Is “Eating Clean” Driving You Crazy?

At a recent check-in meeting with one of my nutrition coaching clients, we talked about how obsessing over food, whether it has to do with what you do eat, or what you shouldn’t, is not healthy.  Food shouldn’t be an obsession.  I say this coming from a background as a lifelong foodie who went to cooking school, and worked in restaurants on and off for over a decade.

To this day, I take great pleasure in preparing or eating a delicious meal, especially sharing a meal with friends and family.  We as humans are social creatures who are wired to enjoy food and the company of others.  There is a big difference, however, between taking joy in food, and relying on or being driven by food or how you relate to food for your mental/emotional well-being.

When most people think of obsessive behaviour around food, they think of the classic “food addiction” kind of person, who craves and/or gorges themselves on unhealthy treats, or an “emotional eater” who eats to feel better about themselves or their lives, to distract themselves from their other issues, or simply because they’re bored.  Sometimes, these behaviours can lead to eating disorders like bulimia as people punish themselves for their indulgence.  These are real problems, and take work to overcome.  (If any of that sounds like you, we can help, or at least point you in the right direction – Contact Us to start the discussion)

Today, though, I want to talk about the other end of the spectrum, which is at least as damaging to your mental and emotional well-being, and often comes about when someone has worked their way through one or more of those classic food addiction or emotional eating issues, or has been a chronic dieter.  While eating healthier overall is an admirable goal, constantly worrying about “eating clean” or berating yourself for not being restrictive enough or “perfect” at sticking with a better diet is very unhealthy.  In fact, it has its own disorder – orthorexia.

In pursuit of a better body, better performance on the field, or just plain looking better naked, many people drive themselves to unhealthy lengths, to where they may even start avoiding social situations because the food won’t work for their plan.  They beat themselves up, punish themselves, or berate themselves with that horrible inner voice because they can’t be “perfect”.  “I can eat a little better, so I should be able to be ‘perfect’, otherwise I’m just weak.”

Sorry for the language for those who might take offence, but seriously – FUCK BEING PERFECT!  Perfect is for assholes.  The rest of us can (and should) give ourselves a break once in a while and have a life.

Yes, you absolutely should cut out the obvious crap most of the time – the candies, junk food, fast food, artificially-sweetened stuff, alcohol and other processed garbage.  You don’t need it, and it’s not doing your physical health any favours either.

Learn to cook some real food you really like that doesn’t come in a bag or box that can sit on a shelf for months on end.  Real food meals should be fresh, include enough protein, lots of fresh veggies or fruit, and a reasonable amount of legumes, potatoes or grains, and stick with that most of the time.

But if once in a while you want to have a glass of wine, a piece of cake, a bag of chips, some ice cream, or a pizza, for Pete’s sake, just have it and enjoy it!  Indulging once in a while is not a big deal, as long as it is the exception and not the norm, and you can happily get right back to eating real food after.

If you want or need help to start enjoying food again and being healthier both mentally and physically, we'd love to help you out.  Contact Us to find out about our BTG Foundations Nutrition Coaching Program, where we focus on eating real food, and being a happier you, without obsessing over calories and grams.