldn’t be labeling things as “bad” or “dirty” but I think its important to be mindful of what you are putting into your body. Nothing is really bad in moderation but let’s face it….there are a lot of foods that you should avoid because they’re unhealthy. I try to avoid white foods (white flour and sugar) simply because they don’t have the nutritional value I’m looking for. Sticking with 100% whole grains and other brown food is giving me the nutrients I need. Eating items as close as possible to their natural state is healthier than eating highly processed foods. I haven’t completely eliminated any food items but by avoiding white flour, sugar, hard cheese, and processed foods I’ve lost 85 lbs in the last 12 months. I have an amazing amount of energy now and am far happier than I was when I was eating those ‘dirty foods.’ Clean eating isn’t a strict diet….its more of a philosophy you try and abide by. Not perfection, just effort. As someone who has tried multiple diets without much success clean eating is about aspiring to healthy lifestyle rather than trying to lose weight.

  3. RedBeard says

    It seems as though a lot of people are missing the point of this article. I’ve beaten myself up over what I eat and how I train but the moral of the story here is moderation. Stick with what works for you but if you’re at work and the boss pays for a barbecue lunch with Mac n cheese and all the fixins, then go for it. A lot of “diets” call for a cheat meal anyway. So, as long as you indulge in moderation and stay within reason while meeting your nutritional standards, why not. I have recently overcome a plateau by easing up on my diet and just eating more food in general. My strength and size have increased while my body fat has remained in check. Bottom line, stick with what works for. Don’t take what this guy or any other person on the Internet says as gospel. Trust me you and your general mental well being will thank you for it.

  4. Tish says

    I just read this today and loved it. I have been going crazy on learning to eat clean and I just need to go back to eating healthy for myself. One thing I can say has helped me is when I started the clean eating was eating often it actually helped me and I was able to lose weight. I can’t wait to get your newsletters and read those, it always good to get off the fad and find facts. Thank You!
    Tish

  5. Mike says

    I’d like you to put out your diet for a typical week, I’m curious to see how much ‘dirty’ food you consider to be in moderation

    • says

      I don’t know what “dirty” food is, therefore I cannot provide you with how much I consume. the whole idea of “dirty” and “clean” food is just silly.

  6. SLJ says

    No offense, but you don’t really seem to have much of an idea of what you’re talking about. Clean eating is defined in varied ways for each person because of different health requirements. Some see clean eating as gluten-free or meat-free because that’s what their body requires to keep specific symptoms or allergies at bay.
    Can you answer one question for me? What about making a conscious effort to eat unprocessed food, no chemicals, and larger portions of fruits and vegetables is bad? Any educated nutritionist, doctor, food scientist, etc. will tell you that fresh fruit is better than fruit snacks, whole grains are better than enriched grains, organic is better than pesticide covered, mass-produced produce.
    It seems you didn’t understand what a clean diet was when you started experimenting with it. And just glancing at your website, I’d guess you have an addictive personality, meaning you probably obsess about anything you devote time to. Clean eating is about a change in eating habits to create a healthier lifestyle, not an obsession with a weight-loss plan to make you lose fat and gain muscle.
    You’re a moron and shouldn’t be discouraging what is a great lifestyle for so many people. And do you really need to post so much opinion about something that simply didn’t work for you but has helped so many others? Sounds like you’re still obsessed with clean eating, to me!

    • tom gillan says

      >Any educated nutritionist, doctor, food scientist, etc. will tell you that fresh fruit is better than fruit snacks, whole grains are better than enriched grains, organic is better than pesticide covered, mass-produced produce.

      clearly u have never heard of the crippling disorder of sugar and inlsulin called the diabeetus and if u had u would not be giving out this dangerous advices

      JCDeen I hope u will ban this person from giving dangerous medical advices on ur site such as telling people to eat sugars and incur a diabeetus storm upon there bodies

    • samantha says

      I agree with you, I just read this article and got dumber i think. All you have to do is look into the past of human kind say from the begining and see how much more of a ratio of people are skinny-to-fat and you will see that more and more people eat that crap food and more and more people are fat. Just because the author of this article was obsessed doesn’t mean anything, that is just the type of person he is. Clean Eating does not make people obsessive. I can’t believe i stumbled on this crap article.

      • says

        If either you or SLJ, knew how to comprehend what you read or even knew how to click play on a YouTube video, you’d obviously understand I’m not against eating wholesome, fresh foods.

        I’m merely against the attitude and false beliefs that are associated with the so-called “clean eating.”

        • SLJ says

          And if YOU knew anything about clean eating, you’d know that it’s not about an attitude or false beliefs. I’m not sure where you got your information before you started clean eating, but I’d assume it wasn’t a great source. YOU are the one spreading false beliefs that clean eating is a negative thing. Again, you’re a moron!

          • says

            you obviously haven’t been around many fitness people advocating fad diets or fat loss tips based around clean eating then. Clean Eating, as an idea, is ridiculous because there’s nothing clear on what it actually is. You have an idea of what it means to you. There’s nothing negative, in general, about food. it’s all in how you look at it and it’s effects. perhaps this will enlighten you on my stance. if not, then I’m afraid there is no convincing for you: http://www.wannabebig.com/diet-and-nutrition/the-dirt-on-clean-eating/

  7. Jen says

    Thanks so much for writing this article!! I am currently underweight & trying to gain weight the healthy way. I came across clean eating & thought it looked like the best healthy way to do this. But the more I got into it, the more restrictive it felt. And I can see how it could very quickly lead to orthorexia. I have struggled with eating disorder in the past and am victoriously on the other side & did not want to start another obsession, however it was deceptive because it makes you think you’re “doing the right thing” for your body & excuses it. And like you said, eating nutrient dense foods & everything in moderation is the key of course. This has given me greater insight on how to gain weight healthily but still enjoy life too :)
    One quick question- in many of the clean eating sites i have noticed they recommend a post workout meal of either muscle milk, greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Does this really help post workout or is this another myth?
    Thanks so much again, I hope your article helps a lot of people!!
    Jen

