A thought for public consideration:
The words “eat clean” don’t actually mean anything.
Like, really, nothing.
I have heard the following foods described as both dirty and clean: dairy, poultry, whole grains, fruits, nuts, nut butters, whole wheat pasta noodles, beans, smoothies, certain oils. It is annoyingly confusing for the general public to have conflicting theories on these foods- that’s just a given- but my real issue is that I actually believe that the whole idea of food cleanliness pushes people to strive for further and further food purity, which can end in a litany of pointless, boring, functionless restrictions.
Let me tell you about my 20’s. My experience was this:
I started out vegan and gluten-free because that’s what works for me both ethics wise and digestion wise. No regrets about either of those decisions.
I begin to cut back on snacking, as I had heard it prevented proper digestion.
Obviously processed and packaged foods went next, because I was trying to be healthy and I didn’t believe those were a part of a healthful diet.
I heard that soy was actually very dangerous, and I began to steer clear of it.
I started to believe that blending fruits turned nature’s bounty into candy, and that it was akin to mainlining sugar. Smoothies were out.
Whole grains became anti-nutrient rich vitamin absorption blockers.
Beans started to be considered poison.
Nuts had too many Omega 6’s, not enough Omega 3’s.
Kale caused hypothyroidism.
and- holy shit- suddenly I couldn’t eat anything. Funny how that works out.
As a person who was generally interested in nutrition, these theories flooded me, via blog posts (without citation), hash tagged pictures (#eatcleanorgohome, amiright?), magazine articles, billboards, TV commercials. There is a low hum of nutrition advice that permeates our entire culture, and if one is susceptible to suggestion or intrigue around different theories it can become very very confusing to navigate the simple act of putting some nourishing shit in our mouths.
This is not okay with me.
“Eat clean” implies judgement. It implies that other people who don’t eat this same way are doing it wrong, are ruining their health, are making poor decisions. How rude is that!?
Something else for consideration:
Many, many people are in recovery from eating disorders.
For me, at the height of my anorexia, the “nutrient” I was most deficient in was calories. I was doing the best I could to recover, but was simultaneously obsessed with eating clean, and guess what? It was really difficult to restore weight.
The smartest thing I could have done at that time was eat a damn cookie. That is literally the choice that would have been for my highest good, but what happened for me when I tried? A negative thought loop. An echo of “that cookie is ruining your health” splashing around in my brain. Guilt. Shame.
I believe that we all have a responsibility to one another to try to get rid of the culture of guilt and shame around food. Telling the phrase “eat clean” to fuck right off is a huge part of that.
Yes, I still try to eat in a way that my experience and my actual education (like not internet articles) has taught me is healthful. I get down with some vegetables. But I also get down with a processed snack now and again, because for me, the worst thing I can do for my general health is be so obsessed with eating that I cannot enjoy an indulgence.
We can all give ourselves a lot more credit and individual consideration than just going by the guidelines “eat clean”. We’re smarter than that!
Please join me in hashtagging #cleanisforunderwearnotfood on your delicious food pics, because holy shit. I think we can agree that dirty drawers are no fun, but eating is about health, lifestyle and, every once in awhile, pleasure!
No shame or guilt about it.
I want to tell you that my eating disorder started super simply, and spiraled really quickly and I believe my early time as a blog reader contributed to that fact.
My body was always on the brink of not good enough.
“Lacy, are you gonna quit writing and talking and scheming and dreaming?!” you might ask.
“Hellllllll NAH!” I will respond.
There’s so much about being a person who makes an impact via the World Wide Web that’s tricky. There’s trolls, of course- those miserable little dorks that will talk shit on ladies who like themselves, and women looking to build muscle. There are long hours typing when I could be running, dancing, cooking, or -shoot- just hanging the fuck out. There’s vulnerability and there’s backlash- the idea that people won’t like what I have to say and will be cruel as a result. I’ve experienced all of these things, some a little bit and some a lot. I accept them as part of my job, and I am relatively comfortable with the facts. There’s one thing that I am not so comfortable with, though, and that thing is this:
Sometimes, being a person who communicates via social media gives me the impression that if I am not producing content, I simply don’t exist.
How’s that for some shit I should probably take to a therapist?
If I’m honest, I know it is highly unlikely that any other person on Earth would feel this way about me just because I skipped a week or two of posting on my blog or gabbing on my podcast. But the notion swirls around my head sometimes, knocking against the walls of my brain. I think of it because I am an achiever, of course, but also because I have found a home in this blog space, and I’ve also found a community in my readers. I worry a little silence will produce the impression that I have abandoned my post, and the fact is I would simply never want to do that.
BUT ALAS, today I realized I need not bother with these thoughts too much.
Because sometimes the culmination of idea incubation is field work, right? I can talk about body confidence and high self esteem until I am literally blue in the face via the internet, but what good is it if I can’t stand up in front of an audience and say: “what’s up, humans? Here’s why I think its important to love yourself.”
This week I am speaking at Vida Vegan Con, and in a lot of ways I feel this is the perfect culmination of a season of deep work and exploration. First I started this little space, and more people saw my words than I ever imagined. Then I started a podcast and let my actual voice invade a smattering of ears. Now I am (more and more) standing in front of groups large and small to talk about body image and self-esteem, because its fucking important and because not enough people do it. It feels like kind of a big deal to know that people give a shit about what I have to say.
(It occurs to me that not only am I extremely lucky to have these opportunities, but also that I am ridiculously stoked that I have survived the total self-obliteration that was my eating disorder enough to be in a position to speak with any authority.)
I am reminded as I sit here:
When I was so small I could have withered away I hated myself, but the thought of gaining weight made me so terrified that I assumed I would never be strong enough to do it.
When I got into recovery, I thought the changes in my body would take away my will to move through the process.
When I started lifting weights and my body changed drastically, I thought I would forever remain ashamed to be seen and to take up space.
When I started writing, I thought I would never share it.
I have proven myself wrong time and time again, almost without noticing. I don’t say this to brag, but instead to note that if someone that came from where I came from could do this, I believe almost anyone can. Even you! Especially you!
The depth of possibility when you treat yourself like your life is of value continues to grow, and while I remain a bit quiet here, you can rest assured that there is so much more to say on this topic, and that I am going to come here to say it.
Because sometimes a little space helps me formulate my thoughts in ways that make sense for a wider audience.
And because even when I am away I am thinking of you all!
I will see you soon! (At VIDA VEGAN CON maybe?! I wanna high five y’all until my arm is sore from the sheer volume of psyched!) If you’re there, please come and say hi and tell me about your life.