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Clean eating is everywhere right now! It's hard to watch television, scroll through Facebook or flip through a magazine without being inundated about the dangers of processed foods, the damaging effects of gluten, the toxins in water, or the addictive nature of cheese.
As a parent, we want to do what’s right for our kids, however in today's world it is increasingly difficult to know what to feed them. The list of dirty foods is ever growing, leaving parents overwhelmed and confused. The food industry is trying to make what we eat complicated and as a result we’re not teaching our children to make positive and balanced choices by including all foods in our diets.
One of my ‘Rebels’ told me her story about wanting to make a healthy change in her family’s diet. They decided to cut out all processed flour. They ate no breads, no buns, no cakes, no pasta - you get the idea. They concentrated their diet with healthy meats, vegetables, fruits and some whole grains. This clean eating style felt good and they were extremely proud of their new lifestyle.
Fast forward a year and they decided to go on the trip of a lifetime! The whole family was going to take a three-week tour of Europe. As I always encourage my ‘Rebels’, they chose to live life to the fullest and leave all of their ‘clean’ eating habits at home. They wanted to thoroughly enjoy the trip including all of the amazing cuisine from different cultures.
Following their incredible trip, as they were going through photos together and remembering the experiences they had, everyone was sharing their favourite parts of the vacation. Guess what the kids said was their favourite part of the trip? Paris? Venice? Rome? Nope. It was the croissants served for breakfast and the French loaf served with dinner. Unfortunately, that's human nature. We value what is rare. We want what we can't have. This trip taught their family about the need to find balance.
The true dangers of clean eating are the psychological effects that teach an all or nothing mentality (1). By setting up a world of restrictions with rules to follow and presenting beliefs that what you eat makes you either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, I learned that I was setting myself up for failure. I was trying to control my food with sheer willpower and when I lost my willpower I repeatedly fell off the wagon and binged. The dieting cycle began!
To fight back against the diet and fitness industry’s messaging, we not only need to change the way that we treat our own bodies, but we also need to send our children new messages (2). What I’ve found to work with kids is:
Research being done in the past few years confirms that restricting a food doesn't reduce the amount that a child eats (3). In fact, it shows that parenting by implementing overbearing food restrictions on our children leads to adolescent disordered eating behaviors, like what happened in my case (4).
What many of my ‘Rebels’ have learned the hard way and what I am continuing to learn on this journey is that a healthy diet can include any food. In order to teach our children about this balance, we have to learn for ourselves how to include all foods into our diet. That begins with us as parents developing a healthy relationship with food, not focusing on weight and balancing all types of food and food groups in our diets. I’ve worked with lots of Rebels through my programs and this balance is possible. I hope you join the revolution too!
3. Appetite. 2014 Feb; 73:31-9
4. Int J Eat Disord. 2014 Apr; 47(3):310-4. doi: 10.1002/eat.22189. Epub 2013 Sep 18
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