“Clean Eating is a Myth”…and 5 other things I got right

Almost six years ago I quit sugar. I coped flack for this. Did I what.

When it came around to publishing my first book I Quit Sugar I ran the below Arthur Schopenhauer quote upfront, by way of highlighting where I thought the whole debate just had to head. Eventually.

Image via quotefancy.com
Image via quotefancy.com

Someone referred to this quote at a public talk I gave recently, asking me if I still copped flack (ridiculed) or if we’d moved onto the next stages of truth (acceptance).

I hadn’t thought about it since I included it in the book. But I did now. I answered thusly,

The ridicule has backed off big time. The trolls have quietened down. For half a decade I’ve served back science and reason as my response. It kind of pinned them to their wall.
The opposition is still there. It looks different now. It’s less violent. However, it’s becoming more mercurial, more seemingly reasoned. Like the one about how everything in moderation is great (not really possible with sugar, which is the foundation of my argument) and that we just have to burn off off the excess calories (thus positing the issue as merely one of empty calories).
But I think we’re well on our way to viewing what I’ve been saying for the past 5 1/2 years as common sense. I was even recently tagged the “sensible voice” in the wellness debate by a newspaper that had previously sledged me as “extreme”.

I added that the best way to have true influence is to quietly just get on with things and not ram an idea down anyone’s throat. Be your message, and all that jazz.

I have never told a soul to quit sugar. My book is called I Quit Sugar, not You Must Quit Sugar. I posited an invite…and waited for folk out there to ask questions, try it for themselves, spread the message, come to the party on their own gentle terms.

I don’t meant to gloat. I do, however, find it worthwhile reflecting on progress made, gleaning hope from how ideas can move down Schopenhauer’s stages. Here’s a few I’ve witnessed:

Clean Eating and Superfoods are a misnoma.

For some years I’ve been healthily skeptical of complicated, irresponsible, ungrounded, expensive, wasteful wellness fads. Interestingly, recently in the UK experts and journalists have declared “Clean Eating” a problematic way of eating, for various reasons. Given that this term is used to describe meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, date/almond milk/cashew/raw greens-saturated foods and the like, instead of plain and simple real food, cooked at home, using basic ingredients in sustainable, economical ways, I tend to agree.

Any real food, by which I mean the simple, un-messed-food our grandmothers could identify, is a Superfood. Its “super” properties work when eaten as a whole food and as a meal, often cooked. “Raw superfood balls” full of agave, health powders, soy, etc., and cold-pressed juices are not superfoods. They’re complicated. Mucked-with. And expensive. A proper meal of meat or beans and veggies is a superfood.

Limit your added sugar intake to 6-9 teaspoons a day.

This was my rule of thumb from the very start, based on meta studies I’d looked into before launching my 8-Week Program.

Late last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended sugar intake for adults be cut in half, from the original 10 per cent of total daily calories to 5 per cent…which comes out at, yep, 6-9 teaspoons.

The British government endorsed this decision and amended its national guidelines accordingly. The American Heart Foundation also amended its sugar intake prescriptions and currently recommends a limit of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 for women. It’s become accepted.

Fat doesn’t make us fat (or sick)

In my first book I flag it’s the sugar, people. And I explain why.

In the past 18 months, the demonisation of saturated fat has been called into serious question. Big studies suggest that there is no direct link between saturated fat consumption and obesity, nor risk of heart disease. One massive study published in 2010 looked at data from 21 studies that included 347,747 individuals. They found no association between saturated fat consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease.A more recent metanalysis published in The Lancet Journal showed that low-fat diets are not particularly efficient for weight loss either (especially when compared to a “fatty” Mediterrean-style diet). 

In the UK, the heat has been turned up on all this, with the National Obesity Forum declaring the low-fat guidelines of the past 50-odd years the reason behind Britain’s obesity crises. An extreme line that I don’t necessary share.

Not every calorie is equal (and you should stop counting them).

Again, I’ve been sharing this for a while. New science supports this now.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped Coke et al drawing on the sham-y calorie-in=calorie-out line of thinking. It works rather conveniently for them, which should be enough for all of us to question it.

Juicing is bad for you and the environment. 

I consider juicing a marketing scam and ditched juices a long time ago.

Now we have push-back from a lot of media who have become really rather dubious/wellness-washed about the whole juice thing. Hoorah! I particularly like the fact they’re catching on to the food sustainability travesty it presents: the leftover pulp is more often than not dumped into landfill by big juice companies. There it rots away, producing harmful greenhouse gases.

Just Eat Real Food (because this is the *real* clean eating)

It’s my number one mantra, and it’s lovely to see others take it up on tees and bags and Instagram tag lines. We’re all singing from this songsheet: Ditch the processed junk and Just Eat Real Food (#JERF).

In my second book I’ve slightly distanced myself from some of the extremes of “clean eating” fads such as veganism, raw food, juicing, Paleo, gluten-free etc. Which is not to say that just because it’s deemed a “fad”, it should be dismissed (which is the habit of headline-hunting media at times). Instead, I pull out the bits of science/sensible thinking from each and explain why it might not be a bad idea to incorporate said snippet. If it feels right for you.

Comparing various different styles of eating researchers have recently found that a healthy lifestyle is best achieved by eating “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants.” If you feel extra geeky have a read through the study at your leisure.

Of course, I’m aware sugar-free eating is often lazily deemed another faddish “free-from”, “clean eating”, dangerous food obsession. But I think it’s becoming accepted as self-evident this is not the case.

Feel free to share your thoughts. Please do keep your ideas considered and grounded in science and sensible thinking.

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