Reaction: “Is a Clean Eating Challenge Really Worth it?”

I just read this article from the Huffington post, written by someone who claimed they were eating a balanced diet, who then describes that she was drinking more alcohol “than usual” and was upset to find she couldn’t go out to restaurants as much as she used to.

I have been following a clean eating plan for a few months now, almost half a year. I’ll admit, sometimes it’s a challenge. Of course it’s hard to turn down that doughnut or a beer, but let’s be real. I’m human, I slip up sometimes. It took more than a day for me to gain weight, so it’ll take more than a day for me to lose it. The more times I “excuse” myself from the plan, the slower the process will be. It’s just life.

But this article annoyed me. It was written in a tone that this “challenge” is one of the hardest thing someone could ever imagine to do, and the most expensive. I completely disagree with nearly everything written in this article, and here’s why.

First, the author followed a Buzzfeed article (this one, I assume. It was never indicated), which included two weeks worth of recipes, measuring 1300-1600 calories per day. This is just about right for an average sized woman to lose or maintain weight. Of course, I’m assuming that the author is average size. The author mentioned “I may be used to eating healthy food, but I’m used to eating a little more of it,” which I believe is the problem for many people (including myself). If you eat fruit, that’s great, but fruit is high in sugar, hummus and peanut butter are high in fat….the list goes on. These things need to be considered when you’re eating a “balanced” meal, and often aren’t. Eating “healthy” foods are only healthy in the appropriate amount.

She mentioned that she spent $200 in the first week at Trader Joe’s (which, let’s be honest, is not a financially-friendly store all the time). I was blown away. I spend an average of $60-$80 a week on my groceries. I took a better look at Buzzfeed’s article and menu for the first week. Holy cow! Shrimp, salmon, ground turkey, tuna, chicken…pineapple slices, kale…a beefsteak tomato (what even is that?)?! What! This is all for one person? I understand that Buzzfeed wanted to make clean eating “sexy” with some fabulous looking meals, but it’s unrealistic to have one person cook five different types of meat (with all the crazy fixings) only for one week. Generally, I have two types of protein, maximum, to use for the week, and I get by just fine. Chicken is versatile, as is tofu and even ground turkey.

So, of course, it’s no wonder that this author hated the experience so much. She spent all her time prepping obscure foods, baking things (broiling a grapefruit? Seriously?), and prepping for the next day, that her entire life was spent cooking food or eating it. No thank you, Buzzfeed. Granted, the recipes look great, but I really don’t need kale, fennel, and medjool dates to satisfy my hunger, nor do I prefer to shave carrots into tiny ribbons. Not to mention all the dishes she probably had to wash…ugh!

What made me near-angry about this article, though, was her implication that clean eating makes you a freak, and that you can’t have a social life. She did admit that part of the reason she was in “solitude” for two weeks was because of all the cooking she had to do (thanks, Buzzfeed), but to imply that you can’t go out to dinner because you’re “deprived” of food is simply infuriating to me.

“Want to grab dinner?” “No. Because I have to go home and cook. And I’ll be really sad watching you bite into that cheeseburger anyway.”

Clean eating is not a diet or deprivation of food. This is a lifestyle change, and is what you make of it. I have never been “sad” watching someone eat a burger. Have I really wanted that doughnut? Yeah, I have. So, if I can’t get my brain to shut off the desire by remembering where I want my body to be, if I can’t think of all the great things I have been doing for myself and realize that the doughnut is only a temporary satisfaction, then I cut a piece of it, try it, and never touch it again. If I am served a slice of cake that someone wants me to have, I take a bite and leave the rest. Lifestyle changes are 90% mental and 10% execution. If you go into a clean eating plan with the idea that it’s a “diet” or “depriving” yourself, you’ll see everything around you differently. Imagining that you’re constantly on a “diet” will make you look at the doughnut and say, “I am limited because of this diet. I am not allowed to eat this because of my diet. I hate this.” A lifestyle change is where you look at the doughnut and say, “I know that I’ve been working toward a goal. I don’t want to give up yet. That doughnut really won’t satisfy me, I don’t really need it.”

I feel bad for the author of the article, who spent much to much money and time on this challenge. I can honestly say this lifestyle change has been incredibly positive for me. I save money by not eating out or grabbing drive-through meals, have been an effective meal planner, and saved money at the grocery store. I have friends, lots of them, who drink and eat in varying degrees, and haven’t lived a week in solitude because of my food choices. I continue to inch closer to my goals, and don’t plan to change the process anytime soon!

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