CLEAN EATING: Healthy or harmful?



the apparent fixation with eating pure Whole Foods has never been more widespread but could the focus on clean eating actually pose a risk to our health I'm David Foster welcome to Routing Whole Foods Arion additives are out clean eating is increasingly popular and many companies are apparently taking advantage but is it really as healthy as some claim it to be to many people clean eating is more than a diet it's a way of life and it has turned into a modern movement that's reached new levels of popularity with 55 million eat clean Instagram posts it promotes eating more Whole Foods fruits and vegetables and unprocessed food sugar dairy gluten and meat are restricted in the diet as they are seen as unhealthy impure or even dirty according to the organic trade association 52% of organic consumers are Millennials and 40% are on a plant-based diet experts say eating a plant-based diet may lower the risk of chronic diseases but if poorly planned it might not replace critical nutrients found in meat in other foods leading to serious micronutrient deficiencies clean eaters like vegans are reported to have lower intakes of calcium vitamin D and lower bone mineral density than non clean eaters experts warn that the obsessive quest for the perfect diet can veer into a pathological eating disorder called orthorexia creating a negative relationship with food so is clean eating healthy or harmful ok let's talk to our guests for today on the roundtable Luci Cyril associate psychology professor at University College London aloise de Lu up is here a professional triathlete and an author exeunt survivor or a Welsh joins us to nutritional therapist and Romi London a vegan food blogger Aloise will come to your story in just a moment cuz it's a very personal one one which I'm glad to say you are now over if not completely cured of it's in the past for the time being but it sounds like a great idea doesn't it clean eating where did it go wrong I mean I suppose the idea of eating more healthfully is it's a good one but the worry is that in people I say clean eating has become too extreme too restrictive and the idea of kind of categorizing foods as either clean or presumably dirty or unclean is an unhelpful one psychologically so if you try and ban a lot of foods from your diet and those are gonna be the food you really crave and so with people I work with they're perhaps restricting their intake so much that they're unhealthy or they're trying to restrict their intake and then ending up losing control and eating things junk food and healthy food to clean food and dirty food at the time yes I mean eating disorders have always been around so from the point of view of people you know taking taking diets to extremes that's always been around but I think that the label of clean eating can be particularly unhelpful who's to blame for that no I wouldn't blame any individuals I think that social media has made it more difficult for people to make really healthy choices that are appropriate sometimes but I wouldn't blame any individual right you can't let it one person but a movement if you like sort of making a living out of telling people what they should and shouldn't do when in fact you don't really have that expert knowledge you first I mean I'm always careful that I don't give any nutritionists advice because I'm not a nutritionist I'm not a dietician and I'm not I'm not supposed to help you you've got 10,000 followers who listen to your advice about food well I don't maybe more I don't know but that's why I try not to give advice I basically what I do is I just showcase how easy it can be to be vegan I I'm not vegan for health reasons are more vegan for ethical reasons so when other people are there that want to make more sustainable choices when it comes to their food I just basically showcase how easy it can be and how tasty it can be in that you don't actually have you think you're playing with their heads not really no I mean we have a certain responsibility as bloggers to to not give people advice or not to tell them this is what you should do and what this is what you have to do and I'm really careful with the kind of wording I put around it I basically just showcase well what I do personally and I'll make it very clear that I'm not I don't have any nutrition this kind of background with it but it's a fine line because there's still people there because you're still a shop-window for it it's only if people came in and looked at the small print perhaps they'd understand that exact well I will ask you a question in just a moment but I want to get Aloise his personal story first okay there you are you run you swim you cycle for a living and yet you were affected by something author X yeah yeah that's right um what does it mean to you for me I guess was a obsession or trying to be perfect and it was especially as an athlete you're looking for the best diet something that could really make that sort of what everyone talks about these marginal gains and me with certain guess it came at a point where I wanted to step up in my performance and it seemed diet was the perfect opportunity so going to the light that's more the clean clean alternative sort of created a an easy option and it seems well why clean rather than healthy because it was the sort of the tire juice for breakfast followed by a nice piece of chicken for lunch perhaps followed by some soup in the