I was once asked by a user on Tumblr whether or not I believes in things like Cheat Days and Clean Eating- along with whether or not I was a Vegan or Vegetarian (referred to here as Veg*ism so that I do not have to type both words repeatedly; you may substitute either at your leisure).
My answer to all three questions is a simple and resounding no for various reasons.
Veg*ism, RAW, Paleo, Keto and Related Lifestyle Diets
I was only asked about Veg*nism, but I want to make it clear where I stand on all of these diets in general because they are all within the same vein for me. While I support others’ decisions to follow such diets if they wish (it is your life, after all) I personally support none of them and will never encourage them without medical order and supervision; I do not ultimately agree with or believe in them except in circumstances where it is a cultural commonfact or a necessity for one’s continued health.
There are a lot of reasons behind this for me, too. Part of it is due to religious reasons, part is due to personal health reasons, and a large portion of it concerns scientific and biological reasons which are often overlooked and outright ignored by most of these diets- which often flat out prefer to use shoddy pseudoscience instead. Another large problem I have against them is that- like with other food movements- there are some serious problems with Veg*nism in terms of Elitism, Classism, Racism, and similar problems.
Ergo I cannot and will never support them, encourage them, or participate in them.
The Concept of “Cheat Days”
I refuse to buy into and perpetuate the concept that eating certain types of food is cheating in any format- or that there can be “cheat days”. After my own battle with Eating Disorders, I have ultimately come to feel that the concept of a cheat day encourages disordered eating behaviors. I do not believe that they are healthy mentally, emotionally, or in any other manner.
Simply put it ignores the fact that- unless dietary restrictions for health reasons prevent you from consuming a food group- a proper, healthy, and balanced diet requires all things in moderation. Yes, including sweets and other foods often negatively labeled by most people. It perpetuates the idea that certain foods are “off limits” except under certain limited circumstances by labeling select foods “bad” or “good”- and it does this in lieu of recognizing the nutritional and other value of all food.
Because of this, I also fully feel that it encourages a sense of guilt and wrongdoing whenever you “cheat”- even though you did not actually do anything wrong. If you are eating a nutritionally balanced diet, getting the full range of nutrients, all the calories you need in order to properly support your body- plus exercising regularly or generally being active enough to support a healthy digestion and metabolism? Then you cannot “cheat” in the first place.
The “Clean Eating” Trend
Like the concept of cheat days, I do not buy into the concept of Clean Eating, either. There are many problems with “Clean Eating”, “New Food”, “Sustainable Food” and related food movements that I could genuinely spend hours talking about it.
“Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate. At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible. However, modern food production has become so sophisticated that simply eating whole foods can be a challenging proposition these days.“ [SOURCE: FITNESS MAGAZINE “WHAT IS CLEAN EATING“; SECOND PARAGRAPH]
Now I can truly get behind the message of “being more mindful of the path food takes to get to your plate”. We should indeed opt for sustainable food, get rid of food deserts, try to buy local and organic, and so on. However, there is no such thing as “clean food” or “dirty food”; “real food” or “Fake Food”; “Good food” or “Bad food”.
All food is still food. Some is more nutritionally dense than others, but it is still food and has nutritional value that is important regardless of whether it is organic, locally grown, farm raised, processed and so on. Labeling food with these terms is counterproductive to our health both physically and emotionally- and I say emotionally, too, because using this kind of terminology promotes disordered eating habits by making some foods off limits and contributes to a feeling of guilt when not “eating clean”. It is not good for you mentally or emotionally and can lead to health-based eating disorders like Orthorexia and Exercise Bulimia, both of which are just as deadly and severe as Anorexia and other Eating Disorders.
Ultimately, Veganism, Vegetarianism, Paleo, Keto, Clean Eating, the concept of Superfoods, detoxing, and several other food movements are highly problematic in a multitude of ways. The mentalities behind them are often problematic as well.
Their common forms in Westernized society require a certain type of financial and social privilege that is not allotted to everyone- especially those who are not of white ethnic background. As a result they are usually extremely classist, elitist, and racist, or have foundations in these things; they are capitalistic and very corporate friendly, and most the histories and popularity that are driven by sketchy marketing schemes. Furthermore, most of them flat out ignore widely accepted scientific (and often Historical- such as in Paleo’s case) data or are flat out driven by disputed or even completely disproven pseudoscience.
For reference, please see: Black, White, and Green: Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy, Classicm from Vegans doesn’t help Animals- Nonhuman or Human, The New Food Movement Has a Problem with Race,The Racism in Healthy Food, The Problem with Foodieism, Sustainable Food and Privilege: Why is “Green” always “White”(and Male and Upper Class)?, Why The Paleo [and Similar] Diet is Classist and Racist, The Elitism and Racism of “Local Food” and the Edible Schoolyard, The elephants in Vancouver’s sustainable food movement, The Paleo Diet, Racism, and Sexism, The Inefficiency of Local Food, Food is to White Liberals what Sex is to the Religious Right, and more- all easily Google-able.
As such, on a foundational level I cannot support them. However, I do personally appreciate and support everyone else’s personal decision to participate in these things on their own levels if that is their choice (except maybe the whole idea of “Cheat days”. I’d be happy to see that one die off entirely).