  8. Jenn says

    I think you are absolutely right! I have read the article twice and everything just makes total sense. Although I can respect the whole concept of clean eating, I also think its up there with Atkins and South Beach. It is in our nature to eat and to be honest, I’d take a mars bar over a bowl of steamed broccoli. It’s totally about balance, not restricting ones self from everything that is delicious, otherwise you are more likely to fail. I did Atkins in my early 20′s and I became sooooo obsessed with every gram I ate and everytime I had half a piece of toast, the guilt was so bad I couldn’t bear it. So I started diet pills too to curb the guilt. I could barely write my name from being so jittery but I looked damn good, going from 140-104 lbs without setting foot in a gym. But eventually I crashed and burned and went back ul to 125. Now I’m 30 and after going up to 220 lbs during my pregnancy, I have been determined to lose it (I am now 139 lbs after changing my eating and exercise habits). But I can’t just go from eating Dominos and Nutella for 9 months to just lettuce and tomatoes! I balance lean protein, some veg, while wheat/high protein breads with the odd cheesecake slice or beer. I don’t binge eat and I don’t feel the need to do anything extreme after eating something non salad related. I can totally see how sticking to such a strict diet guideline can actually cause an unhealthy state of mind and obsession so I just won’t do it.

    And the previous poster’s comment about very ones body being different is totally right! Some people will thrive on clean eating and some just won’t. Just like every other fad diet

    And for those that will comment that it’s not about appearance, it’s about lowering cancer risk etc: if I can’t have a mars bar and a 6 pack of beer, I don’t want to live so that’s not really much of a motivation for me. Balance is what is key, not restriction

  9. Sue says

    This doesn’t seem like a productive article at all. It sounds like the author is a sore looser. I started clean eating and have lost 2 inches all the way around. I feel way better for it too. When the author stated “I have no idea where clean eating originated” – it made me take pause and think – so why on earth should I listen to anything you have to say. If you can’t take some time to do basic research (beyond just google) then you really shouldn’t way in on a topic. Eating lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats, and limited amounts of sugar, dairy, and carbs seems like common sense – I don’t know why your arguing (poorly) against it.

      • Alexis H says

        Interesting article. However, in my opinion every individual should really do more personal research and experimentation with what their own bodies require for optimal health. Also one should consider if maintaining that particular lifestyle is a realistic option. Clean eating may not be the best choice for everyone.

        On a different note, there is quite a bit of misleading information in your article about clean eating. (1)Refined foods, heavily processed foods, chemically engineered foods, and pesticide covered foods are not as healthy for the body as organic fresh foods. (2)Some foods that are other wise healthy may cause digestive issues when combined with others (Certain food combinations can cause fermentation in the intestines, gas, bloating, and prohibit digestion). (3)Some people are allergic or intolerant to certain ingredients and/or foods that may not bother some one else. Yes there are many variables to clean eating that may cause confusion but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Nor is there a need to obsess about it. My advice (not that any one asked for it or anything…. :/) would be to stop following fad diets and jumping of bandwagons, and do the work to find out what your body likes and you stick to that!

        • says

          I don’t see where I ever said any of these franken foods were just as healthy? please point me to that statement in the article.

          can you provide data for number 2?

  10. Denise says

    Very interesting! I’m happy I read your article and would like to know more about how you diet.

    Thanks!

  11. Leah says

    Thank you! After having my baby four years ago I gained 40 lbs. I went to the gym and hit it hard and lost almost all that I gained. The last ten became a pain. One of my female bodybuilding buddies turned me on to the eating clean diet. I not only didn’t lose that last 10 pounds but gained another 10! I’m so mad at the whole concept. EVERYBODY’S BODY IS DIFFERENT. I am going back to eating the way I was before the eat clean diet. My body hates fat, that means all fat! I eat nuts and I can feel the difference in my body the next day. My body doesn’t do well on animal protein and dairy either. Pass the beans please! My body thrives on vegetables, fruits and grains and the occasional brownie or two! Done with the clean eating lifestyle!

    • Lily says

      I just eat whatever the hell I want when I want it & workout when I can & I can either lose weight or gain weight depending on the season. As long as it isn’t illegal, I could care less what people think is healthy or unhealthy. I have a degree in health & work as a personal trainer & people put too much emphasis on food…MODERATION IS KEY & as long as you stick to that, nothing else matters!! My grandfather never went on a diet ate whatever he wanted never exercised & lived to be 88 yrs old!

  12. powerless bar says

    that’s weird cus whenever i eat fast food, i get sick and am actually slower on the bike than when i do eat “clean” or make my own food wether it’s fried or not. however, i still do eat “crap” foods such as cookies, cheesecake, etc (assuming everyone else consider those as crappy foods) when i need more calories. i only burn about 4-5000 a day, though. maybe it’s different for others?

  13. Desma Fett says

    Hi I have just started clean eating as people call it. I have just started getting in to the gym and one of my friends told me about clean eating. I was starting to think that I could never have certain foods, lucky for me I don’t find eating most of the clean eating foods hard except when it comes to eating greek yoghurt by it self all I can say is yuck I wanted my normal yoghurt so I did, but I am glad that I have came across this because it means I can still have food that I like as long as I exercise and eat well most of the time I should be ok right ? I like fruit and veggies and lean meats so that is not hard I do how ever have a weakness for cheese nice crusty bread and wine oh and luv chocolate. Do you think it is ok to have a cheat day and how many times is good to exercise I do 4/5 days a week is that enough ? Thanks

  14. Healthy eating is all about balance says

    I thought dirty food was when it fell on the floor and you didn’t pick it up within the 10 second rule.

