I was just on Facebook, scrolling through my feed like I do once a day, and I saw a post by NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) that made me stop and take notice.
As you know, I’m a HUGE believer in clean eating, and also very vocal about eating disorder recovery. I myself have been in recovery for three years and the major steps I have taken in these past three years have been huge. So, of course, I had to click on the article to read it. And as I read it, I got very angry, so I read it to my husband as well to get his opinion.
The article, titled The Problem With ‘Clean’ Eating In Eating Disorder Recovery is by a psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist named Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C. The article is basically about how clean eating can turn into another unhealthy obsession for a person recovering from an eating disorder. The article talks about how sneaky eating disorders can be and how easy it is to get pulled into a disordered relationship with food. Now, I agree with that. And I agree with the author when she says, “Research suggests that the best sustained recovery outcomes, occur when individuals are able to incorporate variety and flexibility into their eating patterns” (source). But, the rest of the article I do not agree with.
In her article, Jennifer Rollin states:
“Saying that you’ve recovered from an eating disorder and now you eat “clean” and stay away from processed foods-is like saying you are sober from alcoholism-yet maintain a “healthy” relationship to alcohol by sticking to wine and beer. While “clean eating” may be socially sanctioned-it’s incredibly dangerous for those in eating disorder recovery (and largely unhelpful to the population in general.)”
“Clean eating’ is largely unhelpful for the general population and can create a disordered or unhealthy relationship to food. However, it’s downright dangerous for those in eating disorder recovery.”
“Additionally, eating disorders thrive on rules, rigidity, and a sense of “good” vs. “bad” foods. Therefore, trying to ‘eat clean,’ and the idea that there are ‘unclean foods,’ which should be avoided-is incredibly triggering for those with the underlying genetics for an eating disorder.”
These quotes I take high offense to and I find extremely triggering. In fact, apart of the small part of her article I agree with, I think the entire article is triggering and is a gross generalization about eating clean.
After I read the article to my husband, we talked about it and agreed that what the author is basically trying to say is that, done wrong, without help, clean eating can lead to disordered eating patterns. It can lead to another type of disordered relationship with food. What the author should have said, instead of just generalizing clean eating, is that it’s important to have balance especially in eating disorder recovery.
In case you don’t know my story, I will give you a brief overview. I struggled with an eating disorder and exercise bulimia from the time I was 14 to the time I was 30. Over the years my eating disorder manifested in many different ways from restricting, to not eating, to over exercising… it was not good. It took me many years to finally feel strong enough to get the help I needed, and it was not something I could do on my own. I can’t tell you how many times I tried and failed. My disordered relationship with food always felt insurmountable to me. I can’t tell you how many tears I cried and how many times I felt hopeless because no matter what, I hated how I looked, I was never skinny enough, never weighed what I wanted to weigh. Living with an eating disorder is a constant cycle. You are constantly judging yourself. And it wasn’t until I was 29 that I finally reached out for help.
When I was 29 I started working with my health coach. Now, I feel this is something that Jennifer Rollin should have mentioned in her article. You can’t recover from an eating disorder alone. You need help to start the recovery process. My health coach was a god-send to me and literally started from square one to help me learn about nutrition and how food is good, not bad. My health coach from day one started to instill lessons in me that still help me to this day such as balance is key. She always talked to me about balance so I wouldn’t obsess over one thing, and although it took time, I started to understand about nutrition and balance.
She taught me about eating clean and nourishing my body. My health coach taught me how what I eat can affect how I feel. She taught me how to go food shopping and how to look at food differently. And the importance of eating clean and knowing where your food comes from, but again there was always the acknowledgement of there had to be balance too.
Clean eating in and of itself is not dangerous and in fact, unlike Jennifer Rollin says, is very good for everybody! It’s reclaiming our food, learning to live like our ancestors did, knowing where our food comes from and how it grown and produced. That is extremely important especially in today’s world where we are constantly dealing with GMO’s, increasing illnesses, and where processed foods are considered the norm. It’s time to take back our food!
Jennifer Rollin in her article makes gross generalizations about clean eating and ties that to eating disorder recovery. I think that’s completely the wrong thing to do and the wrong way to start a conversation. Instead of acknowledging that clean eating is healthy, and can help someone who is recovering from an eating disorder if done properly with help and supervision, she makes the generalization that is bad for everyone.
My M.U.D. Life is all about making mindful unique decisions daily. It’s about living an all-natural life. And clean eating is a HUGE part of that, as is my own story of recovery from an eating disorder. And here’s what I want to say, and I think it’s important to say.
If you are struggling from an eating disorder, in order to start the recovery process you need to have someone helping and guiding you who is professionally trained. You need a strong support system. You need to learn about food starting from the very basics and gradually increasing your knowledge bit by bit so you can start taking those important small steps towards recovery. But, balance is key. If 95% of the time you eat clean and maybe 5% of the time you have fun, such as going out to eat, or eating a chocolate bar or a bag of chips, that is perfectly fine! Even if it’s 85% or 75% of the time eating clean that’s fine too. You need to find what works for you! The most important things in recovery are: empowering yourself with knowledge, having a strong support system, and balance.
If you would like to read the original complete article my blog is in response to click here.
Note: I struggled with an eating disorder from the ages of 14 to 30. It is possible get better. For me, working with a health coach one-on-one finally helped me battle my demons. I still struggle, but it’s nothing as bad as it used to be. If you need help, consider reaching out to one of the sources below. Love yourself. Love your life. Find your happiness. M.U.D.
NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association):
The Alliance For Eating Disorders Awareness:
Lantern App (Recommended by NEDA):
This is my own personal review and I have not received any compensation for it. Want To See Other Products I Recommend? Check out Things I Love which includes discount codes.
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