I tried to eat clean once. About four years ago, I wanted to get rid of my pudgy belly and although I would jog and walk regularly, it was still there. I was introduced to the book Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It by science journalist Gary Taubes. He convinced me that sugar was making me fat and the best way to stop getting fat was to eliminate it as much as possible: by cutting out bread, potatoes, rice and sweets and filling up on protein and vegetables instead. I was rigorous and disciplined: my meals were high in protein and fat. If there was a potato chip or a chocolate on offer, I would avoid it. Within two months of the diet, I was comfortably down a size and by all accounts looking good. Someone even complimented me on my lack of fat.
I viewed my diet as a game, avoiding the “bad” foods where and whenever possible. There was obviously a downside. I became obsessed with it and I was depriving myself. My most vivid memory of this was on holiday in Malaysia. Malaysian food is based around rice and noodles and I remember hardly touching any of it, feeling that they were sinful foods. When I look at photos of myself at that time, I looked gaunt. I did not enjoy that holiday.
Following a clean food fad can, at worst, lead to orthorexia and, at best, lead to a moral judgment on food. As the Angry Chef, Anthony Warner, rightfully notes, there is no “good/clean” or “bad/dirty” food: food is just food. Nutritionists and the Angry Chef will tell you that the healthiest way to eat is to eat a variety of foods in moderation.
My obsession with cutting carbs ended when I met my husband. He loves bread and fruit, and he bakes. So my diet was inevitably doomed. A couple of months before our wedding, I thought about eliminating my pudgy belly again by temporarily cutting back on carbs and sugary treats. I met up with a friend for lunch shortly after starting my regime. I bought something “healthy” – a chicken salad. It tasted like rubber with cardboard, it was expensive, and I was hungry half an hour later. I soon realized how ridiculous my diet was and vowed to stop dieting and depriving.
On my wedding day, I looked like me – pudgy belly and all. And I couldn’t have been happier.