“How come you’re buying ice cream?
Aren’t you supposed to be the healthy one?”
Those were the words that greeted me, caught red handed with a load of ‘big bite’ ice cream in my basket.
It was film night and being the food lover I am, I was doing the ice cream rounds at lidl.
To me, my ice cream laden basket wasn’t that big of a deal:
- My designated ice cream fit into my Calorie allowance for the day
- I had eaten a shed load of fruit and veg and got my protein in earlier on in the day
- And I fancied something sweet to round off my night.
However, to my friend, I was the fitness guy who picked up heavy things, posted motivational memes and ate chicken, broccoli and rice all day.
Whilst it’s true, I spend a fair amount of my time shifting iron in the gym, it’s safe to say I have never posted any motivational memes, and my clean eating days are well and truly behind me.
Like my friend, a lot of folk see eating exclusively clean foods as a key part of any healthy lifestyle though
And the number one dietary choice when it comes to shredding fat.
Thing is, whilst many well intentioned fitness enthusiasts will aim to eat 100% clean, it could just set you up for failure and there are MUCH more enjoyable, healthy and sustainable ways to go about your nutrition.
So why shouldn’t you eat clean?
1. Clean eating SUCKS
Whilst there isn’t a clear cut way to define clean eating
And a vegans definition will be different to a vegetarians definition, which will be different to a paleo enthusiasts definition and so on, for simplicity’s sake, we will consider clean eating as eating ONLY whole foods that once grew, walked, flew or swam.
So think meat, nuts, seeds, fruit and veg.
There’s no doubt that some of these foods taste damn good, especially with some culinary know how
And anyone with some level of common sense will realise that any sound diet for getting jacked, shedding fat or simply getting healthy should be built on a solid foundation of these whole foods.
Even my grandma could have told you that.
But quite frankly, no matter how tasty you find your chicken and veg, there will always be a cookie, ice cream or chocolate sized hole in your belly waiting to be filled.
And trust me when I tell you that completely cutting these ‘dirty’ foods out of your diet will suck real bad.
Can you really imagine a life without Ben and Jerry’s, Reese’s peanut butter cups and doughnuts?
Na, me neither.
Chances are you won’t be able to resist their sweet, creamy lure anyway
And when you do give in, things can get real out of hand, which leads on nicely to the second reason you shouldn’t eat clean:
2. You’re likely to BINGE
When you do eventually get your hands on a cookie or whatever else your belly is calling for, it’s likely to trigger you into an anything goes, no brownies spared, onslaught of feasting I like to call pig out mode.
I’m talking a big ass juicy burger with curly fries, the creamiest of all milkshakes, topped off with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s finest
And that’s after all the cupcakes, croissants and cereal earlier on in the day.
At least that was what my standard cheat day used to look like.
Screw moderation right?
The problem with this was twofold:
- The big ass intake of Calories slowed down my fat loss, adding weeks on to my quest for a six pack (more on this in a sec).
- It screwed with my head, making me jump back on the clean eating bandwagon the following day and try to compensate, only to pig out again next time the weekend struck.
^^^ This is NOT healthy from both a physiological and psychological stand point.
In fact, research suggests that an overly rigid approach to dieting (like the way many approach clean eating) may pave the way to psychological issues around food and eating disorders (1-3).
It is the trap that many clean eaters fall into though; eating nothing but chicken, rice, broccoli etc in the week, only to binge on the weekend, eating anything and everything in sight.
Ultimately this makes the diet unsustainable and leads to poorer results.
3. Your RESULTS will pay the price
The justification I used to give for my weekly junk food splurge was something along the lines of:
“it will ramp up my metabolism”.
Like so many other fitness myths, there is some truth behind this claim
And your metabolic rate will go up to some degree the day that you pig out.
Again, common sense will tell you that it WILL NOT compensate for the shed loads of Calories consumed during your full on pig out session though
And any increase in metabolism will only be short term, lasting a day or so.
If you really want to boost your metabolism during your diet, you’ll need a longer period of re-feeding
And one that is structured, like the diet break I talk about at the end of this blog: http://www.bodytypenutrition.co.uk/blog/the-3500-calorie-myth/
So no, a cheat day won’t ramp up your metabolism and send it into overdrive.
What it will do is add on a shed load of unnecessary Calories, which will slow down your progress and potentially slam the door on fat loss all together.
For example, let’s say you’ve got to eat 2000 Calories per day to lose 1 lb per week.
You have laser-like focus from Monday to Friday, nailing your 2000 Calorie target with 100% clean foods.
You then wake up on your designated cheat day, Saturday, and go ham from dusk til dawn on biscuits, pizza or whatever else your heart desires, racking up a total of 5000 Calories for the day.
That’s an extra 3000 Calories that won’t disappear into thin air just because it’s your cheat day
And would almost completely counteract the hard work you put in dieting throughout the week.
You might see 5000 Calories and think that it’s an unrealistic number, but you would be surprised just how easy it is to eat that many Calories if you’re eating junk all day
And in reality, a 5000 Calorie cheat day is a modest number for some.
So do you really think being rigid with your diet by allowing yourself only clean foods is a good idea if it means you’re more likely to cheat and binge on the weekend?
Yes? No? Maybe?
Still not convinced? Then read on….
