When you think about “clean eating” what comes up for you?
Is it a method of eating that excites you?
Or, does it sound bland, boring, and slightly intimidating?
Where, to get the results you want, you’ll have to force yourself to eat the “right foods”?
For most of you, it will be the latter.
Yet, you’ll still find this concept of clean eating compelling.
In this episode, I’m explaining why you feel drawn to the concept of “clean eating”.
And why it never works out for you long-term.
Hello there. Welcome back to the podcast this week. Before we get into today’s episode, I want to let you know that if you are interested in receiving coaching with me, in my program, then be sure to go to katrentas.com/coaching. Many of you reach out to me and ask, “How can I get started working with you? What do I need to know?”. Everything you need to know is on that page. I explain what my program looks like, whether the program is a good fit or not, and how you can schedule that 1:1 consultation with me to apply to my program. So, katrentas.com/coaching. That is where you find out more about receiving coaching from me.
Alright, today we’re going to talk about clean eating. And, whew. I need to be honest. Even just bringing up this topic feels heavy. I remember back in the day, I would try again, and again, and again to incorporate clean eating into my diet. Like, it literally became an obsession for me. It took over my life with food. And really, this was just about me trying to achieve perfection with food. But before I get into that, I need to mention that if you thought this episode was going to be me telling you how to eat perfectly clean all of the time, you have another thing coming. But, I encourage you to listen very carefully to this episode because I’m going to explain to you exactly what’s happening when you try to eat clean. And what you can do instead so you’re not trying to achieve something that’s unachievable with food. If we’re being perfectly honest. So, we’re going to get into all of that. But, as I mentioned, I was obsessed with this idea of eating clean. And to me, this just meant I would try and eat perfectly healthy food all of the time. I wasn’t entirely successful, but this was always the goal. I wanted to eat clean. Because I had this concept of what a woman who ate healthy was. I would always imagine the woman who had the results I wanted with food and her body. And to me, she was a clean eater. As in, she was someone who ate perfectly healthy all of the time. And she had this amazing, pretty life when it came to food. Where she only ate things that were unprocessed, fresh, and healthy every single meal. And in my mind, this woman was superior to me. I wanted to be like this woman so, so badly. Because in my mind, she had the body I wanted. She had the results I wanted. So I figured, to lose weight, get healthier, and live this perfect little life with food that I needed to just eat clean. And eat perfectly healthy all of the time. And what’s interesting, is I always felt really motivated thinking about this version of myself that I wanted to become. So I could be better. But, it always left me feeling inadequate and incapable with food. Like, I would never be able to achieve that version of myself who was a perfectly healthy eater who ate clean. Because I could never keep up with it. I would quote unquote “eat clean” for a handful of days. And then I would eat something that wasn’t clean. Or, I would eat something that wasn’t perfectly healthy. And this turned into me falling completely off track. I would make these failures mean I wasn’t capable. And I would take it so personally. I would make it mean so many negative things. And I ultimately ended up feeling like I would never measure up to that version of a perfectly healthy eater that I wanted to become.
And there were a couple of main problems with this approach. Where I was trying to eat clean. First, my healthy eating goals were only focused on eating for function. Or, eating for weight loss and improving my health. Which most people don’t understand why this is a problem. Most people will think, “Well yeah. I want to lose weight and improve my health. So I want to be eating clean. I want to be eating for function”. But. This doesn’t work. Because eating for function is important for your body. But what’s equally, if not more, important is eating for satisfaction with food. And if your body is not feeling satisfied from the food you are feeding it, you will end up getting uncontrollable cravings and overeating. So, in a nutshell, this was one of the huge problems with me trying to eat clean and eat for function only. I wasn’t providing satisfaction to my body with food. The second big problem with this clean eating approach is that I was severely damaging my relationship with food. And what a relationship with food means is just your thoughts and feelings about it. It’s what energy you’re bringing towards your eating decisions. And this is what ultimately determines how you’re eating. It’s what determines what compels you to take certain actions with food. And with my approach to clean eating, the energy I was bringing to my eating was an energy of expectancy. Where I was seeing food as a means to an end. It was a very dry relationship. And this was the relationship I had with my body as well. There was no love there for food or my body. I just wanted food and my body to do what I wanted it to do. And this negative energy affected every area of my eating habits. Because really, I was trying to punish food and my body into the changes I wanted. I was trying to harness willpower. And I was trying to force myself to eat a certain way. Because I thought clean eating, or perfect eating, was the way to do that. And probably like many of you, I thought this was my only option. And the truth is, you can never punish your way to sustainable healthy eating habits. That feel natural and easy for you. Because it won’t last, right? Think about it. If the journey to healthy eating and weight loss feels awful, why would you keep doing it? Of course you won’t keep doing it! You’re going to stop that approach as soon as you lose motivation. Because it feels awful. And it doesn’t need to feel awful. That’s the big secret. You don’t have to eat perfectly clean to get the results you want. In fact, you shouldn’t.
