If you’ve spent any time here on my blog or attended a cooking class with me, you know that I don’t believe in one singular path to health. My path isn’t going to be the same path as your path. I don’t eat gluten because I have Celiac disease. I don’t dig eating meat, but I’m cool with it if you do. Sugar makes me puffy so I avoid it most days, but I’ll join you in a sugar-laden cupcake to celebrate your birthday. I dig kale, maybe spinach is your green of choice. I eat grain, you don’t. Sometimes I eat a gluten-free frozen pizza, you’ve sworn off all food with a label. We’re both on the same path to finding our best version of ourselves. No room for judgment here, just me sharing what works for me. And hoping I can maybe help you just a little to find what works best for you. Sometimes it is you, sweet readers, who help me. We’re all doing just great here in my virtual kitchen, encouraging and supporting each other with eating in a way that suits us best.
So what’s this got to do with eating “clean,” you’re asking? Well, it has to do with crazy diet neuroses. This distorted way of thinking that all of these crazy labels and rules we are applying to food are helping us to get closer to the food that makes us feel optimal. This is about people labeling their diets in a way that is judgmental, both toward themselves and others.
That word, clean, irks me, because the opposite of clean is dirty. If you’re here, reading my blog, I feel with some certainty that you are trying hard to make positive changes to how you eat, to find what food makes you feel best. And I refuse to label how you are eating now as dirty, I refuse to label how you ate in the past as dirty. How I ate in the past (which included trips to the Taco Bell drive-thru, frozen processed food in copious amounts, a boxed weight loss diet) will simply be described by me as “less than optimal.” It wasn’t what made me feel all sorts of awesome. And most days I’m still trying to figure out exactly which foods make me feel all sorts of awesome. It shifts often, as my body is healing, changing, aging. I’m always working on finding the “Johnna diet” and you are working on finding your diet. No need to place judgmental labels like clean and dirty on how you eat.
Last week on Instagram, I was asked if the cocktail I had shared a photo of was “clean.” What the heck does that even mean? It was made with a fresh avocado, generous amounts of tequila, cilantro and lime juice. The bartender spent a good long time making it, as it required two cycles of muddling and straining to get it just right. “Clean” wasn’t something I even considered, just that it tasted amazing and contained no ingredients that my body rejects loudly. I don’t have that margarita every day (it was a pricey indulgence) and I’m not letting a diet label prohibit me from enjoying it. When I look at the rules for clean eating that many refer to, I see that I should eliminate or at least greatly reduce the amount of alcohol I consume. So I’m gonna go with no, the cocktail wasn’t clean. But I’m not going to refer to it as dirty either. (I’ll save that for martinis.) It was just perfect with the chilaquiles I enjoyed for dinner that evening.
Here’s my challenge to you: the next time you see someone eating something that doesn’t fit on your path to healthy eating, instead of saying, “Oh, I don’t eat that, it’s not clean/it’s dirty,” why not choose a softer position? While I greatly encourage eating more real food, I also encourage each of us to recognize we are in a different place on our path to wellness. What you consider dirty may be a big step in the right direction for someone who is new to pursuing healthier eating. Give ’em a chance before you discourage them with a bunch of rules and labels. They could benefit more from a hug and words of encouragement than any of us labeling their food dirty.
P.S.–The donuts in that photo above? Placed in this post with intent. I didn’t have one but my favorite fella did. And you better believe I am not going to tell him that donuts don’t fit in his “clean” eating plan. He used to smoke more than a pack a day, lived on a steady diet of Mountain Dew and pepperoni pizza. Now, he asks me to make roasted cauliflower. He’s doing so great finding his own way to a healthier diet…and it includes a “D is for Donut” indulgence every once in awhile. No judgment, just encouragement. That’s all. 🙂