Clean eating has become a very dirty expression recently. The whole industry has been so targeted over the last year to the point where a lot of people have totally rebelled against it. Where avocado and rye bread used to be the Instagram prop of choice, doughnuts and pizzas have taken their place, kale smoothies have been replaced with frothy coffees and people are opting for chocolate fondus over fruit platters time and time again. And in many ways that is great, many of us were getting to saturation point with ‘raw’ cookbooks and caveman cookies. But the backlash to the movement has been disturbing and, to people like me, really fucking annoying.
Because for some of us, those with autoimmune diseases for example (of which there is more than you might think), there isn’t a choice in the matter. For people like me, who suffers with a condition called leaky gut, I have no choice but to eat clean.
Now because of the blog that I run, I’ve often felt that I should keep my ‘clean eating’ a secret, almost as if I had something to be ashamed of as the term ‘clean’ became such a dirty word. But as I finished off my third batch of Deliciously Ella inspired energy balls this week, revelling in the relief that I could finally eat something sweet and delicious, I decided that I had to speak out. I had to put across a very normal girl’s defence of clean eating.
I love to bake and before this current health problem I would regularly be found in the kitchen creating a cake for a friend’s birthday or a batch of cookies just because. Even with my dairy and gluten allergies over the last few years, I had found ways of making deliciously sugary snacks. And so when I was told that I could no longer have sugar? Rather than giving up baking and all the joy that it brought, I had to look elsewhere for inspiration and recipes. And I was so relieved, grateful and amazed by what I found.
Before I had to, I was disinclined to really invest in recipes like Ella’s- Even to try them I somehow felt hypocritical, being so smug and healthy when I supposedly endorse a life so normal. Perhaps it stemmed from jealousy, a colour that never looked good on me, or resentment that people like Ella were so seemingly perfect whilst I sat crying into my second portion of fries about how I would never have my shit together like that, maybe she made me feel guilty. Either way, I never tried them, I dismissed them before I gave them a chance and like so many, disregarded the whole movement as a ‘fad’, an annoyance. Even with my gluten and dairy allergies I never turned to Ella and the like in my time of need, choosing to live my life as ‘normally’ as I could despite my problems. But recently, recently I have been unable to live normally, I can’t even pretend. So I succumb to it and I’m so pleased that I did.
In years passed I have avoided Wholefoods like the plague, resenting it for being so superior, full of things that I didn’t understand and couldn’t afford, I broke the golden rule and disliked something before I had even tried it and found myself hating everything in there. But then I got ill and was basically chased into it by my doctor. “Do you want to die of boredom eating nothing but spinach and chicken for the rest of your life?” she asked. No, I didn’t, so I took out an overdraft and headed on my merry little way. And now, I’m hooked.
It’s expensive, of course it is and my cupboard is now full of things that I didn’t even know existed a few weeks ago and I truly believe that if the Em of 3 years ago could see into my cupboards now she would punch me in the vagina and deem me a traitor . But what I’m amazed by is what I can do with all these weird and wonderful things. Energy balls, homemade flapjacks, brownies made with vegetables, you name it, I’m making it. And it’s changed everything. My fridge is now so full of the most delicious things, ‘naughty treats’ that are so good for me, that I can actually eat. That actually taste SO good.
I used to think, as did so many, that healthy foods couldn’t be yummy. That by definition the two things couldn’t coincide. Healthy was an option but not one that I would choose, brownies made with sugar and chocolate and flour were always better than ones made with sweet potato: that wasn’t me being difficult, that was just a fact. But of course I reached that conclusion without having tried the alternative. So I’d make the bad brownies, the ones that look so good on Instagram, and I’d eat too many of them as you so often do and then I’d lie on the sofa feeling guilty about it. I’d make a huge batch of cupcakes and then would deliberately not empty the bowl fully so that I could sit, in all of my glory and eat the batter out of the bowl. And there would always be a part of me that would hate myself for doing that. Was it worth it? Yeh I guess it was, but would I jump at the chance for another option, a lower calorie, less revolting option? Of course I would.
Introducing Deliciously Ella and all that she inspired… I’m jumping.
Perhaps it’s got more to do with my diet and health concerns than I will admit, perhaps if I had never been forced to change my ways then I would still be spending my weekends riding the highs and lows of my vast sugar intake, who knows. But either way, I’m here now. And for weeks I’ve found myself too embarrassed to talk about it; I’ve felt like I’m betraying the normal girls somehow, by opting for dates and chia seeds over chocolate chips and icing sugar. But why is that? Why do I have to feel ashamed of something so great? On Friday I spent a large portion of the day baking and true to my history I stuffed myself full of as much batter as I could. By 4pm I was totally stuffed and I felt the familiar feeling of shame creeping up on me… why was I such a pig? But then I thought about what I had just eaten to excess: nuts, dates, chia, coconut. All of a sudden I didn’t feel guilty anymore, how could I? Everything I’d just eaten was clean as could be.
I would love to say that you shouldn’t feel guilty about anything that you eat, of course I would. And I would love more than anything to be able to practise what I preach, to eat something totally guilt free. But that’s not the way it works; for any of us. We can’t help it. We know that sugar in excess is bad for us. We might not want to accept it, but we can’t deny it. Can we pass it off as acceptable because we’ve chosen to be normal, to not give a shit, to fuck the haters? We can try, but will we ever really do it? I’m not sure. So when I found a way of stuffing myself full of the yummiest things ever without the guilt. What would I not want about that? I don’t understand what the problem is with healthy eating.
For people like me Deliciously Ella is more than a fad, she’s a necessity, she should be on prescription. And for everyone else? She’s a great option. There is no shame in opting to be healthy, there is nothing wrong with that, but thanks to the backlash the clean eating moment has faced recently, we have been made to feel like there is. Like we should be eating cake loud and proud. Like we should be spitting at raisins and burning chia seeds at the stake. But we don’t have to do that, we shouldn’t have to choose. What we should be is nothing more than incredibly grateful for the fact that we now have these options.
For those that CAN love it, clean eating is great. I wouldn’t wish the necessity to do it exclusively on anyone, but I do wish there was a little more excitement and acceptance around the area as a whole. Clean eating is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s not something that we should have to keep a secret, what it is, is an incredible alternative for millions of people who just want to do a tiny bit better.
From one very normal girl, I want to thank Ella a million times for creating so many wonderful things using nothing more than a pitted date and a blender.