Something else I’ll mention quickly is this idea of perfection with food. It’s something so many of us strive for with healthy eating. And this is really where the idea of clean eating comes from. We want to be these perfectly healthy eaters with these perfect bodies and perfect lives. And I want you to understand exactly why this is happening. And why you strive for perfection with food. It’s not because eating perfectly is better. It’s not even because reaching a certain weight is better. It’s not really about the result you’re trying to get. It’s because you want to feel better. More specifically, you strive for perfection with food because you want to feel worthy, successful, confident, adequate – insert whatever emotion you want to feel here. We want to be perfectly healthy eaters because of how we think it will make us feel. And chances are, you have this concept of a perfectly healthy eater like they are more worthy than you are now. You may even have a concept of those people where they are more successful than you. More beautiful. More confident. You have elevated this concept of perfectionism so highly in your mind, that you think that is how you need to eat to feel those emotions. And this is why you gravitate towards things like clean eating. Towards perfectionism. Because of how you think it’ll make you feel about yourself when you eat perfectly. And, this is the big thing, we strive for perfectionism because we are avoiding the emotions we’ll face when we fail. Because most of us make failure mean something very, very negative about ourselves. So I know that’s an in-depth way of explaining this. But two things to take away from it. First, you are striving for perfectionism with food because of how you think it will make you feel about yourself. And second, you do this to avoid the negative emotions associated with failure. And there’s a quote that I love which states, “Perfectionism is for scared people”, and this is why. We’re so afraid of failure. And this is why clean eating sounds really, really sexy to the humans. In our minds it’s like, “Perfectionism? I’m in. There’s no way that can ever make me feel bad”. The only problem is perfectionism was never real. It’s not sustainable. So, let’s just throw it away for good, shall we?
And this concept of perfectionism with food also creates a specific mindset. And it’s called black and white thinking. And black and white thinking means you have this mindset where certain foods are “good” and certain foods are “bad”. And this can apply to any area of your life, right? You’re terming things as very black and white. Good or bad. And what this does with food is it puts this weight on healthy eating. Because everything you eat, or don’t eat, will feel like a moral decision. You’ll always be thinking, is this food good? Or is this food bad? And what will end up happening is when you eat good foods, you will associate yourself as being good. Or worthy. Or whatever else you want to think about yourself. But, when you eat bad foods, you’ll see yourself as bad. Or irresponsible. Or unworthy. Whatever you don’t want to think about yourself. So this is the mentality we want to move away from so we’re not striving for perfectionism with food. And this mentality not only damages your relationship with food, but it literally puts up this barrier between you and your healthy eating goals. Because when you catch yourself eating so-called “bad” foods, you’re going to come up with a lot of limiting beliefs about yourself. Like, you’re just addicted to those bad foods, you’re not someone who can eat healthy easily, eating the right foods is so hard for you, and so on. This black and white thinking will give you a list of really good reasons as to why you’re not capable of eating healthy. When you don’t eat perfectly you’ll be providing so much evidence to your brain that healthy eating is not possible for you. And then whenever you try and make chances, you’ll have this overwhelming imposter syndrome. Many of my clients come to me with this. And they’ll see themselves as so, so far away from the person and eater they want to become. And they aren’t that far away. At all. This is just because they’ve tried to eat perfectly for so long. And when they inevitably fail to do that, they give themselves a very long list of reasons why they’re not the type of person who can eat healthy. That’s all that’s happening.