evening etc etc that's healthy eating but I'm gonna read out what you used to have for breakfast you called it protes didn't ya which is basically oats with vegan protein Mac a vegan powder maca powder berber powder chia seeds raw cacao almond butter sugar-free chocolate and bee pollen yeah and it tasted great rather than something that seems so much more obvious because I thought it had to be complex I thought it had to be you had to get your micronutrients from these these superfoods marketing was selling me and social media was selling me books were selling me that this was the way to be healthy and this was the way to get that that edge and clean now it's a really loaded statement but at the time it seemed so obvious you just take out everything that you that could be deemed as bad which I now know food can never be intrinsically bad for you what did it do to you it made me really healthy I already had few health problems anyway and so it accentuated those and it caused me to have really bad stress fractures used my bone density like my blood my blood so I'm very good in terms of minerals and it was pretty simple as soon as I went back to a very normal way of eating which I wasn't amazed by said after a personal car crash if you if you like you oh I'm so bad you had to I hate people were telling you you've got to stop this you gotta stop yeah 100% and it wasn't until I realized how bad it was when I got diagnosed with this stress rupture my sacrum and a dietitian was blown of me she was like I don't know what the hell you're doing to herself and I was it was I was on the floor in tears realizing that I'd really messed up did you recognize the sort of pattern here of somebody thinking they're doing the right thing they're getting it totally totally wrong definitely I get a lot of people coming to me and they have unhealthy diets because they are eating the chips and the burgers but then there that other subset of people that come and they think they're doing the right thing they think they're being healthy eating whole foods unprocess etc but they're missing out on a lot of key nutrients that they need for health macronutrients and micronutrients and you only find those in food or can you get them in supplements because this is what you'd perhaps been led to believe wasn't it Eloise you can get a lot of stuff from supplements definitely but I definitely think we should be getting our nutrition some whole food I look behind you taking a spin around and take a look at what are we got sunflower seeds spinach blueberries chia seeds perhaps Tomatoes apple grapes pumpkin seeds oats Kiwi and walnuts now they're all good for you definitely so when did people start to veer away from this towards the more extreme well they these are definitely Whole Foods and they would be part of a clean diet a cash shoot so great a lot of people are scared of those because they're high in fat but we see these with good fats in the nutritional world so we like we're not as what afraid of fat and people are varying away from eating a healthy diet towards extreme clean eating because they are either a conscious consumer and they want to make specific decisions based on animal welfare or they have become obsessive about what they're taking into their body it's become a psychological obsession when you're blogging about this when you're offering advice how do you know that there isn't an underlying issue Romi this one for you well I mean it's it's a fine line because there's always people that will just copy whatever you do so it's very it's very dangerous on in that in that way I always try to focus on flavor with whatever I create because I feel everything else I'm not supposed to talk about but there's always just going to be some people that are just so mesmerized but when you put out there they will just like blindly copy it without even questioning whether it's right for them this is partly your responsibility as well isn't it I mean you're it's likely putting a bowl of dog food in front of my dog it's not going to wonder why it's marriage is going to think thanks I trust my own yeah it's it's dangerous but on the other hand as well is when you start working as a food blogger and you start putting things out there there's only so much you can do with preventing because I thought people don't see it in a certain way yeah it's dangerous but I think you you understand the problems that could be presented by what you do but you almost feel powerless other than stopping doing it to prevent what's going on I mean I would I would just just ask you I understand you you three have this responsibility but you're not sure what to do about it under what circumstances would you encourage somebody to go and get some professional advice because you admit you're not a professional yeah that's not your expertise well I do get messages from people asking me about certain things whether it's products that I've used in something or people even just telling me like oh you know I want to lose some weight like what shall I do how shall I do it and in that on that occasion I just respond to these people are just let them know you know I can't really everybody is different I can't help you with this but by virtue of the fact that they've content yeah they may look up to you you're on a pedestal yeah yeah and it's quite it's quite scary to be honest and I think that's the thing that's changed massively over the last say