How clean really is 'clean eating'?

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Clean eating, veganism and having Instagram-worthy smoothie bowls have become increasingly popular over the past couple of years. While I’m sure you all know that veganism is not consuming or using any animal products, clean eating however, seems to be surrounded by a grey area in definition. In its most basic form, clean eating is being dairy, sugar, gluten and meat free - seems a bit extreme to me? It has been questioned as to whether adopting this kind of diet could possibly spark an eating disorder from being over obsessed with what you eat. This may not be the case though, it could result in a ‘hotter, happier, healthier you’.

Grace Victory recently produced a documentary, ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets’, aired on BBC Three. Grace is a Vlogger who talks about beauty, fashion, body image and mental health, as well as coining herself as ‘The Internet’s Big Sister’. Her documentary is insightful and interesting; I’d definitely recommend you checking it out while it’s still on iPlayer! But in case you don’t get a chance to watch it, here’s a quick round-up and my opinion on the topic!

I learnt a lot of things about ‘health and wellness bloggers’ after watching the documentary, mainly about their qualifications, being that they don’t have any! Dieticians are regulated by the law, but this is not the case for Nutritionists as Grace found out when she discovered a voucher online for a Raw Food Nutritionist Diploma Course for just £29! With less than 20 hours of online study, Grace was a certified Nutritionist with a diploma, giving her enough of a qualification that people would probably listen to her advice.

It can be scary the power that these bloggers have over their audience and the information they spread and how it’s believable and justified because they’re a ‘qualified’ Nutritionist. Information such as ‘when we drink milk, calcium is drawn from our bones in order to rebalance… resulting in a calcium deficit’ – now I don’t claim to be a health expert in any form, but even I was dubious about that and a Doctor featured claimed this statement was ‘scientific nonsense’. Another wellness blogger claims that ‘protein is bad for your body’ to which the featured doctor responds that her claim ‘goes against everything we know about nutrition’.

Grace also tried a variety of different versions of clean eating, the first being the ‘Plant Based Diet’ (more universally understood as Veganism) and began by emptying out her fridge of all things she couldn’t eat, and was left with just vegetables. This type of diet quickly racked up the shopping bill! It was evident that this lifestyle can only be funded by those who could afford to eat expensively. Not everyone would be able to fund this type of diet permanently unless the budget would allow for it. Coeliac UK state that ‘gluten free foods can be 4 times more expensive than normal products’ which for the average person, isn’t attainable.

Stepping away from the lack of qualifications most health bloggers have, there are so many health risks that come with depriving your body of certain food groups while clean eating. Grace interviewed one woman, Brianna, who suffered with anorexia for 6 years almost spiralled back into an eating disorder whilst adopting a clean eating diet because she was focussing so much on food and obsessing over her desire to get raw veganism ‘right’. Even the Clinical Director of an eating disorder recovery clinic warns people away from clean eating, advising it’s unhealthy to restrict or avoid food groups. I whole heartedly agree with this statement; there are so many ways to be healthy without cutting out food groups. Living on a plant based diet, in my opinion isn’t the way forward.

If you want to lose a little weight, or get healthier, more toned or anything else – that’s great! Go for it! But please, if you take anything from reading this, do it the right way. Don’t cut out food groups, don’t restrict your diet to nearly nothing, eat healthily and exercise, or seek advice from an expert – but check out their qualifications and experience first! Combining sensible eating with exercise has had results for decades and are tried, tested and true. Don’t follow people blindly who give nutritional information, only you know your body and what does or doesn’t work for it!

Check out Grace’s documentary, ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets’ here if you haven’t already!

Emily Best lives in Liberty Works in Sheffield. She is studying English and is in her 1st year at Sheffield Hallam University.

Clean eating is a great way to stay healthy whilst at University as it keeps you focused on your studies. Start the next step of the process and browse the Student Accommodation Southampton page for the latest availability. 

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