  15. Carol says

    I like your article your right with eating in moderation I lost 30 pounds just portiom control and exercise. But after 6 months I could no longer lose any bodyfat even tough I did more cardio and lifted heavy. as frustrated as I was I was getting acne so I changed my diet to eating only foods that can spoil and my face cleared as well as my bodyfat went done drasticly. Maybe as people say clean eating is easier to digest now if I eat out I get a stomack ache. Dont get me wrong I cheat too but one meal once a week.

    • says

      it’s not about the foods you were eating. it’s more so about the amounts. I’m not saying that it’s okay to eat junk food all the time, but white rice over brown rice, or having a burger from McDonalds every now and then is not going to hinder progress.

  16. Michelle says

    I’ve just read this article after googling clean eating. Before google I thought clean eating simply meant eating food as unprocessed as possible. You know, fruit, veg, chicken, fish, and avoiding highly processed foods like McDonalds, frozen dinners, packet chips and diet coke!!! I certainly didn’t have any thoughts about ‘dirty’ food. I think people make things, including weight loss, harder than it needs to be. It’s not rocket science. Less calories in and more calories out = weight loss. For the most part, unless you’re an athlete or have certain medical conditions, what and when you eat is irrelevant for weight loss as long as you follow the less in more out rule. Now clean eating for a long and healthy life is a something we should all be aiming for. Just don’t get caught up in the mentality of clean and dirty. Try swapping the words unprocessed for clean and processed for dirty…makes MUCH more sense I think :)

    • says

      and this is a perfect example of the point I’ve been making. we all have different *beliefs* around what clean eating is or should be. So we should stop putting these labels on our food, and worry about bigger issues.

  17. Kim says

    I lost approximately 25 pounds just by increasing my exercise and controling what I was eating (not just calories, but more veggies, less pasta/pizza, etc). And now, I want to drop the last little bit and get those abs you discussed. So I cleaned up my diet even more, and dropped another 5 pounds. Do I still enjoy breads? yes but much less than I used to. Do I still drink beer? Yes, but I try to limit it to social events and with fall approached, football games. Do I drink wine? Yes, but I limit myself to 1 glass of red. I follow some principles of clean eating, and if I eat something out that is greasy I feel sick so the clean eating has definitely affected my body. Clean eating helped me…but then again, I didn’t go crazy with it.

  18. Paul says

    Heard of you from John Romaniello’s website, I really like your approach JC and will be keeping an eye on your blog in future.

    I agree completely with you that no food is inherently good or bad, it’s all about the overall bigger picture. That said, and this may be something of a niche area, I’m as interested in the potential of the anti-aging effects of eating in certain ways as much as I am with eating to maximise performance or to look good naked or whatever.

    So for me, large amounts of sugar or trans fats from ‘junk’ food probably isn’t conducive to my goals.

    • says

      hey Paul,

      I’m in much agreement with you. I’m definitely trying to maximize health and longevity, so I don’t see a ton of trans fats/junk in my future, but every now and again, it’s not that big of a deal.

      thanks for reading.

      JC

  19. Jessica says

    You make a good argument against clean eating but it seems to be from a purely superficial point of view. One of the main motivations for eating clean should be to eliminate cancer causing processed foods from our diets and increase our chances of longevity. Its all very well saying that as long as you stay within your set calorie intake you will be able to maintain a lean body but you may be ingesting stuff that is incredibly detrimental to your long term health….aspartame, HFCS etc. Thats not to say that you shouldnt cheat on ocassion, everything in moderation!

      • Healthy Henry says

        We ARE individuals so always listen and respond to only to your body. For example if you feel great after something you ate, record the type and amounts as well as the ingredients. This means your body responds well to these. Also make sure you’re eating as a result of “refueling” and not because a television show, commercial made it look good. At this point remember whether this food made you feel good or bad and dwell on that. “What works for one individual does not always work for another”

  20. Maria says

    I agree with some of the other people; clean eating is perfectly fine in and of itself, and you’re just making a [lengthy] excuse for not having the will power to stick to it. Many people, myself included, have the strength, mental power, and iron will not to reach for that chocolate chip cookie. Every night, I eat leafy greens with a hearty helping of fresh chicken and feel GREAT about myself afterwards. Sure there are nights when I wish I could eat more or times where I want to take a bite of a brownie, but I use the iron will GOD gave me to resist temptation.

    Matthew 6:13 states “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” I apply GOD’S teachings to my diet and I believe that gives me the power to eat clean. Those who are too weak and have strayed from the Light need not write articles like this to let other people know that this is fine. It’s NOT!! There is no reason anyone should be told that eating a chocolate chip cookie is fine. That is the reason America is so OBESE these days! Because of misinformation like this.

    To anyone reading this: DO NOT DWELL ON EVIL THOUGHTS AND SUCCUMB TO TEMPTATION!! GOD is here for you and he has GIVEN you the power to eat clean and be healthy….

    • Overlord Chrisu says

      “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

      1 Timothy 2:12

      • Helloooooo says

        Both of you morons took the scripture you quoted OUT OF CONTEXT.

        Maria…I’ve lost weight without following the clean eating hype. Portion control, moderation, cardio and weights. It’s not complicated.

    • Ed says

      Maria, by your post its evident you don’t know nothing about Scriptures and about diet..so please next time stay quiet if you don’t have something useful to say. You can’t be applying Scriptures to eating habits, is like downgrading the Scriptures.