4. Clean eating puts you at risk of nutrient DEFICIENCIES
As I said above, the term ‘clean eating’ is wide open to interpretation, with some claiming X food as clean whereas it may be off limits to others.
So there isn’t actual a universal definition for the term, making this next point applicable to some more than others.
Even so, it’s safe to say that many clean eaters will choose to eliminate complete food groups due to their interpretation of what’s clean and what isn’t
And we’ve all heard people claiming you shouldn’t eat gluten, dairy, red meat or whatever else (usually all the good stuff) because they’ll make you fat, sick and half dead.
Whilst it’s true that some people are allergic or intolerant to particular foods so should be wary of them (duh), the vast majority of us have no need to totally exclude complete food groups from our diets
And ironically, by doing so unnecessarily it could end up leading to nutrient deficiencies and therefore open the gate to a whole heap of health issues (4, 5).
So whilst eating a wide array of whole foods that once grew, walked, flew or swam (as I defined initially) obviously won’t put you at risk of nutrient deficiencies, if your definition of clean eating involves cutting out whole food groups, it may well do so.
5. It makes SOCIAL OCCASIONS a pain in the ass
Like I avoid posting motivational memes like the plague, I do my best to steer clear of clichés too. They’re unoriginal, lame and boring, and I like to think I am none of those things.
However, I’ll make an exception here:
“Fitness and nutrition should enhance your life, not dictate it.”
I’m willing to bet that a pretty big part of your life is the social side of thing; going out with friends, having dinner with family and days out with the other half. You know, fun stuff.
Thing is, subscribing to a rigid ‘clean eating’ approach makes eating out whilst sticking to your diet more difficult than removing the spring collars on a barbell.
As unlike us fitness folk, most people really don’t give a rat’s arse about their nutrition and you’ll be hard pushed to find something that fits into a clean diet on most menus.
What does this mean?
- You obsess over the menu and stress out over what’s ‘clean’ and what isn’t.
- You just don’t go all together and end up missing out on the social occasion.
- You say screw it to the diet, pig out mode ensues and you then beat yourself up after (as demonstrated in this post that coincidentally popped up on Facebook as I was writing this).
So either way, you’re unlikely to enjoy your meal out with your friends, family or whoever else to its fullest
And trust me, I’m talking from experience here and used all three of the above back in my clean eating days.
Now, I make use of a 4th option though: Flexible dieting.
What is flexible dieting?
To really understand flexible dieting, read this blog I wrote for Body Type Nutrition after you’ve finished this one: www.bodytypenutrition.co.uk/blog/should-you-eat-the-cookie-the-2-most-common-flexible-dieting-misconceptions/
In the meantime, here are the cliffs:
- Flexible dieting isn’t a diet, but it’s more about your mind-set around nutrition
- And not seeing X food as good and Y food as bad.
- Sure, there are some foods that are more nutritious than others, but it’s the diet as a whole that matters.
- So, a flexible dieter looks at their diet as a whole rather than foods in isolation.
- They understand that it’s ok to include some ‘junk’ foods in their diet so long as their diet is nutritious on the whole and it fits within their nutrition targets for the day.
- So they don’t feel guilty about eating a bit of ‘junk’ as they understand the bigger picture.
- This means they’re more likely to enjoy and adhere to their diet and less likely to binge.
So in short, flexible dieting is just a fancy term us fitness folk use for moderation.
Yeah, boring, I know.
Once you understand the ins and outs of flexible dieting though, it gives you the freedom to actually enjoy your diet whilst getting rid of your love handles, uncovering a six pack and all without those feelings of guilt whenever you pick up a cookie.
Which leads me onto the concluding reason why you shouldn’t eat clean:
6. It’s just NOT NECESSARY
And you can get a six pack, jacked or perform to your max potential without limiting yourself solely to clean foods.
Yeah, nutrient dense foods should be a big part of your diet, BUT completely banning all ‘non-clean’ foods is not the best idea if you actually want to enjoy your diet and sustain it for any length of time.
If fact, this is the result of my last ‘cut’ where I dropped 14 pounds.
Yes, I ate my fruit, veg and all that ‘clean’ stuff. But I also enjoyed chocolate, croissants and/or ice cream every single day.
What’s more is I had no post-diet rebound as I didn’t feel overly restricted during my cutting phase so had no urge to pig out once I reached my goal.
And for all these reasons I’ve mentioned above, this flexible and balanced approach is what I work towards with my clients.
So if you want to get rid of your belly once and for all and bemuse your friends as you uncover rock hard abs whilst eating the foods you love every single day, follow this link and join the facebook group for free advice:
(1) Stewart, T. M., Williamson, D. A., & White, M. A. (2002). Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women.Appetite, 38(1), 39-44.
(2) Timko, C. A., & Perone, J. (2005). Rigid and flexible control of eating behavior in a college population. Eating behaviors, 6(2), 119-125.
(3) Sairanen, E., Lappalainen, R., Lapveteläinen, A., Tolvanen, A., & Karhunen, L. (2014). Flexibility in weight management. Eating behaviors, 15(2), 218-224.
(4) Vici, G., Belli, L., Biondi, M., & Polzonetti, V. (2016). Gluten free diet and nutrient deficiencies: A review. Clinical Nutrition.