ten years is that we used to look to experts people with you know nutritional or scientific psychological knowledge and now we look to social influencers who who as you admit you know you're doing this because it's something you've found useful and you're talking about your personal experience and somehow personal experience is now valued over iron but equally that's not Roma's fault necessarily because you're doing is writing down its to publishing a diary if you like what she does and things yeah but that become so influential now but you know I talk to my kids and say well where do you get your your news from where do you get your you're gonna get it from but they're really really influenced by social media and that's the way young people are growing up to be more influenced by that than they by something they've read in a book written by somebody who's you know got a university degree or some qualifications and that's and I probably say too wrong I haven't seen your Instagram account I will say that but something I've been really conscious of is yes I I guess I'm an athlete people might look up to my training schedules may look up to what I eat and that's why I try and I'm very conscious moment to show the both sides of it that yes on one day I may do this big training session on this one day I might have this very what looks like a clean healthy lunch but I'm also a human I do like the odd doughnut I do have days off where I don't move and I sit on the sofa and that gives that especially in our generation it's giving that human love on the back rather than you have to be at the top of that mountain when no one knows when that mountain is okay we'll get onto nutrition you say anything yes I really like what she's saying firstly I think we can learn a lot from bloggers even I follow some and some of them that are well informed about the diet they're following can impart some important information but we need to marry that up with good sound nutrition advice and not just take it you know just take that bloggers advice if they're not qualified and I like what you're saying about enjoying burgers and donuts because I'm the same actually and people always say to a UAV can you vegetarians like no way I love burgers and at steak I'll have one at least once a week and I see this is really important it's nutrition that's the best way to get iron in my opinion that's you and it's human and I when I I don't have millions of followers I prolly only had 700 on my page but whenever I talk about oh oh I had a great burger I get a lot of people liking this because they don't want to feel alienated by their diet you want a question about your burger do you go to a well-known international burger chain or do you buy the beef minced beef spice it up yourself seasoned it yourself shape it yourself and know exactly what's going in today at home if that's what I do I love that but I personally have eaten all different types of burgers and some of them are not the best but if it's only once a week I personally think that's fine okay all right in your opinion let's throw this one out there how on earth do we stop this becoming a bigger problem it's not just with clean eating it's been awful of things but we're talking about clean eating today how do we stop it so I think there are two reasons but Society I mean I think there are two things I think what you're saying is incredibly helpful but one of the things about social social media is that you can select the good bits of your life you know but the bits where you're happy not the bits where you're you know arguing with your spouse or whatever and similarly with your diet you could just present this sort of perfect example of how to eat and we know that's really really unhelpful for young people who are influenced by it and so to have a kind of real experience to present a real experience of like sometimes I have a burger and sometimes I have you know a salad or whatever because ruling out whole groups of foods is unhealthy we know that and we know that for most people they don't need to be following at for example a gluten free diet for 99 percent of the population they don't need to be gluten free and by being gluten free they will actually often have a less healthy diet because it will tend to be low in fiber for example and then psychologically thinking psychologically by having strict rules people are influenced to then feel very very restricted in that and then lose control eat the thing that they you know said they're not going to eat feel incredibly bad about it and that has an influence on people sort of sense of well-being how do we get around it as a society is it just one of those things that if it wasn't this fad it would be another fad and that the majority of people that you treat perhaps Lucy you have some underlying problem whether it be mental strain or whatever you want to call it that what does everybody fall into this I think like I guess from experience but it's everyone's gonna be someone society's susceptible and more susceptible than others some Ino I'm a very extreme personality that's probably why I've got into professionals forward but it didn't have to necessarily be that way or turn out that way and I think from society's point of view whether it's regulation or is whether it's just that understanding that voicing up this balance whether it be on social media whether it be in articles and newspaper that average