‘Eat clean’ – harmless food fad or unhealthy obsession?

Now I’m all for healthy eating, but something about the term ‘eat clean’ that’s being thrown about at the moment makes my hackles rise. The diet that spawned the term is pretty sensible; less refined sugar – more fruit, veg and whole foods. You know the drill.

But the term itself is puritanical, setting us up to analyse every morsel we put into our mouths. It says ‘I will purify myself, cleanse myself of wrong doing.’  Forgive me father for I have sinned, I had unclean thoughts of putting a great big spoonful of salted caramel ice cream in my guilt ridden, yet salivating mouth. Is this modern day religion? Mecca has been supplanted by Maca – a root touted by health enthusiasts, renowned for its health benefits and aphrodisiac qualities. New super foods are appearing one after the other, a conveyor belt of promises.  We juice just about anything we can lay our hands on, knocking back huge quantities of fruit and veg with the kind of frenzy reserved only for the pursuit of eternal youth.

Our society has two growing polarities. We’ve got the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. On the one hand we have an obesity crisis that’s crippling the NHS with its burgeoning weight and on the other we have our clean eaters, eyeing up the food before them with a deeply ingrained suspicion. We’ve got big food corporations whispering their sweet nothings about incredible deals and how there is now even less fat in some sterile, sugary yogurt. These corporations aim to make our shopping choices so unconscious that we won’t even realise why we reach for a certain brand on the supermarket shelf.

The food industry rides on waves of this good versus evil. Take the Innocent smoothie – a sugary hit, but with a haloed head. Why not have one of these to balance out the chocolate bar you ate earlier. Or think about pretty much every chocolate advert aimed at women –  each speaks of indulgence, gluttony – a naughty treat which you know you shouldn’t eat, but go on be bad just this once.

I don’t want my food to be fetishised, demonised, dressed up or cleverly marketed. I don’t want my food choices to be saturated with quasi religious messages and I don’t need the guilt. I don’t want to eat clean, I want to eat dirty. And I don’t mean greasy takeaway or the aforementioned ice cream, but instead real fruit and vegetables grown with love and care, which are often (gasp) incredibly dirty.

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