So, clean eating. In case I didn’t make it clear enough. Is just another way we strive for perfectionism with food. So we can feel better about ourselves. Which is why, we’ll create this black and white thinking around food. Where certain foods are “good” and others are “bad. That inevitably sets us up for failure. Because perfection isn’t possible long-term. And when we fail, we end up providing evidence to our brain that we’re not capable of becoming a healthy eater. Make sense? Good. Glad we’re on the same page.
This concept of clean eating is also a really good example of how we should always be questioning what’s normal in our culture when it comes to healthy eating. The concept of clean eating is so normal nowadays, that it actually is being marketed to us in a way where it seems perfectly healthy. And it seems sustainable for us. And it seems like the solution that we’ve been looking for. Because we want that perfection with food and our bodies. And these diet companies know that’s what we want. So, they cater to that. Clean eating attracts those of us who want perfection so we never suffer. I fell for it for years. And ironically, ended up suffering more for it. But always be questioning what’s normal in the food and diet industry. Because you can trust yourself to know what’s best with food and your body. More than you think you do. And when you really think about it, does clean eating sound enjoyable to you? Like, let’s just consider this for a second. With everything we talked about in this episode. Does this clean eating seem like a way to sustainably get the results we want? Not really, right? And for the record, I obsessed over clean eating for years. And if you are right now, don’t be hard on yourself. We’re just taught to find the answers with food outside of ourselves. And this is what’s being told to us. This is what’s being presented to us as the answer. So, we go with it. And then suffer along the way. But what I’m telling you, and clean eating is just one example, always be questioning what’s being marketed to you. Especially with food. Always, always, always. Not in a way where everything is this conspiracy theory that’s out to get you. Not from a place of heightened emotion .Just with an awareness of what will really work for you and your body and what won’t. You can trust yourself to know the honest answer.
Now, that all of that being said, how do we throw away this concept of perfectionism with food? Because for most of you, if you’re anything like I was, you’ll be slightly obsessed with this concept of eating clean. Where you’re living in a fantasy world where you’re never craving foods that you find pleasurable. And you’re a robot who only likes to eat unprocessed foods. Now, I’m kind of making fun of us as I say this. But this is really what’s happening. We’re not really thinking realistically when we want to eat perfectly clean. Anyways, how do we eat healthy, lose weight, get those results we want, without perfectionism with food?
You write your own rules for healthy eating and find your own balance. Now, I will say, this word balance I find is very heavily overused when it comes to healthy eating. Everyone will say “You just need to find your balance with food!”. Because it’s true. You do. But I would always get frustrated when people said this to me, because I would think, “Well what the hell is that balance? Tell me what it is! I don’t know what that means!”. And I hear you. It can all become very vague. So here’s what balance you want to achieve with healthy eating. You want to create your own definition of healthy eating that balances foods for function and foods for pleasure. Because your body needs both to thrive. You want to intentionally be incorporating those foods that nutritionally help your body thrive. And you want to intentionally be incorporating those foods that your body finds pleasurable and satisfying. This is the balance that is so often referred to. Now, how do you find this balance? You find this balance by doing the work. And this is the work I do with my clients. You determine how your past led to the eating habits you have now. You manage your mind so you’re not feeling resistance when making healthy food decisions. You get in touch with your body wisdom so you know when to stop eating, start eating, and when you’re perfectly satisfied with food. You learn how to manage your food plan around a busy schedule where you’re becoming a master at time management. All of these things. So, the goal is to find the balance where you’re creating your own definition for healthy eating. The way to get there is by doing the deeper work. But, the important thing to know from this episode, is that perfection with food isn’t necessary. Eating perfectly clean isn’t reality. Because your body doesn’t want you to eat perfectly clean all of the time. It also wants to feel satisfied from food and enjoy what you’re eating. So, don’t focus on eating clean. Focus on finding the personal balance you need from food that allows you to eat for function while also prioritizing those foods you enjoy. And if you’re ready to do this for yourself. And dive into this work at the highest level. Where we take this work super, super deep. You need to sign up for my coaching program, like yesterday. But really. If this is work you’re committed to doing for yourself, and you’re committed to ditching the perfectionism with food and finding a method of healthy eating that actually works for you, instead of against you, apply to my coaching program so you can get the support and guidance you need. That’s at katrentas.com/coaching.
Alright, my amazing friend. I hope this episode gave you insight. This is one of those more ranty episodes but it’s always important for me to shed light for you on these episodes. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day. And I’ll talk to you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified health coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.