Clean Eating Isn’t Cool

Jemma is in recovery from anorexia and asks me to share this post with you all. Great job Jemma!   She called it “Eating Disorders Are Cool”.

Eating Disorders are cool. I’m not talking about the ones where people starve themselves to emaciation and end up in hospital within an inch of their life. That’s not cool. That’s Anorexia. I know because I have been there but that’s what people immediately think when you say ‘eating disorder’. But that’s not what I mean, what I’m talking about are the ‘eating disorders’ that are cleverly masked as latest accessory to compare with your friends, who can have the strangest quirks and obsessions, who has made the ‘healthiest’, ‘purest’ ‘cleanist’ meal. If you read the papers, watch the news, scroll through Facebook or look at instragram, you’ll see what I mean. You can’t be blamed for jumping on the band wagon of ‘clean eating’, I mean, everyone is doing it, right? And if you’re not, then you clearly don’t care about yourself or your health. WRONG. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. I am a recovering anorexic in a world full of people, some are telling me that they ‘don’t have an eating disorder’, they just don’t eat gluten, refined sugar, dairy or bread except for every other Thursday at 12.06pm. Please don’t think I am against people who have allergies, members of my family and close friends have health problems which mean they physically cannot eat bread without quite painful and unpleasant consequences and I’ve seen what a real allergic reaction looks like. This is not being fussy, this is having a condition. I’m also not ‘having a go’ at people who choose to not eat a lot of processed food products and are choosing alternatives by cooking meals for their family as part of a healthy balanced lifestyle. These people are aware of what is good for them and what is not so good for them but they don’t allow this or the media to dictate what they fill their cupboards with. These people will pick up a loaf of Kingsmill and place it next to their bag of new potatoes, jar of marmalade and even a packet of biscuits alongside their pint of semi skimmed cows milk – yes COWS MILK. When did that become a no no in the fridges of the people enjoying a bowl of cereal or cup of normal PG Tips? Now it seems if you’re not drinking soya / almond / rice milk then you’re the odd one out. Again, if you’re lactose intolerant, you have to find an alternative to dairy. There are people that ‘prefer’ these milk substitutes and that’s absolutely fine but when you’ve convinced yourself that its because you as person are superior for not consuming cows milk, for whatever reason, this is where the problem escalates…

Having recently read an article written by a very famous female chef where she quite rightly announced that ‘clean eating is merely masking eating disorder’s’ I had to breathe a sigh of relief. I had thought to myself for a while and wondered when this obsession would end? When did food become dirty? When did we become scared of pasta or the humble potato and have to only eat sweet potato? So much so we now add it to chocolate brownies. I say ‘chocolate’, I mean a pinch of pure cacao. This so called brownie will also have no flour, egg substitute and agave nectar instead of sugar. Seriously? This is not a brownie. What happened to baking at home, using fresh ingredients, adding them in yourself to fill your kitchen with the delicious smell of baking and then enjoying your treats, yes treats, with family and friends, washed down with a cup of tea? Apparently this is not allowed within the rules of clean eating. Going to a coffee shop with a friend means pre packing your own snack, preferably one you have made yourself, consisting of ‘raw foods’ such as nuts, dates, some form of nut butter and additional superfood powder. This is the sad, sorry state we have got ourselves into. These people apparently ‘don’t have eating disorders’, even though they’ll spend as much time scouring the list of ingredients of products as anorexics do looking at the calories / carbs / fat content. One rule clean eaters live by it that they have to pronounce every ingredient on the list. This is one I can relate to. I like to know there are real ingredients, fresh produce and that there aren’t any nasty chemicals or additives in my food. I will not, however, go to the extreme of making my own tahini or pesto. Apparently eating a pasta sauce from a jar is also an excludable offence. I have actually enjoyed making my own tomato sauces recently and I must say, they taste amazing! But look in my cupboards, you’ll find an array of homepride jars because, you know what? I actually like them. I cook a fresh piece of chicken, boil new potatoes and steam some vegetables. Never have I seen this meal on any of the Instagram pages I follow and yet this would be a staple meal of meat and veg from my grandparents era (they’re 91 by the way, and both still have all their marbles and in good physical health) my Gran regularly washes her piece of cake down with a glass of red wine.

When did we become scared of food? I spent 6 months in the Priory in Roehampton. Our meals were cooked fresh daily by chefs. They used normal ingredients, potatoes, white rice, vegetables, salads, cheese, meat and puddings. The meals were healthy, balanced and contained everything we needed. The puddings were there obviously to supplement out calorie intake but they were there for the other patients to enjoy. And enjoy, they did. I watched people faces instantly light up when they saw their favourite treat, they’d sit down with fellow patients or friends and family to enjoy their favourite sweet treat. Refined sugars and all! The feeling of nostalgia one gets when eating a food from childhood or that evokes happy memories can work wonders for the soul and coincides beautifully with how the more traditional therapies work. I stand by my belief that eating the food you enjoy can work wonders for the mind and body. Your favourite food is like a hug, and although I don’t agree that food should be used to suppress or enhance emotions, I don’t believe it should be used as a punishment either.

I’m not perfect. I don’t claim to have left behind all my anorexic thoughts and behaviours, I’ll still make some choices based on what I consider to be the healthiest, lowest or ‘safest’ choice. But what I will do is eat the foods I enjoy. I like cereal and toast for breakfast, not quinoa and chia seed porridge. I have a ‘proper’ pudding every night and I snack on cereal bars, yogurt and fruit and I’m not afraid to admit I enjoy chocolate! However, I do like quinoa and avocado, genuinely, and I like to cook healthy meals.  I don’t like chia seed pudding or coconut milk. No matter how good they might be, I don’t want to eat them!

The reason I have written this is because I wanted to express my feelings towards these people who have allowed eating disorders to become acceptable. It has made me angry that people are being allowed to categorise food as ‘dirty’. We all know that regularly eating too much of the high sugar, high fat foods will cause us long term health problems but now what has happened is that we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into believing ‘normal’ food is somehow bad for us and if we don’t consume everything in its most natural state, that somehow we have failed. Can we go back to everything in moderation? Can we make cake without having to add beetroot and sweet potato? To me, ‘eating clean’ is just another way to control what we eat, which is just another way to hide someone’s eating disorder.