The Dark Side of Clean Eating

IN NEPAL, I saw a sign outside a restaurant that said, “Life is short. Eat dessert first.”

It’s a good metaphor for what I’m going to discuss.

The topics are food anxiety, clean eating, and weight loss.

About 4 years ago, I had a short-lived flirtation with Orthorexia. My health wasn’t so great and I was looking for answers so I hired a holistic nutritionist.

I became gluten-free for 6 months, cut out caffeine, sugar, eliminated dairy and avoided eggs and other items in order to achieve better health.

I even made my own nut milk, sprouted my own seeds, and bought organic foods.

I almost never ate out at a restaurant because it was hell trying to find a place that could accommodate all my special dietary needs. (Not much fun for my husband either, even though he was a good sport about it.) I avoided traveling because I couldn’t control my diet — p.s. I love to travel.

I became anxious and socially isolated.

sad ladyIronically, I never got any healthier. In fact, I got worse. My thyroid antibodies went through the roof. (A sign my immune system was attacking my thyroid tissue.)

In the end, what made me feel better was good old pharmaceuticals. I significantly increased my thyroid medication, resumed my old eating habits, including gluten, and my antibodies went to zero. They’ve remained in normal ranges ever since.

So, when I reflect back to those dark days of fearing all kinds of foods and labeling them as good or bad, and getting judgy about other people’s poor nutritional choices and the greediness of the food industry, I can only thank my stars that I’m over that phase.

I enjoy eating out and I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I drink coffee, eat ice cream, and nothing is off-limits.

I no longer fear specific foods, and my mental health (and wallet) is better for it.

So why am I sharing this story?

Because there’s someone out there unnecessarily obsessed with every bite of food they eat, and if that’s you, I want you to know that it’s not healthy.

If you are constantly anxious about what you eat, and you’re not feeling significantly better, maybe it’s time to step back. Be honest about your symptoms and the stories you tell yourself about food.

Maybe you need to see a doctor about your health concerns. In my case, I needed to increase my thyroid medication in order to feel better. No amount of clean eating would fix that.


Is it possible that an obsession with clean eating, GMOs, grains, sugar, (insert latest evil food item here) provides a distraction from undiagnosed anxiety? An outlet for obsessiveness? A need for control? A need to feel superior? Or something else? Perhaps a deep-seated fear of illness and a belief that food purity will prevent you from getting sick?

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy in order to become – or remain – healthy. It’s an actual medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful.

You’re especially vulnerable to Orthorexia if you dislike or mistrust the medical establishment and want to find non-medicinal cures for your health concerns.

Here is an interesting meme by Alan Aragon about the link between Orthorexia, Anorexia, and OCD. I’ve shared it here, with his permission. Click here for the original post and discussion.

Orthorexia, Anorexia, and OCD image

Life is short

I understand and respect the need for experimentation. Good nutrition and eliminating foods you may be sensitive to is important for good health. But life is too short to obsess about EVERYTHING you put in your mouth.

You may want to stick to whole, unprocessed foods 80% of the time, and once in a while, why not eat dessert first?

All-or-nothing attitudes will backfire, and sometimes turn into eating disorders. Inflexible mindsets lead to dis-ease and disease.

– From my FREE guide, 20 Essential Nutrition Habits for Permanent Weight Loss. Click here to download your copy.

Do you eat healthy but still can’t lose weight?

Most of my new clients have this complaint. They’ve tried everything to lose weight: low-carb-high-fat, low-fat, paleo, keto, plant-based, sugar-free, gluten-free and dairy-free, detoxes and intermittent fasting, and everything in between.

They’re often educated about different popular diets because they’ve tried so many, but they lack basic nutrition knowledge when it comes to the recommended daily guidelines for proteins, carbs, fiber, and fats. Many of my new clients don’t even know how to read and interpret a food label.

I teach them about nutrition and flexible eating, and the doors to their minds swing open. They feel almost giddy about the fact that they can eat anything they want.

The Dark Side of Clean Eating - orthorexiaThey learn that they don’t have to eliminate entire food groups just to lose weight and get healthy and fit.

They can have a Snickers bar if they want. Or wine. Or ice cream.

In fact, most of my ladies enjoy a little chocolate each day.

They get to eat in a way that respects their lifestyle and preferences and still lose weight.

They learn the scientific principles behind nutrition, and they stop falling for nonsense.

And most satisfying of all: they stop fearing all the food and learn to eat in a way that is enjoyable, sustainable, and supports their body composition goals.

Would you like to work one-on-one with your own diet coach to help you lose weight and build a better relationship with food? Click here –

It’s not just about the weight you lose. It’s about the freedom you gain.

What is that one food that you thought was healthy but turned out it’s not? Share them with us below!

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