  21. AC says

    I think it’s you that is the problem, and not “clean” or healthy eating. You can’t seriously believe that eating processed foods with artificial chemicals/coloring/preservatives is just as good for you as lean proteins, fruits, veggies and nuts. Yes, it is better to eat an orange than a whole glass of juice, for the obvious reasons. But in case it’s not obvious, do you know how many oranges it takes to make a big glass of OJ? Of course that is too much sugar (natural or not) to take in at one time. I eat healthy foods 90% of the time with the occasional splurge of tex-mex or pizza. I don’t “obsess” about it, overexercise, stare at myself in the mirror, etc. I eat healthy foods because they make me feel better. I have more energy, and yes, an added benefit is that I lost a few pounds. But that’s not why I changed my eating habits. It wasn’t to lose weight. It’s because I started caring about what I put into my body. Processed foods? Anything with corn, canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup or any kind of soy product are more than likely made from GMO foods. I, personally, do not want that in my system. OMG, I could go on and on, but I won’t. Long story short (well, not so short) is that we should all eat whole, healthy, unprocessed foods. It will NOT cause eating disorders. Just stop obsessing about your weight or body. Concentrate on feeding that body nutrients and not crap, and stop looking in the freaking mirror. It’s your weight/body obsession that is the problem

    • Dolan Duck says

      What do you mean “too much sugar?” Unless you’re a diabetic with a sensitivity to sugar (which you didn’t take note of, so I’ll assume you aren’t), there’s no such thing as “too much sugar.”

      Sugar is a carbohydrate – why is taking in 60g of sugar, from any source, viewed as taboo while eating a bowl of your whole grain, paleo pasta (~60g of carbs) completely fine? Is it because the paleo pasta has been scrubbed clean whereas the 60g of OmFgSUGARZzz is .. well, sugar? The only reason “sugar” has a negative connotation associated with it is because some parent let their kid get fat on Halloween one year by ingesting several pounds of sugar. The whole point of this article is that if you take everything in moderation, you’ll be fine. I guarantee that if you overeat your “healthy foods,” you’ll wind up putting on a few pounds. Don’t believe me? Try it.

      Just because something worked for you doesn’t mean it’s the end-all, be-all and that everyone should follow it. I’m glad your eating lifestyle makes you feel better. That’s what everyone is here for after all, right? Eat your “whole, healthy, and unprocessed foods” if that’s what suits you, but get off your soap box and quit preaching that it’s the one and only way to do something. That’s how shit like Jehovah’s Witnesses and CrossFit get started.

    • Emily says

      What is GMO? Please help, I’m going crazy. In 2 months I’ve done fitness pal, BeyondDiet (clean eating) and now WW. I don’t know which way is up?!?!?

  22. Veronica says

    There’s no reason to become obsessed with clean eating. Obsession is character issue and has nothing to do with eating clean. Eating clean simply means no added preservatives, chemically things we can’t pronounce, etc.,. Eating as much whole, natural food includes meat, potatoes, veggies and fruit all of which are the basis of a healthy diet. Eating products that have a shelf-life of two years because of the preservatives that are added, not so healthy.

    • says

      you have to define what healthy is. is it a certain amount of vitamins and minerals? What about the boxes of cereal that contain way more V and M’s than a piece of fruit?

      I’ve already made my point over and over and over again both in video and in writing (3 articles on this subject), so I don’t need to make it again. Clean eating, in this context, is just a belief. nothing more.

  23. park says

    You can’t really believe what your saying…. you don’t even really say anything… clean eating isn’t that the orange juice is bad, its a GLASS OF OJ. to eat an orange gives you the juice, its sugar, and the fiber…. there is so much that you haven’t researched its even silly that I am addressing this… it doesn’t take much education to see the truth in clean eating.

  24. Stacey says

    Just wanted to say thank you for writing this article. Fitness is a big part of my life, which of course goes hand in hand with making reasonable food choices. The pendulum swings so heavily when eating habits start taking on labels. I thought your article made a great point of discussing how illogical it is to make stand alone whole foods “good”, and yet taking those same foods and combining them can sometimes be condemned as a “bad” incarnation.

    I have a long history of disordered eating that had to be worked through, but old fears sometimes creep in. I often think to myself that this strategic labeling does more harm than if a person learned that deprivation is more of an enemy than the occasional cookie.

    I get that often food choices are driven by a desire for a particular result. I also want to live my life and enjoy what I ingest. I think we can have it both ways. Lets beat that dead horse: Moderation is key.

  25. Cabo says

    I understand your frustration with your diet when you were eating clean. Perhaps, it had more to do with the lack of flavor and not the food itself. If I eat quinoa or brown rice by itself it is rather bland and not so enjoyable. Now if I add fresh tomatoes, kalamata olives, peppers, basil, lemon and heck let’s live it up and add some cold pressed olive oil as well as salt and pepper…what a different eating experience.

    I think it comes down to learning how to cook, knowing what flavors go well together to make eating clean a successful lifestyle. My suggestion is that you enroll in a coking class or two :)

  26. Doesn'tMatter says

    I enjoyed reading the comments more than the article I think!

    I am your average reader and figured I’d throw my 2cents in…

    The title of the article was meant to incite curiosity. You all read it. Think of all the others who read who may not have felt the need to comment. The clean eating fans are barking their indignation, some readers are looking for insight into weight loss/eating, overweight readers might have printed this out and are waving it around eating a candy bar, and a few are genuinely touched by his story. Those are the people who will buy his books and it will only really affect those people. Its all about marketing. For myself, it was an interesting read to hear one person’s opinion, that’s all this video/article was all about. His experience with “clean eating” for the purpose of extreme fitness (read: goal) was build-up to his point.

    I may have entirely missed said point of the article, however what I believe he was getting at was unless you were the man/woman to have “trademarked” the phrase “Clean Eating”, you shouldn’t cast judgement on others for their eating habits. If you are happy/healthy with the choices YOU are making, and your friends are happy/healthy with the choices THEY are making, then who cares? Are you going to lose sleep at night wondering if the cupcake they ate will give them cancer? (Or whatever). However if you are struggling with health issues, conditions, diseases, etc. then obviously more care & consideration must be made.

