When women discover that I’m a fat loss coach, nearly all of them tell me:
“I feel like I’m doing everything right, but I’m still not losing weight”.
We’ll start talking about nutrition, and more often than not, I get some variation of: “Oh, I have a pretty clean diet”.
What the hell does that even MEAN?!?!
“Clean eating” is one of those phrases that been so overused that it’s completely lost its meaning–if it ever had one in the first place!
It’s one of the most vague descriptors I know of to describe your diet, so let’s just let it die already!
But since I know that’s unlikely to happen, I’ll just take this opportunity to shed some light on what I consider to be some of the most common misconceptions about clean eating in hopes that it’ll get some people to change their language and hopefully change their approach to eating for their goals…
(Hey, a girl can dream!)
1. We think “clean” is a standard, when in reality, almost everyone defines it differently.
It’s impossible to say your diet’s “clean” when what that means varies from individual to individual. There’s no norm, so there’s no way to measure.
I think a lot of people get caught up in what other people are doing and how they eat, and try to replicate it. So if we’re hearing and seeing from many different people who claim to eat “clean”, we’re seeing a lot of different individual interpretations of that.
Trying to make sense of all that information and apply it to our lives is daunting, so we end up attempting some amalgam of a diet that includes:
Plenty of veggies (we think);
Plenty of protein (rarely);
Healthy fats (too many); and
A nice smattering of fruit, starch, and “dirty” foods (too much)
The problem that I see most often is people are simply not eating enough of the food that’s going to nourish and satiate them, so they end up fighting their cravings constantly and living for the weekend because they need a break from their “clean” diet.
2. Just because you don’t subsist on fast food doesn’t mean your diet is “clean”!
In my experience as a coach, people hold fast to this belief that as long as they’re not eating junk and fast food all day, every day, their diet is “clean”.
This is simply not true.
If you’re hardly ever eating junk or fast food, but struggle with compliance because your diet is too strict to maintain, you could be in a worse position that if you occasionally indulged in those “forbidden” foods.
Also, there are plenty of foods marketed as “clean” that are packed with sugar, fat, and the calories to match!
Gluten-free products, “Paleo-friendly” snacks, and packaged vegan foods, etc. come to mind specifically, and many people eat these in excess.
- If you’re not gluten-sensitive or intolerant;
- If you’re not following a strict Paleo diet; and
- You’re not vegan,
eating these snacks is not WORTH IT and will not get you any closer to your goals! Eat the real thing, enjoy it, and move on.
3. Neither “clean” nor “healthy” is the same as fat loss-friendly.
This is probably the biggest misconception I encounter. Many people think that if they’re eating their veggies and protein and cutting wayyyyy back on starches, they’re going to magically lose fat no matter what.
To a certain extent, I blame the weight loss industry and the people who try to convince you that calories don’t matter for this misconception.
Well, I’m here to tell you that calories certainly DO matter, and you can have a healthy diet, still overeat, and struggle to see results because of it.
It comes down to math: if you’re eating more calories than you burn–even if they’re calories from coconut oil or avocados, and not McDonald’s Bacon Double Cheeseburgers!–you’re not going to lose fat.
Similarly, if you’re eating too few of the foods that satiate and provide bulk with fewer calories, you’re going to struggle to lose fat because you’ll be fighting hunger constantly.
4. If you eat “clean” most of the time, you’ll be able to have the dirty foods in moderation.
This doesn’t sound like a misconception, but the problem (yet again!) lies in the word “clean”.
As we’ve established, “clean” and “healthy” don’t necessarily mean fat loss-friendly. If fat loss is your goal, that’s a problem because you’re just spinning your wheels.
So while healthy and “clean” aren’t necessarily fat loss-friendly, a fat loss-friendly diet is a healthy diet because it takes the following factors into consideration:
When you’re eating in a deficit:
Food volume matters: You want to maximize the amount of food you can eat and minimize the number of calories to stay fuller, longer. Lean protein and high-water content/high-fiber content veggies and fruits help us do this.
Balanced hormones matter: If you are hungry all the time; cravings are uncontrollable; and energy is all over the place, dieting will be miserable and the lure of those “forbidden” foods will be impossible to resist. Eating as many veggies as possible and as much protein as possible, along with a healthy dose of dietary fat, will keep your hormones and blood sugar happy so compliance is more effortless.
Restricting trigger foods matters: It sucks, but in my experience, you can’t practice moderation until you’ve established a benchmark, i.e. 1) got your hunger, energy and cravings under control, and 2) got a handle on your triggers and emotional responses to food. If HEC isn’t in check, the lure of the “dirty” foods is too much to resist.
Learning how to manage your moderate lifestyle is a skill that’s developed over time once that baseline is established and you know how you respond individually to specific types of foods.
Did you enjoy this post?!
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