My Journey to Clean Eating
Clean eating. Those two words can sound so subjective when thrown around. I mean what does it mean anyway? Aren’t most foods that aren’t fast food or junk food, well, clean eating? It’s probably just a floofy term people throw around to receive praise and attention for their eating habits. It’s dumb to call yourself a clean eater because most people are- it’s like calling yourself an air breather. Or a water drinker. Stupid, right?
That’s what I thought a year ago before my own journey with eating healthy began. I truly didn’t realize the term clean actually meant something beyond avoiding fast food and complex carbs, like pasta. Then my life took me on a journey that completely changed the way I thought about food, nourishment, fueling our bodies- and what a world of difference that can make for our health.
Back in December of 2020, I began researching some symptoms I’ve had for years and years. My symptoms correlated to my menstrual cycle that left me in so much pain I would stay skip work and school to lay in bed because that was literally all I was capable of doing. For the longest time I thought my body was normal and I just had a low pain tolerance. Something I saw online one day planted the seed to start researching my pain. Endless internet tabs later, I came to the conclusion to start a conversation with my doctor about endometriosis.
While I was waiting to go see a doctor, I began my start with the anti-inflammatory diet, which has been shown to reduce the symptoms of endometriosis. By the time I saw a doctor, she confirmed what I dreaded: I most likely have the disease (which has no current cure) and I did the right thing by starting an anti-inflammatory diet. My doctor sent me away with instructions to continue the diet I was on, and several months later, here I am: on a diet that has shifted my relationship with food.
Prior to ever knowing the word endometriosis, I thought I was a healthy eater, and if you had asked me whether I followed clean eating, I’d answer yes. My idea of healthy eating was definitely not clean eating, but I didn’t know it.
Growing up, my family never ate fast food and I carried that habit with me through high school and most of college. My senior year of high school I learned to cook and made almost all my meals for myself. I’d always put a side salad on my plate which made me feel super healthy. And I didn’t drink anything besides water, which made me feel even healthier. When I got to college and used my universities’ meal plan, I felt more in control of what I ate. I avoided anything fried, always skipped desert, and continued my side salad obsession. How much more can I be healthy, I’d think to myself.
It was around that time that I watched a documentary on the paleo diet, which opened up my eyes to a whole new way of looking at food. I love a good story (journalism major here) and the paleo diet had a story that transfixed me. I had no clue that ancestral history and food could have so much in common when it comes to eating healthy. I was hooked! I decided to try my best to stay paleo throughout college, and then adopt the diet completely once I graduated.
Learning about the paleo diet was my first introduction to the vast idea of clean eating. I still was a college student at the end of the day, and soon I found myself loosening my grip on eating healthy. When my friends would go out for pizza, I’d join them. I’d drink soda almost every weekend when I went out with friends, and fell into the typical college student pattern of making excuses for not eating better. I’d eat half a pie because “I had a long week”. I’d go get milkshakes and fries with my friends constantly without thinking what was even in them because “everyone else was does it”.
Then I left stopped living at college thanks to COVID. I was back to making my own meals at home and again, I thought I was eating pretty healthy. I kept thinking that until I found out about endometriosis, until I found out the difference between good and bad ingredients, and until I found out why that all matters.
I’ve been on the anti-inflammatory diet for about five months now while it hasn’t cured my endometriosis or made me shed 20 pounds, I have peace of mind knowing I don’t put harmful ingredients into my body anymore. I have the occasional taco bell slipup like anybody else (is there anything yummier than nacho fries??), and I haven’t been able to quit drinking soda but I’ve come such a long way from thinking what I used to eat was actually healthy.
If you’re in the situation I was in a year ago and want to know more about what clean eating actually means, let me start you off with this: please read the labels on products. Know what’s actually going into your body by taking a look at the back of each box, can, jar, or carton. We’re so lucky to be living in today’s time because food has so much variety and options. There are clean swaps for almost every food that’s not traditionally healthy, and there are so many ways to easily substitute meals or recipes to make them healthy. Here are three accounts I follow below that have helped me SO much with understanding that.
- Jen Smiley from Wake Up and Read the Labels. Her Instagram page is filled with the most helpful tips and facts about the food industry that will blow. your. mind
- Kyle and Karly Fitzgerald from Clean Kitchen Nutrition. They are a brother-sister duo who help you find clean and cleaner alternatives to many food products you wouldn’t think are unhealthy (fact-check: advertising and “healthy” claims on the front of the package don’t tell the whole truth). Find them on Tick-Tok and Instagram!!
- Karalynne Call from Just Ingredients. She makes eating clean and living a clean lifestyle overall so simple with her “good, better, best” posts on Instagram! She also has an amazing podcast I’ve learned SO much from because he brings on the most amazing guests like doctors and specialists.
Overall, here are the biggest changes I’ve made over time:
- Reading the ingredients on every processed food label
- Avoiding inflammatory oils in products (canola, corn, soy, safflower, etc)
- Avoiding all soy products
- Cutting out most foods with refined sugars
- Making my own products that I couldn’t find a clean swap for
- Going 90% dairy free
- Switched out the sugar in my coffee for honey
Thanks for reading along friends!