    Food = fuel. Over the ages we’ve turned it into art, money, entertainment, and comfort. Its not wrong to love food, in moderation, as he stated over and over. This can be said for anyone of any “lifestyle”. There are just as many delicious vegan cake and cookie recipes as there are full-fat/full-refined sugar ones. A healthy lifestyle is about finding balance for your body.

    Now, the only recurring “dirty” thing I found personally was the idea of “cheating”. Cheating implies bad, wrong, unacceptable. That’s a horrible way of looking at having “variety” in your diet. The world is so unpredictable, you can’t prevent a 100% clean environment, and I know that’s not what the average clean-eater is striving for, but it doesn’t hurt to throw something “dirty” at your immune system once in awhile. Vaccinations are given to build up antibodies.

    I’m not a nutritionist, I don’t have the same level of education as well-seasoned/practicing clean eaters (and honestly, I hate the term “Clean Eaters”, it makes you sound like a character out of The Land Before Time). Bottom line is, healthy means something different for everyone. Unless YOU are a person’s doctor/health practitioner, the only thing you should be giving is support. Take things with a grain of salt (ha-ha paleo enthusiasts! Just kidding. salt prevents goiter BTW) and do what is best for YOU!

  27. says

    Some people I work with are into the whole Clean Eating thing, and just listening to their monologues on the subject made me shake my head. The whole “five ingredients or less” concept makes no sense, as it doesn’t take into account what those ingredients are. I was struck by the lack of a balanced nutritional plan in he Clean Eating mantra. To me, at least, Clean Eating seems more like a cult philosophy than a diet or way of living. Good job exposing this to the world; keep up the good work, and be fearless.

  28. says

    I think the one shortcoming of this article is that it wasn’t lengthier, where you could’ve gone on to address more breadth in this topic. It might not be obvious to some but the message you’re sending is, in fact, worth our attention.

    I cannot agree more with you that imposing so many restrictions on yourself can be counter-productive or at least unpleasant. And who are we to say what food is ‘bad’ or ‘good’, when most of what we eat falls in the grey area? The answer is, as you said, moderation. Don’t put off something for so long that you binge; have a little bit here and there, you won’t die. Its like something I was told when I was on some other diet awhile back:

    “Food is made available for you to eat and survive, so don’t be arrogant and deem this or that bad. Eat proportionately and in moderation and you’ll be fine.”

    The important take away from your article is, I should think, mainly targeted at those who haven’t really settled for an eating plan they’re comfortable with or benefiting from.

    But if you avoid milk like its the plague and swear by unsalted food, and you’re happy and healthy, then fine, you are entitled to that.

    Just nobody go round telling others they’re wrong and something else is right. Provide them with the information that they can use should they want, because just as we were given the time and space to make mistakes and learn, we should give the same respect to others whom we might think are making the wrong decisions.

    I can’t wait to read your ebook :)

  29. Paul Ewing says

    So you chose a completely irrational diet and suffered the consequences, and now you’re trying to tell everyone “Clean Eating is a Scam?” You shouldn’t be giving advice until you get you’re own shit together. I’ve been “clean eating” for the last two years because I enjoy the health benefits. I stay away from most grains and eat mostly meat and vegetables. If I go out on the weekend with friends, I still eat healthy on my own accord, but if I want a burger, I won’t deny myself. The purpose to clean eating is being healthy and happy with yourself; if you’re taking it to the extreme to where you aren’t happy, then of course you’re overdoing it, but your disregarding diet is even worse… Get you’re act together before you post this kind of nonsense.

    • Chris says

      The bottom line of this article was that everything needs to be taken in moderation, and it’s perfectly fine doing so: something people don’t seem to understand, or refuse to believe is fine. This article is directed towards people who are completely hell-bent on sticking to a “clean” diet (milk is clean, ice is clean, SMOOTHIE IS UNCLEAN AND SINFUL) or omitting things such as grains from their diet because some paleo Crossfitter said carbs above [(π/3)*(Body Weight in eV/C)^3] grams a day causes unwanted weight gain.

      What Juicy here is getting through to (most of) his audience is that if you eat a cupcake, chances are you’re not going to die (note: using that as a metaphor, diabetics pls consult your physician before eating said cupcake) or grow love handles. I’ve read this article to my grandchildren many times over the years, and I can tell you it’s about overcoming the mental battle with food more than anything – something many people, myself included, struggled with (or are still struggling with). Knowing you can eat that cupcake every now and then and it will literally have NO effect on your metabolism, ass size, gym performance, etc. is a HUGE sigh of relief for some people. Being free mentally is part of being healthy too, is it not?

      After reading your post the first time, I instantly pictured you as someone who is obsessed to a fault with “clean” eating and is set on defending your beliefs to the death – sorry to say, but you’re not getting any reassurance here. Sounds like you’re the one who needs to get your shit together.

      BULGARIA

    • larry sanfort says

      Paul the problem is you’re focusing on the things in life that don’t really matter. When I was a kid I had hopes and dreams. We all did. But over time, the daily grind gets in the way and you miss the things that really matter, even though they are right in front of you, staring you in the face. I think the next time you should ask yourself “Am I on the right track here?”. I don’t mean to be rude but people like you I really pity. So maybe you could use the few brain cells you have and take advantage of the knowledge I have given you now. Good luck.

