when good ideas are actually bad ideas.

One thing is for sure – I thought about food less when I was maintaining my weight than when I’m trying to gain. Now I know that if I can keep this up and get to a more healthy place, chances are those thoughts will become less invasive and I can get on with something more productive, but I still have to get to that point first. Right now, I’m obsessing. Constantly. About what exactly I am putting in my mouth – and I really do mean exactly. Unintentionally, I’m finding myself drawn to the idea of “clean” eating. I didn’t seek it out. It was rather that I followed my own beliefs about food to their natural end. This sort of thing never ends well for me.

Clean eating is actually quite a nice philosophy. If you have the time, money and energy, making most of your foods from scratch out of unprocessed ingredients isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t mean cutting down on any major food groups or nutrients and lends itself to simple, tasty foods. I mean, I don’t eat much processed food as it is, I like to cook and I have lots and lots of time. I’m big on whole grains and pulses and not too much meat and less ingredients and natural products regardless of whether it’s a particular philosophy or not. In fact, in general I think it’s quite nice and fits my lifestyle well and is generally something I adhere to anyway.

The problem is that I take things too far. Whilst recipe hunting I came across the idea in a more formal sense and I started to worry. I mean, in an effort to eat less fibre, I eat white instead of whole grain bread. I shouldn’t feel bad about this. It isn’t some sort of moral choice, or even a choice based on taste, but a practical one based on how my body responds to fibre overload. Now I feel bad though. Now I feel guilty for eating such highly processed bread products. I mean, it isn’t natural to refine flour that much and I shouldn’t be eating something so unnatural because it can’t be good for me. And I don’t make my own hummus. I actually like the hummus you can buy in Tesco, but now I’m ashamed. Ashamed of my mass-produced hummus. And don’t get me started on Nutella – right now I can’t think of anything I eat that gives me quite as much guilt.

So I started making things. I whipped up some lovely chilli and garlic hummus, sorted out a super honey, fruit and nut granola, made my go to dressing and I’ve even in the process of making some frozen berry yogurt so that I no longer rely on prepackaged full of artificial chemicals and sugars ice cream. I actually think this is quite good in a way. I mean, I love cooking and this is helping me get excited about new foods again rather than relying on the same old meals to get me through and although I eat all these foods already, actually making them means actually adding high calorie ingredients like olive oil and sugar to foods in quantities I’m so unused to. Mostly though, it’s quite fun. Plus I get a lot of tasty food out of it so on a practical level, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Except I shouldn’t feel bad. I shouldn’t have guilt about white bread or hummus or even nutella. Subscribing to a food philosophy only means that I can avoid some of the things I find hard. I mean, sure I love home-made hummus, but I also love potato waffles. If I try to avoid processed food, I’ll never get to a waffle. Or sausages. No joke – cheap, crappy sausage baguettes from greasy spoons are my ultimate fear food combo because I just love them so much and I have no idea why. Giving myself a justification to this avoidance doesn’t change the fact that it’s easier to avoid then to be scared shitless by actually trying them. All it does is moralize food in a way that makes avoiding the fear seem more logical. It isn’t though. Food shouldn’t be moralised and feared – not to me or anyone else. Food is just food. I grew up on cheap oven food and it didn’t hurt me, so why should it now? I do not need to feel guilty for chosing foods for their ease to prepare, how natural they are and (gasp!) what they taste like. Sure, worthy food can be really tasty, but so can chicken and chips. What I need is a balance.

For me at least, signing myself up to a food philosophy quickly becomes an obsession. It just gives a reason to eating disordered thoughts. I take things to their extremes and end up ignoring what I actually want and need, putting food on some moralistic pedestal and patting myself on the back for all the foods I don’t eat. Food philosophies can be great for some people, but they aren’t that healthy for me – at least not right now. Having a justification does not make it a rational choice – it’s still entirely motivated by anorexia. It’s really not helpful for me to place any restrictions on myself because my overarching aim shouldn’t be to have a perfectly clean diet, but to get healthy and have a more normal, less obsessive relationship with food. Most people don’t think twice about picking up a quick bite to eat from Gregg’s if they’re hungry and on the go and I want that too. Ok so maybe not Gregg’s, but you get the idea. I don’t want to constantly have to carry a little pot of seeds around for if I get hungry and there isn’t anything “clean” enough around. I want to be able to share chips with my friends and have micro-meals with the boy and get chinese and eat poptarts and have hung over breakfasts at greasy cafes and eat bloody sausages again. That used to be my normal and I don’t want to settle for less than that. Scanning ingredient lists on chocolate bars to make sure it’s not too processed is not a fun way to live. If I let fear impose restrictions on my diet, these things will forever be out of my reach. I want to feel good about something that isn’t just another way to restrict myself. I want to feel good because I’m joining in rather than the superiority I get from avoiding what other people don’t feel the need to even think about.