is okay and but average doesn't sell and that's one thing I've been very aware of that the basic life and even my basic training if I put on a really average day on social media it doesn't do as well as the day where I'm sound the floor knackered because average is normal how are these people normal if they're doing XY is that funny old world though isn't it that you have to put it out there for some reason I don't know what it is tell me what it is if you want to be punked you don't have you don't have to do and I'm you're bringing it on yourself to some extent no I am and I agree with that especially given my history but that's why I'm really aware now that I don't post as much I have the balance and pulling away from it's helped me a lot I still use it and I'm still suss out to talk to it but I am very very aware and I'm very responsible of it and understand that it is my life those oh please please I interrupted you last time no that's okay yes in terms of how do we get away from this obsession with clean eating firstly if you're doing clean eating the right way I think it's good because it focuses on natural unprocessed Whole Foods but the obsession is it good and I think a lot of this has to start off with education in the home the way we bring up our kids because that's how we develop our eating habits we see a lot of kids that grown up maybe they're not given breakfast maybe they have a very unhealthy diet and then you have the kids that have grown up with a mum that maybe is obsessive with her diet and then gets in and then the child gets into social media and starts following these bloggers that maybe are a bit too extreme so really it's about teaching our kids from a young age what is a healthy diet and making it natural not everything is this whole thing about diets become very unnatural in the past we just ate and we ate whole foods naturally it's the food industry that has created this issue this is where I wanted to go with this yeah I mean we were talking about responsibility if you stamp healthy if you stamp clean if you stamp good for 90% fantastic on the side of something probably a hundred percent then you are the purveyor of an untruth aren't you well it depends whether it's true or not because they to be able to label a product they need to satisfy certain requirements so would you say they're playing up to your susceptor mark at the moment yeah even like a few years there's people playing but like I often eat vegan foods like I'm very happy eating like whatever I want but in terms of our menu and restaurant a few years ago there would nowhere would be vegan it might say vegetarian but it would very rarely say vegan now they put it and I personally I feel they're playing up to the one it's a bubble at the moment they will buy into it there's so many more vegans now that's the movement the food industry was a trend I think there's always been trends in nutrition we've seen that for many years and there will be another one probably another few years but at the moment it's veganism clean eating and that will continue to evolve but I hope that it just becomes normal I think we shouldn't talk about healthy eating it should just be a normal thing that's how it should as it was in the past we have to talk about healthy eating to understand that we mustn't talk about it if you follow me yes but I think the food industry does have a responsibility here because if you look at these foods these are not foods that are marketed these are fresh wholesome foods which are fine and you know conform part of a healthy diet but the sort of foods we're marketed are things like what you were talking about like the bee pollen and you know all these obscure kind of supplements and I think there's a bit of a social class issue going on here as well but these are expensive foods that are marketed to us as being you know foods that are consumed by by people who are high in social status when actually you can have a healthy diet by just eating kind of normal fresh regular foods I don't have to buy a load of do you ever in your blog Romy suggests the sort of things that we went through there well pollen etcetera etcetera no we'll be putting on our vegan side because bees yeah so I don't eat honey I'm never like honey anyway that was never an issue and but yeah as I said earlier for me being vegan myself is my own ethical choice it started for me with like when I said when I first went bee and it was actually the first time in my life what I started looking at what actually am I putting in my body I never was a vegan protein powder well I do eat vegan protein powder quite a lot but I do like it and I do train at the moment so I do eat like a high protein diet at the moment but that's just that's just me I'm at the moment I am when what we just spoke about with the companies and the way that they market their products and because I've worked with like a whole bunch of companies and I've got like kind of a little bit of a view behind how it works when they develop new products and it's quite shocking sometimes like how little knowledge the people that put these products out there and that create the product packaging and the kind of wording and their health claims that are on it little knowledge they actually have and it's quite shocking to also see how little companies actually get a nutritionist involved to actually know what they can put on their packaging and with super foods for