    • Trixielikafox says

      I think its amazing how little we misunderstand things spoken in our own language. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe many are missing the message that it trying to be conveyed. JC Deen is not trying to say that some foods in nature are not more healthy to consume then others because we all know that a diet consisting of twinkies and 16 oz steaks exclusively will bring us to the grave a lot faster than many other choices.
      The “Clean Eating” beliefs or concepts are not necessarily a “scam” in nature, it is more the culture that surrounds it and when taken to the extreme it creates issues in the way you view others (superiority complex) and food (causing over indulgences ie. To restrict things from your diet just to cheat on it later by consuming those very things can be very counter intuitive because of binge eating which creates guilt and unhealthy associations with food.)
      Again correct me if I am wrong, when he is referring to “clean eating” he more so referring to the belief system and culture rather than the food itself. He is using extreme concepts and verbiage in order to get people to open their eyes and see the dangers of taking anything beyond its appropriate moderation. Teaching people that words and labels are powerful and can easily cause more harm than good. Such as labeling certain foods “clean” and “dirty”. He is trying to teach that it is better to see food in varying degrees rather than black and white. It is better to look at food and see the “macro composition” of it and see how it fits into your bodies personal needs. Our bodies are so amazing they will let us know if what we are putting in them have a negative effect on us or not, but if we let obsessions or restrictions, whether that be food addictions or diets, get in the way of us hearing our bodies we are not living a balanced lifestyle.
      I for one think that many of the philosophies adapted by the “clean eating system” are good guidelines for a healthy existence but they were not created by them and are not exclusive to them. The arrogance that one must have to say that it is the only healthy way to eat and live is way off. One clue to this is just look at all the controversies over the foods that are fence sitters some consider clean some dirty. I say its fuel use it wisely and I’ll echo many including my mother that we should have “moderation in all things” whether that be food, work or play.
      I hope I was able to convey my ideas clearly without offending or misrepresenting anyone. This is my opinions and interpretation of what I have read here and many other places.

    • Heather says

      And to that I say please read the entire article before you pop off. Your philosophy on eating is identical to his and had you read all the way to the bottom your retort would have been one of gratitude instead of major attitude.

  30. Stefanie says

    I kept waiting for the damages on your organs from eating processed foods to be brought up.. but it never came! Dyes, high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, and transfats, HAVE been linked to obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Would be nice if these were all addressed rather than just relating clean eating to a weight loss muscle gain perspective. Man made chemicals ARE harmful…. but you just related the calorie comparisons of clean and dirty food. what are your views on this?

    • says

      Show me the studies – the abstracts from pubmed and not some gross over generalization of a story you read in the NYTimes.

      Also – did you watch the video, or read the other articles in the series? I’m not against eating whole foods, and that should be clear in this article, the video and my other writing. I’m merely making a statement (and I feel like I’ve said this a million times by now) that people are ruled by a BELIEF in something that’s just not there. “clean” eating is just some way of making people feel good about their food choices, and for some it even gives them a superiority complex.

      /rant

      • Sonja says

        get a grip dude your a whack job you say clean eating is a scam because its a belief. the only true statement there is yes it is a belief system. just like vegetarianism or religion. clean eating isn’t just a diet or can’t make you anorexic. you eat clean because you believe in clean as in chemical free both in food and in your environment. it’s a life choice no different from choosing where to live if you don’t want to live in polution you my choose to live in the country, if that’s not an option you compromise. its the same with your food if you are choosing what you believe is the best option for your bodies health and if you believe chemical free (clean) is best where is the scam? the girl who claimed she lost too much weight is no different to other kids that leave home and eat badly and gain weight, they are immature (this is not meant to be offensive, but a matter of fact. all people are immature about life, including health decisions until they begin making those on their own and gain wisdom over time). have ideas about things but are still learning to bring their knowledge and beliefs into their own personal package. eating clean didn’t make her skinny, under eating or excessive exercise or stress or health issues or any number of factors did thatch. choosing chemical and preservative free does not Alone make someone fat,skinny,or scamful! if you say clean eating is a scam do you also believe God is a scam afterall not everyone believes in him but most acknowledge a persons right to believe in him. let people believe in their own food choices without telling them it’s a scam, the food is real, health concerns are real, chemicals are real, there is no secret food or wonder drug someone is trying to sell,they are just promoting what is already naturally there. move on man!

        • Chrisu says

          “scamful” isn’t a word

          God isn’t a scam, he’s a fairy tale

          The “enter” key on your keyboard exists for a reason

          There are some major fallacies in your argument, your grammar being one [hundred] of them, I’m honestly not sure where to begin

          Usually we run psychiatric tests to get a good foundation on your argument, so I need you to answer this question: y u mad?

          • Sonja says

            Well obviously “scamful” isn’t a word. Didn’t realise that sending a comment through would be considered a document worth the scrutiny of proof reading or that I was being graded to be taken seriously or not.

            I believe that people are entitled to their opinions, including me, and if you want to rebut that then it makes for good debating. However, as I don’t believe I entered a Grammar Contest, I think I will move on.

            Oh and yeah, I found the enter button, thanks for the tip!

            Hey if you believe God is a fairytale you’re not alone. Whilst I think fairytale is just as insulting a comment as SCAM is to those who do believe, I personally don’t believe in God but respect others rights not to be ridiculed about what they believe.

            Would you mind telling me what in my comment is not true, so I have the chance to rebut or gracefully accept that, yes, perhaps I was wrong?

        • says

          Hey Sonja, is Haagen-Dazs considered “clean” because it has no preservatives in it or is it considered “dirty” because it’s ice-cream and you’re socially conditioned to say ice cream is a “dirty” food?

        • zondra says

          They need to do way instain mother> who kill thier babbys. becuse these babby cant frigth back! it was on the news this mroing a mother in ar who had kill her three kids. they are taking the three babby back to new york too lady to rest my pary are with the father who lost his chrilden : i am truley sorry for your lots

          • Chrisu says

            How is babby formed? Let me show the ways.

            Find girl with depth, and breasts, and look bright

            Get her drunk till she has no sight.

            Till she reasons not and hath no grace.

            Take her to a level ya don’t see most days

            Convince her of a need in the dark of night

            Get touchy-feely, whether wrong or right.

            Begone with purity, sing the opposite’s praise

            But passion, that’s something ya can put to use.

            One shall feel no grief as one laith

            In the morning, the fogginess she’ll lose

            Desperately she’ll wonder why she’s in your bed…

            But it’s too late, she can’t unchoose…

            that’s how babbby formed, that’s how girl get pragnent.

