8 warning signs that your clean eating may have gone too far
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Harriet Frew
16th July, 20150 Comments
You have the deluxe, multi-speed blender that zips you up a nutritious green smoothie every single morning without fail. Spirulina, quinoa, spinach, kale, coconut oil, blueberries, sweet potato and avocado are just a few of the wholesome foods loading your supermarket trolley on the weekly shop. Of course, you spiralise everything these days. You wonder how you ever managed before this marvellous invention came along. It means you can safely substitute all those deadly carbs for wholesome, healthy vegetables at every meal. And don’t even mention sugar; the devil incarnate; you have been trying to stay clear of this poison for a good few months now. As you sip coconut water and nibble on pumpkin seeds, you glance at your kitchen shelf and admire the row of gorgeous cookery books lining it that support and inspire your daily eating plans.
It’s been a few months now since you started out on the whole clean programme. It had begun after receiving a cookery book on your birthday. The book was advocating the no-sugar; nutrient dense; wholesome living approach. What's not to love? And, initially, you felt significant health benefits. Never had your skin been so clear or your hair so silky and shiny. You lost some weight almost effortlessly just by altering your food choices and people complimented you on your glowing health. You felt you had more energy than you ever had before.
But what started out as a self-improving, life-enhancing programme seems to have become rather all encompassing. You are actually not feeling quite so energetic and full of beans as you did in those first few months and you are not quite sure why. You are also beginning to wonder if this whole eating thing has become a bit of an obsession. All the time and focus of your life now seems to be about food, and at the expense of other things.
8 warning signs that your clean eating may be becoming extreme (and then not so healthy after all)
1. You cannot stop thinking about food for one single minute. You find that eating clean has taken over your life to the point that it has become the pinnacle of all your priorities. Buying, planning, preparing, logging, eating, calculating, dreaming, and never stopping thinking about food all day long. You have a niggling feeling that it has slightly taken disproportionately.
2. The thought of eating out at a restaurant brings you out in hives. You feel sick in the stomach at the prospect of someone else preparing your food and the possible unclean contaminates that might enter it. You want to have complete control and to ensure your eating stays pure and healthy. It means it has become very difficult to socialise and this bothers you.
3. You actively avoid any social occasion where ‘unclean food’ might be served or expected to be eaten. This means that you are becoming more of a recluse and you are withdrawing from social events, that in the past, you would have enjoyed freely and spontaneously. It seems that somehow the fun and pleasure has disappeared and it is harder to live in the moment.
4. You have noticed that your eating has become more ordered and routine is a priority. It feels increasingly important to eat at specific times and to adhere to these plans meticulously. Otherwise, you feel strangely uneasy and as though you have lost control.
5. Eating food that you deem to be ‘unclean’ brings on mass feelings of guilt. You kind of sense that this guilt is slightly out of proportion, but it doesn’t take away the strength of the feeling. The guilt can be completely unbearable and all encompassing. You feel distressed just thinking about it.
6. Although you don’t like to admit it, sometimes you have uncontrollable urges to gorge on all the foods that you are trying to avoid. You may or may not have acted on this. You are completely confused by this desire and just admitting it brings on feelings of self-loathing and shame.
7. You feel much more aware of your body size and thoughts about your weight are often close by. Trying to improve your body shape feels important and necessary. You notice that you are increasingly critical of your body, even when you are eating ‘well’. The only way to keep self-esteem intact is by rigorously following your rules.
8. You are aware of being obsessed with monitoring other people’s eating habits, particularly those of celebrities; health gurus or models. You regularly check out available food diaries on-line, and then compare these with your own. Social media offers this kind of fodder in abundance and you can while away hours looking at this material without noticing the time skipping by. Viewing it doesn’t leave you feeling any better about yourself and the self-comparisons run you down.
If you recognise that your eating clean has become an obsession that has taken over your life, you may be suffering from an eating disorder. If this is impacting your life and affecting your health; relationships; work and social life, then you might want to think about getting more support through counselling.
About the author
Harriet Frew is a counsellor, blogger, writer and enthusiast in supporting people with eating disorders. She has worked in the NHS; private practice and in the voluntary sector; working in the field since 1999. Harriet now works privately in Cambridge and London.
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