So yes, clean eating is a nice enough idea, but for me, it’s only a way of moralising food that’ll perpetuate my fears of so many foods I used to enjoy. Nobody has a perfect diet, but I’m pretty sure the closest you can get to one involves eating both the foods you like and the foods your body needs.  You can’t just live on vegetables the same way you can’t just live on sweet and sour chicken. Everything in moderation.

I’m deciding not to eat clean. And I’ll eat my nutella to prove it.



Filed under eats, life, recovery

13 responses to “when good ideas are actually bad ideas.

  1. Brilliant post. Your thoughts of rational, you know that while ‘clean eating’ might suit people it’s not good for you right now so that’s really positive. I totally get the obsession factor, but it’s even better that you’re putting a stop to that. Just think of those Costa muffins you’d be missing out on?! I hope you enjoy your Nutella missy, I braved it myself yesterday & bought some – god it’s good! I’d forgotten how much I used to love it.

    I kind of understand why some people choose to eat that way, but it wouldn’t suit everyone. I think it’s far too restrictive. A friend of mine has struggled with her eating in the past and has turned to Veganism. It’s clearly another way to restrict her diet further and ensure that when we’re out shopping for example, she can’t eat anything because there isn’t anything ‘suitable’. There’s no fun in that.

    Fun is in the things you mentioned – picking up a pasty from a crappy bakery, just because you fancy one. Fun is having chips and cheese after a boozy night out. Fun is being spontaneous, not planning every last morsel that goes into your body.

    Chomp away on your Nutella without any feelings of guilt whatsoever x

    • O my gosh nutella is so good isn’t it?? Especially on english muffins. Or mixed in porridge. Those are my nutella recommondations lolz.
      Restriction is restriction whatever way you look at it and in recovery, that is never a good idea. So basically, my new logic is to try to eat all the really processed foods I can get my hands on. Tinned rice pudding? Yes please. Spaghetti hoops? I think so. I’ve got to not be scared of it all anymore. I just want to eat what I want, not what I should. All things are suitable. (I really hope I can actually do this…).

      Seriously though, nutella porridge. Trust me. x.

      • Spaghetti hoops, love love love! I honestly couldn’t care less if my food is processed or not (I know some people would scoff at my attitude) but I’m all about convenience (and laziness). Spaghetti on toast is so good.

        Nutella porridge may well be tomorrow’s breakfast! Honestly, if I hadn’t started a blog and therefore starting reading blogs and found yours – I wouldn’t be anywhere near as brave as I feel now. Nutella would have been a dream but you’ve shown me it’s possible and now I’m eating and loving it again :) (on 2 slices of toast with chopped banana today, yummmm).

        I’m craving Spaghetti hoops now dammit!

  2. You should never follow any philosophy that makes things off limits. You can favor certain things over others, but things should never be ‘unallowed’. You wanted to start learning to eat intuitively? Clean eating doesn’t make sense in that ‘philosophy’ if you ask me, though when you check out the info available on it you’d might think otherwise. To me, intuitive eating means INTUITIVE eating, not just eating healthy foods! Because hellooo, hangover green leafs and lentils? Na-ah. Intuitive means listening to your body and going with the flow, also sometimes someone else’s flow. Just because that’s the way life goes!

    When I just started recovery, I used to wake up in the middle of the night reeeeal hungry (damn metabolism..). My ultimate, decadent midnight snack became nutella&banana grilled (white bread!) sandwiches. Sometimes with extra chocolatesprinkles in between. Try it! They’re so good, you’ll never think about following any philopsophy that labels white bread or chocolate as ‘bad’!