      • Bev says

        Perhaps it’s your attack of clean eating that has clouded the message you are trying to convey in your article. Anyone who happens to be pro-clean eating will automatically have thier backs against a wall, those who oppose it will naturally side with you and condem clean eating as bad. If your point is that processed foods, high fat foods, etc can co-exist in a healthy diet, why not say that? What you did in your college days can be very much likened to the beginnings of an eating disorder. The problem wasn’t with the clean eating but the way you incorporated it into your daily life. This same scenario could have happened with eating any diet plan. I agree with the main point that moderation is the key, but I think you would also agree that a lifestyle of eating mostly processed foods is counterproductive to a healthy diet. Balance is the key.

  31. jojo says

    It sounds like what you were doing was extreme! The clean eating diet I know & love is full of tasty meals, and recommends a cheat meal once a week, which I save for my saturday night out with mates! I have healthy meals, but avoid processed crap like white rice & flour – did you know they’re bleached?! I eat butter, not margarine – again, bleached & dyed yellow. I have plenty of fruit, veg & meat and never feel hungry or like I’m missing out, because its MY CHOICE and I wouldnt have done if i wasn’t happy with it. I don’t give a shit if my friends eat crap, and do it in front of me.
    Regarding juice, when you consume a glass of organic OJ, preservative free or full of chemical crap, It’s still equivalent to about 6 oranges! That us a lots of sugar, natural or otherwise. The key to any diet is balance. If you are naturally obsessive you will take anything too far & you clearly did. It was obviously not sustainable for you & you have now worked out your own lifestyle needs and are happy & healthy as a result. To say clean eating is a scam is a gross generalisation and unfair, simply because something didn’t work for you, when you were young, uneducated & obsessive – thats just wrong. I appreciate the valueof this post as a warning to people to maintain healthy balance in life & not go crazy!

  32. Tim says

    I’m just starting to get into clean eating but, not for weight loss as much as overall health. It’s just my opinion but, if a social life prevents you from eating healthy…why that seems real backwards. Diet plays a role in insulin regulation, blood pressure, cholesterol and immune system just to name a few. Put these things out of whack and one could be potentially socializing a lot more with a medical professional or not at all.
    I’ve been told to focus on what you can eat instead of what you can’t eat and find healthy replacements for those things you tend to fall week for. Nowadays there are social circles built around healthy lifestyles so, expand your social horizons make a new friend or two. There are some clean eating guides that miss the mark on some things but, I wouldn’t call the whole concept a scam and the OP seems more concerned about socializing than healthy eating habits.

    • says

      Did you watch the video?

      Socializing is not the point – it’s the problem with this faulty belief system that I’m frustrated with. clean eating obviously means something different to you than it does anyone else.

      You can’t define what clean eating is, so telling people to “eat clean because it helps regulate insulin, blood pressure, etc” is confusing.

  33. says

    Wow, people totally missed the point of this article.

    Obviously if you’re nowhere near in shape, are struggling with attaining basic health, or just really sensitive to processed foods, you might need to be a bit more strict about your diet. JC is talking about the myths of what “clean” is and clean/dirty eating in the context of aesthetics and body composition. He’s not advocating eating processed junk for every single meal and claiming it will have no effect on health. He’s just saying you can have some “dirty” foods occasionally if you’re out with friends, and STILL meet your fitness goals without being super obsessive about your diet.

  34. LyssaK says

    Just changed my life! I am just stating out in my own apartment and trying to cook very healthy. I loved clean eating, but it has left me miserable about cooking, food, and nutrition. All I was trying to do was eat healthy and I lost 6 pounds (Mind you I’m 5’10” and already at the very bottom of my weight range–can you say bag of bones?). Even my family and friends were starting to notice the changes in my body and my clothes were hanging off of me. I have never felt so weak in my life and seriously felt like it was becoming a problem because cooking is one of the things I love most in this life. I was totally sucked in and becoming horribly thin. You made me reconsider how I look at foods and not be negative when I want something sweet or want to enjoy a burger with my friends. Cheers to healthy AND hearty!

  35. Danielle says

    The way I was introduced to clean eating is totally different to your view. Yes, I did start “eating clean” to lose weight. But I also appreciate the fact that by eating clean, I am treating my body well. Sure one piece of pizza and a meal of chicken and rice have the same caloric value, but pizza (lets use for example a bought pizza) has way more transfats in it than the clean meal. And you can’t denie the impacts that would have on your body if you ate pizza on a regular basis. In the same token, I believe it is unhealthy to completely limit your diet – it is important to treat yoursel once in awhile. None of my ‘fitness freak’ friends limit themselves all the time. We all treat ourselves to something we love one a month or so.
    All I’m saying is what is wrong with priding yourself on putting healthy foods into your body, rather than sugary cereals and fast food.

    • says

      it’s just that – why should you be proud or any better than someone else who likes to have a treat every now and then?

      If I’m at a party, and you’re busy telling me just how awesome your diet is, and subsequently how awesome you are for not having some chips and salsa with me, you’re a BORE and probably uninteresting for the most part.

  36. Em says

    Thank you for this article. I was sucked into that cleaning eating, must only lift hard and heavy, HIIT only lifestyle and it has triggered MASSIVE eating issues. Thankfully I am now ‘seeing the light’ and am slowly working towards having a better relationship with food, not one that is dictated by bro-science and myths.

  37. says

    I think anyone who “knocks” Clean Eating” or another way to put it is an older term…”Whole Foods” is not nutritionally educated . Eating foods as close to the state they were grown in..It’s Health! God made it Whole, so eating it whole is the most beneficial! More flavor, more nutrition, more fiber, Our bodies can use WHOLE FOODS much more efficiently, and Processed foods are NOT used efficiently at all and cause so many more problems for us. So many diseases can be solved just by changing what you eat. I know, I am a Clean Eater for life. I have a list of things I have been delivered form that No Doctor could figure out ! Changing my food intake to Clean, CHANGED MY LIFE! and i HAVE IN TURN helped OTHERS change THEIRS!

