The days of calorie-counting and low-fat diet foods have been replaced with clean eating, the new buzz phrase in nutrition. It can mean purchasing organic food, or choosing ‘whole’, ‘natural’ foods. Yet, a part of it still seems a bit ‘diet-y’ to me. A euphemism for diet when the word ‘diet’ has become unfashionable.
Our obsessive diet culture and clean eating is about extremes. I notice a strong habit among clients whereby restrictive eating is always followed by out-of-control eating or a binge. It’s an 'all-or-nothing' mentality, of either being 'good' or 'bad', on the wagon or off. Some will 'eat clean' and exercise four times a week for a month, and then do nothing for another two months but eat curry and go out. Yo-yo dieting wreaks havoc on the body, and the ups and downs can be exhausting.
Clean eating and the ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality is appealing to people who have high expectations for themselves and are perfectionists. If their eating isn’t perfect, it’s not good enough, hence “I’ve eaten a few biscuits, I might as well finish the packet”. A problem with black-and-white thinking is that it skews your perspective. Imagine if you spilt a few drops of orange juice on your white shirt, and thought, “It’s a complete mess, it’s destroyed”. The reality is that it can be salvaged; it’s only a few drops.
Part of a balanced approach lies in understanding that different days require different ways of eating. It’s normal to overeat some days and under-eat other days. “But I NEED rules,” you might say. Here are some loose guidelines from Heyday’s award-winning online programme, which re-trains your mindset around:
Try not to treat any foods as 'bad'
This rarely works and often intensifies food cravings you may have. Food is just food- it’s neither good nor bad. It’s how we think about it that is often the problem. You are not what you eat- "I'm vegan", "I'm paleo." Once you merge your identity with a diet, you're locked in.
Reward yourself - but not with food
Finding other ways to reward and treat yourself besides eating is absolutely essential. Will these other ways be as effective at soothing you as food? Definitely not! The things you come up with will help somewhat, but to manage your weight, it is crucial to distinguish and separate mind hunger form stomach hunger.  
Get as much of your nutritional intake as possible from a variety of unprocessed foods
Include fruits and vegetables but also include poultry, fish, meat and eggs that haven’t been altered or processed. Choose brown rice over white rice, and whole grains over refined grains. Eating at home allows you to avoid processed ingredients more easily. It allows you full control over what you eat, and allows you to choose the flavours you prefer.
Eat with other people, as often as possible
It will most likely make you eat more slowly. Many of my clients notice they eat differently when by themselves- faster, bigger forkfuls, less chewing. Eating bowls of cereal when you know no-one is looking can leave you feeling ashamed and guilty.
These rules are flexible and balanced, and try to help you be more aware and deliberate about what you eat. It’s so easy to eat more than you need, and to believe that change should come in the form of drastic dietary changes. Re-thinking and re-formatting our relationship with food is crucial to long-term sustainable change.
Send your comments or questions to and check out or further details.
Wishing you good health,
Dr. Bernadette Rock (PhD).
Weight Management Expert