    • I don’t think I’m close to inutitive eating really – I still have no idea what what my body wants, so I just pick foods that feel relatively safe and easy and have all the major food groups. I want to be there so much though. I’m just not really sure how to get to that point. I’m in a food rut where I don’t really want anything, don’t really enjoy what I eat, don’t challenge scary things. Just stuck eating food I’m comfortable with and occasionally challenging myself because I should, not because I want to. Where do you even begin? Or is that still too early for me do you think?

      I’m gonna try that nutella sandwich though, sounds too yum! x.

      • You don’t have to jump full in, you can start with switching things up bit by bit. So plan to eat a certain amount of protein or starch or whatever, but then let your tummy decide which one? You should eat a biscuit, but mmmm yumm, which one sounds best? instead of letting your tummy decide whether its biscuit, cheese, sausage, ice cream or whatever it wants. And like I said before, only check the nutritional labels AFTER eating it so you can not let that weigh into your decision. And also, your love for food will increase when you step out of the rut. In Dutch we have a saying, sorta; a change in tastes will make you wanna eat. It’s true. If you keep trying different things all the time, you’ll feel more like eating and trying more as well. When it’s all the same, it’s boring, and you get fed up with it so easily!

        And in reply to Haveyourcake: Spaghetti on toast? Never tried it… Sounds good though? Also love: Spaghetti with ketchup. Or better; white rice with ketchup. And some salty cashews. THE BEST. (Ok, that’s a lie, the nutella/banana grilled sandwich is better)

  3. I worry about switching one set of disordered eating rules for another. I like the idea of eating food that is minimally processed, but I don’t want it to become THE RULES that I must and anything else is off limits. It’s the same story, just worded differently. I agree with mundanebrain…eating intuitively, when you’re hungry…for what you really feel like…and stopping when you’re full. I’m not great at this particularly…but I’m trying. Eating “clean” will work brilliantly for some people…likewise being vegan or gluten free. I know that I feel better when I don’t eat bread/wheat/yeast…I swell up like a balloon otherwise…BUT…I’m not going to discount it entirely because dammit, some days I just want a sandwich! You need to find what works for you because you’re the one that needs to eat…and life is to short to eat stuff you don’t like just because it’s in THE RULES. xo.

    • The part where I get stuck is working out what it is I actually want. Grr. So annoying. I’m so stuck in rules that I have no idea how to even begin eating intuitively. Blah. I’m going to have to give it a try at some point though, but when I think about what might be tasty, my mind just goes blank, so I end up eating something vegan and wholegrainy with lots of veg. I’m not even vegetarian for petes sake! How do you work it all out?

  4. Yup Yup Yup…. food pedestal!!!

    (ashamed to admit i keep a little packet of raisins in my bag as my clean snack. but lately i started thinking that raisins are actually just little bombs of dried sugar. i mean, raisins… unhealthy!? come ON!

    • Seriously, dried fruit is one of my top 5 all time recovery foods (I have top 5 lists of basically everything). Get on board the raisin train. Definitly healthy, plus you wanted dense foods so dried fruit is the way to go. Om nom nom x.

  5. I tried very hard not to fall into that trap during recovery too – it would be a massive pain in the ass to just switch anorexia for orthorexia, and end up still too scared to ever eat out with friends or have a birthday cake. It became far less stressful the longer I maintained a healthy weight, until I don’t really think about the nutritional composition of my diet these days. I think you can reach a point where your body can tell you what it wants, so if I’m at college and I have a sausage roll and cake for lunch the next day I might really crave stew or something else incredibly vegetable-y. Bodies are clever :)

    Go you for not letting your ED sneak in through a side door x

    • Sometimes it seems so impossible that bodies can regulate nutrition without much thought. I’m hopeful though. It’s nice to know that you’ve managed it though and that it’s not fully impossible. Just gotta learn to trust I guess.

      • Hang on to that hope. It was a bizarre idea to me even two years ago, because I’d never experienced maintaining my weight, let alone maintaining my weight without micromanaging my intake! But I just about manage it through intuitive eating now (just about because stress always destroys my appetite, so I do have to be careful), and it’s still such a novelty to know that I can trust my body to keep itself healthy without strictly controlling everything that passes my lips. Mind blowing stuff for someone in recovery :)

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