Eating clean means different things to different people, but the general principle is that you eat whole foods, cook your own food, and avoid processed foods and refined sugar. Some people take this approach whole-heartedly, while other people like to dedicate a percentage of their diet to clean eating and leave the other portion open to whatever. I favor the latter option. I like to call my diet mostly clean. Let me give you the details about why I choose to eat this way, and how I make it happen.
It’s 2017. We are surrounded by food. Here in the U.S., we live in a food-centered society where food is a part of every aspect of our lives. Walk in the break room at work and you will most likely find baked goods or leftover pizza. Visit the doctor’s office and there might be a jar of candy sitting on the counter (oh, the irony). Drive down any street and you will find a variety of fast food restaurants to choose from. In the grocery store, the aisles are dominated by processed foods. Meet friends out and cocktails are usually involved. It is extremely difficult to eat 100% clean if you live in this world.
To be realistic, set a goal to reach 80% clean eating. This is a good place to start to see what clean eating feels like, to feel the benefits, and to learn what obstacles you may face. This means that the majority of your diet will be made up of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed meat, organic dairy, and healthy oils. It helps to meal plan so you can see your foods spread out throughout your day. If you are overwhelmed by the process of meal planning, and don’t know where to start, a wellness consultation can get you started.
Once you have your diet set at 80% clean for about one month, it’s time to reevaluate to see if you want to up your game. The next step would be to go to 85%. Look at your meals and snacks and see if there is anything else unclean that you might be willing to cut out and replace with something clean. Then try it out for at least 3 weeks. If you are satisfied, great. If not, go back to 80% and coast there, knowing that you are doing pretty well. You can keep reevaluating this way until you get to the clean eating percentage you are happy with and that works for your lifestyle.
You should also know that your percentage of clean eating does not have to be an exact number all of the time. There will be inconsistencies. Holiday time may cause your clean eating percentage to dip a little, and that’s okay as long as it’s not a huge dip, and as long as you are able to bounce back afterwards.
Now let’s talk about the unclean part of your diet. If you’re going with 80% clean, that leaves you with 20% to eat whatever you want. That doesn’t mean you have to go hog-wild and make sure you eat bad. It just means that you don’t deprive yourself of the not-so-good foods that you really enjoy. Love nachos and cheese when you go to the movies? A cold beer in the summer? Doritos and pop for a snack? Wine and cheese after dinner? Munching on all of the goodies at a party? Splurging on a dinner out? These are all possible in a mostly clean diet (just not all at once!). Just make sure it’s something that you really love and want to still enjoy from time to time.
Why It Works
Let me explain to you why this type of diet works. When you are eating mostly clean, you are doing your body so much good. All of that fresh, whole food will give you the fiber and nutrients you need to have a healthy body. And yes, I would advise you to make this as much of your diet as possible. But when you are a real person in the real world, and you allow yourself to eat unclean foods that you enjoy, you don’t feel a sense of deprivation. When you don’t feel deprived, it makes it easier to eat clean. See the cycle?
So when you hear the phrase “clean eating,” you no longer have to think to yourself, “I could never eat like that.” You CAN eat clean, or mostly clean. Any amount of clean eating is better than just not trying at all. When you eat clean, you will feel so good and hopefully you will want to eat that way more often. You have nothing to lose from trying. There are no rules but your own!
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