example I find it quite shocking that some super foods are being advertised as are being like super high in these vitamins when you could just as well eat half an apple and have even more than what you get from eating half a pack of that what's the message here then I think people just should eat a range of foods they shouldn't worry too much if they eat something that somebody on a website on a blog has told them is unhealthy but you know eating a range of foods over over weeks months years is what's going to you know improve your life what you eat on one particular day and whether it followed you know exactly follows a particular plan is not important and and beware of being marketed to pass it one particular thing there are four of you here and our producers asked you know I'm very glad you did come along but you are for women and there's an article in Good Housekeeping magazine by Jocelyn London who's a registered dietitian etc etc she said there are too many things that already make many of us especially women feel bad about ourselves is this partly a gender thing women being targeted women feeling particularly vulnerable I think actually which is very scary you might say on your side but the gym industry for men is just as bad and it's actually getting much date more dangerous some people I work with to get me healthy and I often have these chats for them about sort of what's going on in society or like what the main trends are and there's a big rise in the sort of gym industry and sort of not being big enough in the men's world and I it's the same susceptible I think same type of marketing the same type of I guess market of extremity is that certain foods I Pro high-protein diet whether it's whatever the type of diet you want to call it but it's morphed into that extreme as well yes I've seen eating but it's into that but by something you said it began either protein marketing and social media were selling me marketing in particular it's got a seller I see a lot of men coming I used to mostly see women but increasingly I have men coming they have complex about how they look and a lot of them come to me and they come with really extreme Quest's like wanting to reduce their body fat so much I get to a point where it would be unhealthy and I turn them away and I say you know you need to get help with that that's very extreme behavior and I think you know men definitely are susceptible to this and we're seeing so you don't think it's a gender thing at all or do you think the men are now being told women are susceptible to this your respondents your followers etc so about 64 E so it's more women than men about 90% of all I love bloggers that I know that all female and I kind of feel that women are or seem to be a little bit more open to talking about it what do you think about that well I think it's really interesting that it's more women because often with clean eating we're told it's about health and about having a healthier diet but the fact that it's all women and it's women who are more concerned about their appearance suggests to me that actually sometimes clean eating isn't anything to do with health and it sounds like for you it wasn't healthy but that it's actually much more about you know fitting in appearance that is expected and that's so much more of an issue for women than it is for men still I totally take on board what you're saying about men and muscle and low body fat that that's an increasing problem and that can you know in susceptible men lead to eating disorders but but women have to be more concerned about how they look you might not believe it but we're almost at the end of the program is its rattle past thank you very much for coming in I want to know how you are now on what advice you would give to somebody who might be about to follow the same dangerous path that you did I would say firstly I'm great I'm probably the happiest and healthiest I've ever been – little enjoy about the moment but that's that's training but I would say my advice would be just really enjoy it and be yourself and focus on everything you want not what you think you should have and I've got a guess a lot of hindsight and regret evolved around looking into something else but if you hundreds and focus on yourself on the very boring everyday things you'll have a much better Andy you did say it what you're 26 you still have a career as a professional triathlete ahead of you but at some point you know probably gonna be answered you did say that you perhaps hoped in a future career to be able to help others with something like this yes and it's it's a big reason why I guess big motive who I want to be a top triathlete as well as I guess it's a bit like what I've said here's to have that credibility that someone will listen and not make a stupid mistake I made and I was naive look the very best of luck should be watching out for you on the sporting page and in the healthy living painting thank you thank you for coming in and appreciate your time – thank you very much indeed perhaps clean eating is not clean eating at all perhaps it is a dirty word thank you to my guests thank you for watching this has been round table I hope to have your company next time me David Foster from the entire team goodbye for now

1 Comment

  1. Loosy discussion 👎🏻
    It could have been much more informative rather than bla bla bla open-ended chat.

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