Why I Quit Clean Eating Challenges For Good

If you have followed me for the last few years, you know that I have participated in and hosted clean eating challenges. These efforts all came out of a place of ‘well intention’, meaning I wanted to feel better and/or help others feel better through eating healthier foods.

Except lately I have become so disenchanted with the term “clean eating” and the way it is thrown around all over the internet.  Just today I saw a women’s post about learning to “over come your emotional, over-eating habits” by joining her 7-day clean eating bootcamp.  It really rubbed me the wrong way. It was like saying you are bad for being an emotional eater and the only way to be ‘good’ is to eat lettuce and carrots all day. It feels so, intense. It feels so restrictive and shameful. And is 7 days really going to suddenly turn you into a different person?

I believe we are all emotional eaters and overcoming something like food, that is so much a part of our life experience seems well, sad and dull.

What if you don’t want to overcome your love of food? Does that mean you are not worthy?

It also feels so BORING to be stuck on the clean eating train for the rest of our lives. In a world full of pizza, ice cream and cheese, it doesn’t seem possible for most.

So why do we join these clean eating challenges? I believe we are fascinated with the concept of ‘what to eat’ to be healthy and we just want to be told what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong.’ If we can just figure out the perfect meal plan, then all of our weight issues, confidence issues, and stress issues will go away. It will all be so simple. Right?

Except how many of us stick to the 7 day clean eating plan? I don’t know about you but I usually just entered the group to see the meal plan and what all the ‘hype’ was about. I would print it off, grocery shop. But then seriously, sticking to the plan was just not gonna happen. Sometimes it was because I didn’t like the way some of the food tasted or maybe my schedule was too crazy to prep whatever the ‘menu’ item was. But I usually felt like I couldn’t keep up. So I go rogue. 

I believe that when we fail at these challenges, we then begin to tell ourselves we are not WORTHY of the outcome. We tell ourselves being healthy is too hard to keep up with. Perfectionism mindset takes over and swallows us whole.

My experiences have lead me to believe that the real reason these clean eating challenges fail is not because you suck at ‘clean eating.’ But rather because a clean eating challenge is not teaching you diddly squat about your body. You are not paying attention to your own hunger levels throughout the day, or if the meal gives you energy or a crash. The meal plan forces you to follow someone else’s idea of healthy and feel guilty if you don’t like it. It shows you that clean eating can be cumbersome and might take time to prep. Which feels very “un-family friendly’ for women who have more to do then worry about what is their next meal. And, I think most importantly, it doesn’t teach you how to eat outside of the four wall of your own house. What happens when you have to go to a restaurant, social gathering, or have a stressful day at work? A salad doesn’t always fit into the setting or plan. Then what the heck do we do?

So we just give in, throw in the towel and go back to our ‘dirty’ eating lives. 

Why not instead of searching for ways to overcome ourselves and our eating habits, we look for ways to start embracing ourselves more fully?

Why not focus less on cutting out foods like sugar or carbs and instead focus more on adding things into our lives?

Maybe you need to add in more time to rest during your week- remember it is okay to say NO to people or things

Maybe you need to add in more laughter or nurturing of your needs by asking or telling your spouse what those are

Maybe you need to add in more movement that doesn’t feel so ‘rules’ based.

Maybe you just need an hour to go grocery shopping alone and really explore the options of fresh foods.

What if, instead of looking at food as something that is ‘holding you back,’ we look at it as something that can bring us immense joy, energy, and happiness?

If you really stop to think about the foods you currently eat now, do they bring you both joy and energy?

A lot of times they bring you joy, but leave you feeling tired, bloated, or even guilty.

Other times you eat what you think you ‘should’ but you’re not satisfied and your cravings creep in.

The secret that no one seems to be talking about it that you don’t have to settle for one or the other when it comes to food. 

You can enjoy both deliciously decadent food, while still achieving your body and energy goals.

I want you to know that there is room for all types of food in a healthy diet. 

You just have to begin to tune in to your own body and really listen to what she is saying to you. Is she happy when you eat certain foods? Is she energetic?

If not, start asking yourself how you can make her feel good again. And begin taking those small steps toward more energy, comfort, and joy.

Does this resonate with you? Are you so over clean eating challenges? Tell me what you want to do more of instead!

2 comments on “Why I Quit Clean Eating Challenges For Good

  1. I think a big thing is how there are so many “reliable” sources on the internet that I just don’t know who to believe. Then my health issues make eating healthy foods harder. I am allergic to sulfites so eggs and other foods with sulfites in them make me feel miserable. Then I also have diverticulitis so I can’t eat nuts, seeds, or popcorn unless I want to risk getting an infection and being in serious pain. How I would love to be able to eat a handful of nuts for a snack every day. And, YES, the emotional eating – such a hard habit to break. Where are the real replacement behaviors that can help with that? Because celery sticks & hummus just don’t do it LOL

    P.S. Love your blog, I don’t know how you have time to do it all!

    • Sam I am sorry your allergies and other gut issues are feeling like roadblocks to feeling better. That is definitely not a fun extra ‘level’ of stress to be under when trying to feel better. And gosh, the information overload is real isn’t it?! I think the one thing I always remind my girls is that healthy isn’t the same for everyone and really it comes down to listening (like you are already doing) to our bodies biofeedback cues like energy, cravings, etc to know what is or isn’t working for the goals you have. Ah and emotions are so tough too, but what I wonder is what if instead of trying to come up with an emotional replacement behaviors you look at what the food is fulfilling in you and what lifestyle factors are contributing to it? I agree celery doesn’t cut it when all you want it chocolate! Sometimes it is as simple as a few nutritional tweaks and a few schedule tweaks to cut down on the internal and emotional stress we feel. I know I am always needing to check in with myself when stress starts to get high! It is an on going journey for sure. I am here for you! and thank you so much for reading, it means so much!

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