  38. Krysty says

    I too think that the title of this post may not be the best…I do however think that your opinion on that clean eating is a “scam” is complete crap. Hydroxicut, and other weight loss pills, those are scams. Eating clean (read: unprocessed, chemical, preservative and hormone free) is a way of life for some. And every single authority on the subject will tell you that before you start this lifestyle, define what it means to you. Now, I have to ask…if you think that it’s a scam, do you then think that it’s acceptable to eat only processed food? Our bodies have been designed through centuries of evolution to process whole, actual foods; not the crap from the drive-thru. And let’s face it….that is not anything close to real food. I personally, don’t think that eating clean in a scam. It has been well documented since the beginning of last century what amazing benefits eating clean has to offer. I do not know of anyone who follows the clean eating lifestyle that is overweight, or has high cholesterol, or the like. Eating clean is about putting food into your body that is unprocessed, that contains ingredients that are found in nature (not modified by some dude in a lab). I don’t feel good about eating fake food. I do think that eating food in as natural a state as possible is not a scam and that there are zero downsides to that.

  39. Gill says

    I have been into health, fitness, and wellness almost my entire life. It wasn’t until college of course, when I really began digging deep into the subject. First, let me say that this is a well-written article but I feel that your title is inappropriate. Hold on before the defense mechanisms come up. Here are a few reasons why:

    A body-building/figure competition (or similar name) is a beast all in its own. I have seen and help to train individuals. The extreme diet is just that, an extreme diet. I feel that it is unfair to loop clean eating in with something of this caliber. The diet is unrealistic and cuts out certain foods that I consider “clean” because it’s mainly about fat content and your % of protein/carbs. In your article you talk of obsession with foods, as many participants in such a competition do.

    Another reason I feel the title is inappropriate is that clean eating is not a trademark. I myself eat clean 85% of the time. What I mean by clean is no preservatives or artificial additives. Simple as that. I agree with you in the aspect that it can be detrimental mentally to restrict yourself from certain foods you may like (i.e. ice cream) but I am a firm believer you can make almost anything healthier the majority of the time.

    Lastly, I would like to touch back on the obsession aspect and the negative effects it has on individuals. A person with an obsessive tendency will become this way towards ANY diet. On top of that, a problem is that when any diet or new trend grows like wildfire, the core idea is mutilated by lack of education, business ventures, and ill opinions.

    EDUCATION is key. There are so much research available and being conducted on how FOOD is a healing source. And how many foods are just the opposite.

  40. Kelly says

    Clean eating isn’t a scam just because you became too obsessed with it and wasn’t able to make it part of your daily life. It’s about a way of life, and if you can’t comfortably make it part of yours, don’t do it.

    • JC Deen says

      hi, Kelly,

      Did you read the article? I said Clean Eating, the false belief, is not serving us. Clean Eating is nothing more than a belief that means something different to everyone – you just proved my point.

  41. Brandon says

    Everyone defending clean eating IS AN IDIOT.

    Longevity is not decided by diet.

    All supercentenarians eat whatever the fuck they want. Some drink alcohol.

    You think eating “Clean” will let you live longer?

    You’re an idiot if you think that.

  42. JoeShit, says

    Are you fucking retarded? Shit, with stupid ass views that ignore logic, you should go see if Fox News is hiring.

    Ass clown. Be sure to hand out heroin to children while you’re at it since being healthy is a scam. It isn’t everybody else’s fault you’re a weakling and you became obsessed. Lame, get a life.

    • JC Deen says

      Heh. I never said there was anything wrong with being healthy. I merely said it’s bad to label foods as clean or unclean and to justify them based upon false beliefs.

    • DFTT says

      Joe, while I can see you spent quite a long time articulating your views on the subject, your stated views are clearly in opposition to your actions. Stating you are logical while expressing an emotional response to the subject matter intimates a reader with the incoherent nature of your thoughts. I would suggest you expand your reading beyond Men’s health and Dr. Oz . Take a look at the plethora of knowledge available on the subject, what you find may be enlightening.

      Executive Summary: Joe, you don’t know what you are talking about. Please, visit a psychologist because I suspect you’re slightly retarded and may be a danger to those around you.

      • Naomi says

        I absolutely love post’s like this because they always become so nasty and as usual religion always get’s involved by those who like to preach.
        I just watched the video and while some of it dragged I think the main point is simply common sense. Yes eat healthy but if your body is craving something then you shouldn’t deny it either. The main point here I think is moderation, people should also look at their portion size by the way. As for the post I read about the lady getting acne, maybe it was the fact that you were already stressing about the last few kg’s that weren’t budging, after all stress/hormones contribute to acne more than what you eat. For those who like to preach about the health benefits sure it’s obviously better for you to eat ‘whole’ foods (sorry don’t like the clean and dirty labelling, sounds like a brothel) to bring in that it will be better for preventing diseases… get a life people. I know so many vegan’s that are so strict in what they eat and go to church for all the religious people that wanna bring god into it and they have had cancer or lost immediate loved ones to cancer. I lost my husband to cancer at 37 yrs of age, unfortunately it’s life we were born to die.
        As for the titlle ‘Clean Eating is a Scam’ that’s what brang me to this site as it is the latest fad that i’m hearing of lately. As far as I’m concerned anything that promotes they want to help you live a better life ( right after you give your card or bank details) is a scam as they’re more into it for the money. Joe, I think your article was good, obviously most people will have a whinge session but i’m sure they’ll get over it and move on when the next fad comes along. Thanks again and keep the articles coming, if people don’t like they shouldn’t read it. Otherwise they make for good entertainment with their post’s.
        Naomi :0)

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