Earlier this week, famed chef and author Nigella Lawson spoke out against clean eating, saying that it was a way for people “to hide an eating disorder or a great sense of unhappiness with their own body.”
Nutritionist and National Eating Disorder Association spokeswoman Sondra Kronberg agreed with her, and added that “eating disorders nowadays are about purity and morality. Instead of going to church or synagogue, people are saying, ‘Treat your body like a temple…’ Eating ‘purely’ has taken the place of spirituality.”
There’s no doubt that orthorexia is very real, or that you can give the excuse of being gluten free so you can’t eat carbs or vegan so that you can’t eat burgers… but is it so bad to want to “treat your body as a temple”?
Do I feel like I’m a better human being because I enjoy eating salads and smoothies? No. I don’t feel like that gives me a sort of spirituality; I don’t feel like that gives me any sense of purity.
As a former competitive swimmer whose coach put emphasis on whole foods being fuel for your athletic performance, and as a child of parents who grew their own vegetables and home-cooked every meal, I’ve grown up with the idea that in order for me to feel at my best, I should be eating foods that my body enjoys.
It’s as simple as that. And it’s wrong to generalize about eating disorders being about making your body “clean.” In fact, eating disorders are often about the opposite. Nigella Lawson’s mother may have suffered from an eating disorder, which leads her to have this stigma against clean eating, but my mother taught me to love my body enough to only put whole, nourishing foods in it. It’s only when I deviated from this that I developed an eating disorder. Because having an eating disorder is not loving your body enough to treat it right. Think about it — when you binge, you’re putting more food than your body can physically handle. When you purge, you’re damaging your body by exercising too much or by unnaturally eliminating the food from your body. When you restrict, you’re depriving your body of the food and nutrients it needs. And when you do any of the above, you’re throwing off your natural metabolism and causing serious and often lasting damage to your body, which can take months and even years to repair. But when you stop and give yourself the self-care you deserve, you’re putting whole foods into your body. You’re nourishing it. You’re respecting yourself enough to take care of the only thing you really have in life — your body. Eating to nourish my body was something I had always understood (and could easily do when I was at home), but also was something that I lost when I developed an eating disorder. I ate (or didn’t eat) to punish my body, and to gain a sense of control. What Lawson calls “clean eating,” and what I call “nourishing your body,” was my way of returning to my old self and was my way to recovery.
?Gifts for your soul by @nancylinchen ❤️✨?? What gifts are you giving to your soul? Share with our community below! ??#healthyisthenewskinny #healthybodyimage #selflove #beauty #giftsforyoursoul #free #love #nourish #inspire A photo posted by healthyisthenewskinny™ (@healthyisthenewskinny) on Dec 7, 2015 at 4:35pm PST
Nigella Lawson is right that no food should be stigmatized as “dirty.” I’m not saying you can’t eat butter, bread, cheese or any foods that people sometimes deem “evil.”
I’m saying that you should put foods in your body that your body likes. Feel shitty after eating a burger and fries? Don’t eat it. Don’t feel shitty after eating said burger and fries? Continue eating them. The key isn’t eating “clean” or not eating clean; the key is listening to what your body says.
Movements like the paleo lifestyle are about returning your body to the state it was meant to be, and eating whole foods that aren’t necessarily low fat or low carb.
The reason why people go paleo, vegan, gluten-free or a combination of a variety of “diets” are usually not because they have an eating disorder, but rather because they feel like their body isn’t performing as well as it could be.
Food has been known to solve a variety of health problems, especially arthritis and other autoimmune disorders. For some of these people, eliminating certain things from their diets can be life-changing.
Food should be for enjoyment, but should also be for fuel and nourishment. With the amount of bloggers and restaurants that focus on providing bright, colorful, minimally processed foods that are good for you and make you feel good, but may not necessarily be “healthy.”
Eating shouldn’t been categorized as “clean” or “dirty.” As “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Eating is feeding your body food. Every body is different, and every body requires different foods that make it feel at its best. But eating disorders aside, food plays an important role in society. Lawson added that food and more specifically, our food choices, have become a “status symbol.” As Yahoo Food put bluntly, $10 cold-pressed green juices and quinoa bowls are a lifestyle choice — it doesn’t make you virtuous. So yes, there’s that stereotype of the Hollywood wannabe who drives down Ventura Blvd in her Prius, a cold-pressed green juice in her hand and a vegan quinoa bowl in her backseat.
Antioxidant Overloading on set today (and feeling under the weather ?) so I loaded up on my cold fighting essentials: Juices, Ginger, Vitamin C…no time to get sick! A photo posted by @karliekloss on May 7, 2015 at 10:55am PDT
But how about those of us who truly enjoy drinking green juices and eating quinoa bowls? I know what some of you are thinking: Bull. Shit.
Maybe the thought of kale grosses you out. Maybe tofu makes you want to puke. That’s fine — what I eat doesn’t go in your body, so haters can hate. Hi, health-shamers — I don’t care.
But I know you’re judging me when I spend way too much money on juicing or go to Sweetgreen for a $12 salad. I know you’re judging me when I go to byCHLOE and Insta my quinoa taco bowl with #vegan #glutenfree #cleaneats.
You can judge me for eating like this, but this does not mean I feel like I’m better than my friends who eat Taco Bell every day or live by microwave meals. It doesn’t mean that I think I’m healthier, will live longer or am “cleaner” in any way. Lawson claims that “food is used either to self-congratulate — you’re a better person because you’re eating like that — or to self-persecute, because you will not allow yourself to eat the foods you want. [Food] shouldn’t be punishment.” Ok, so now I’m punishing my body by eating clean? What if the foods I want to eat are the foods that you all so strongly hate on? When I was in Maui, my family spent the days at the beach and our lunches at a vegan place that had bomb smoothie and Buddha bowls. When I remember this place, I remember that not only was it one of the best places that I’ve ever been, but also the smiles and enjoyment that both my family and I had when eating there.
hands down the best acai bowl ever. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ #healthyfood #eatingmywaythroughmaui #foodporn #spoonfeed #cleaneating #eeeeeats #feedfeed #hawaii #maui #f52grams #wholefoods #eater #spoonneu A photo posted by n a n c y c h e n (@nancylinchen) on Aug 17, 2013 at 3:15pm PDT
See? It’s a social tradition. Not a punishment.
My mother made me quinoa bowls and collard wraps for lunch in high school. We drank smoothies every morning. We grew (still grow) our own kale and use it in more things than you can even imagine. But we also bake brownies, cookies and challah.
Tell me what we’re doing wrong in this lifestyle. Does it sound like we’re punishing ourselves?
I want to emphasize that I don’t eat some foods (i.e. chips) not because I think they’re “unhealthy” but because I genuinely don’t like them. My mom let me eat all I wanted of them when I was younger, and what I realized was that when I ate them, I felt like crap. So when something makes you feel shitty and doesn’t taste all that good anyway, why would you eat it?
Logic, right? It’s stunning.
Food means something different to everyone, and while the obsession with “clean eating” can lead to some people developing eating disorders, a movement towards “clean eating” has also led to some people improving their health, like reducing their risk of heart disease or lowering their cholesterol. It can be a life-saver for people, from the boy who sheds 100 pounds due and reducing her chance of obesity-related diseases, to the girl who learns to love her body by giving it the foods it loves.
Food is social, familial, societal; it influences our health, our relationships, our minds and our bodies. It’s not black and white; it’s not clean or dirty, healthy or unhealthy. It doesn’t cause eating disorders, it’s merely a vehicle for them.