'Why I'll Never Embrace #CleanEating'

Bella Jolly

Apparently 97 per cent of women feel insecure about their bodies. If that teaches us anything, it's that there's no 'right' way to fix that. Even if you own a spiralizer...



I have a complicated relationship with food.

Five years ago, going 24 hours without food was a considerable victory. I’d obsess over my weight, over calories, and over the precise size of my waist, pulling my t-shirt up and examining my stomach upwards of five or six times a day to check how much fatter I’d become.

Now, going three or four hours without food is an unthinkable horror. I do marketing for a restaurant and so I spend every day quite literally surrounded by food. I obsess over new openings and new trends, and soft launches are my life.
 
One trend that I will not be embracing, though, is #CleanEating. I have made a solemn promise to my boyfriend that I will never, ever spiralise a courgette, purchase a hemp seed, or tuck into a 'chia bowl.'

Don’t get me wrong. I can totally imagine the sense of angelic smugness that descends after one feasts on courgetti, overnight oats, or raw, sugar free, vegan sweet potato 'brownies.' I see the nutritional value in all of the above, and I can imagine feeling great after eating them.

But I can also imagine – all too easily – the all-consuming guilt that comes the next day when you’ve had a crappy day at work and the only thing that’ll make it better is a hefty chunk of carrot cake.

You see, I don’t think that clean eating would allow me to Get The Glow, to Live Free, or any other such pronouncement. I think that it would force me to think about every tiny thing I put in my mouth; to obsess, once again, over ingredients on the back of a packet; to wait anxiously until I magically turned into the sort of waifish, tanned, sugar-renouncer that Instagram loves. I can already see myself declining invites out, trapped at home by the looming spectre of the spiralizer/Nutribullet duo.

Like many others, my issues with food were partly about control. But as I see it, so is 'clean eating. They are two sides of the same coin – and that is one coin that I’d like to lose down the back of one very deep sofa.

Instead, I do what I have self-indulgently termed 'intuitive eating'. I don’t think there’s a girl out there who doesn’t know, deep down, when she’s eaten one too many burgers. The difficult part comes with shaking off the guilt that follows, resisting the urge for a post-burger dessert, and noting this one down for the next time you’re persuading yourself into your running shoes. That’s the bit that I think I’ve finally figured out.

I still struggle with some things. Often the hangover is less disturbing than waking up with the heavy knowledge that I have consumed probably 1000 calories in alcohol. But isn’t that normal? Other days, I relish in being able to eat whatever I like: a hangover hall pass.

Someone is always going to be skinnier or more muscly or more toned than you. Someone is always going to be bigger or taller or fatter. Some girls love clean eating and I have no doubt that spiralisers have revolutionised some womens’ lives. But, with this careful balance that I think I’ve finally achieved - between a size that seems about right and a weight that I’m oblivious to - I don’t want it waging a civil war in mine. I’ll eat sort-of-clean, and I’ll think my body is probably-okay, and I’ll continue to eat gluten and crisps and the occasional Chicken Legend, and entirely hypocritically order soya lattes ‘cause it's not my fault milk makes me feel gross.
 
Apparently, 97% percent of us – that’s NINETY-SEVEN PERCENT – are unhappy with our bodies. And as depressing and horrifying as that fact is, there’s a certain comfort in it. Because it means there’s no one prescribed way of finding freedom and happiness, no matter what Instagram would have you believe.

So I guess all we can do is figure it out for ourselves.

Embrace the days when you feel a bit like you could take a catwalk in an instant. Figure out what clothes and what foods and how much exercise make you feel good, and figure out which ones don’t. If you need to (and frequently, I do), find the pose in the mirror that makes you look best and use it to reassure yourself. Eat a chocolate bar to calm yourself down, or make a salad because you can’t remember when you last ate a vegetable. Look at calories, or don’t.
Find your balance.

That, I think, is the real key to breaking free of body hate.

Find out more about our #BREAKFREE campaign here - and meet our Body Insecurity Ambassador, Hannah Gale, here.


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