Since returning from a two month adventure around South America, I have gained a new level of awareness regarding the “clean eating” trend currently sweeping the western world. This is probably because I was forced to eat, well, “dirtily” for much of my time in Brazil and Bolivia (Peru, this does not include you, you were fantastic, and I promise I will call you again sometime). Unfortunately the effects of this substandard diet did not go unnoticed; lingering spots, lethargy and a general sensation of feeling “not quite a hundred percent” were some of the physical ailments I suffered between meals of fried chicken, pastries, chips, tinned frankfurters and rather suspicious looking grey meat…
This urged me to begin a regime of healthy eating as soon as I got home, and I started trawling online blogs to find recipes for healthy smoothies and what not (yes yes health wanker, I know, go on, hit me) which was when I noticed how popular ‘#cleaneating’ really was. From Facebook to Instagram, magazine supplements to billboards, the message to “eat clean” is an almost urgent one. With numerous blogs dedicated to the cause, not to mention the vast array of disciples behind them, it seems that 2014’s new dietary trend may be here to stay.
While I openly approve of this trend, and indulge in regular Instagram hashtag trawls (#greenjuice, #healthysmoothies, #goodbyeforeverstreetcred) I have certain niggling issues with the whole shebang. Primarily, it seems that there is a worrying correlation between “eating clean” and “being thin”, two phrases which are pretty much interchangeable when it comes to much of the population, especially females. Instagram accounts too often feature a withered, bony looking claw, clutching a jar of green liquid, or stick legs sprawled out on a sun lounger with a bowl of salad balanced precariously between the thigh gap. Underneath said images sits a variety of hashtags promoting “healthy living”. In an age which already glamourises the skeleton, young people really do not need the added pressure of being told to eat in a certain way – especially not when our media culture continues to pump out the unrelenting message that we have to look a certain way, too.
Depressingly, it seems that “clean eating” is well on its way to joining the ranks of the acitivist vegans and the radical church when it comes to conversion tactics. Under the rather misguided presumption that eating healthily will change your life for the better, “cleaneating” hashtags are often found beneath photographs of lean, lithe, tanned, YOUNG bodies in order to better promote their regime. This, to me, gives the whole thing a vague air of elitism; the idea that if one creates meals from raw ingredients and religiously steams their vegetables, while documenting the whole process via social media, they are far superior to the person beside them in the supermarket, agonising over which plastic-packaged ready meal they should select for their dinner tonight (yes, the latter has been me. Yet I find this sad fact easier to accept than if I had fallen into the first category.)
However, as a young person hailing from a country famous for battered delicacies, and an unsurprising yet shocking obesity rate of 26.1%, it doesn’t take a genius to see that clean eating could have an extremely positive effect on nations like ours, whose lives in the fast lane mean being the first customers at McDonalds drive-thru. Yet equally as important is to avoid living a life overshadowed by the dos and don’ts of eating that are so readily distributed to the public – first by our government and now, apparently, by the western population. So people, don’t lose sight of the fact that as long as your diet comprises of some vaguely nutritious factors, a slice of cake won’t bloody kill you (otherwise I’d be long dead) and even if all you ate was burgers, well, it’s your life so do what you bloody well want with it. I for one shall be attempting to lead a harmonious dietary existence, where cake can be eaten peacefully with an accompanying pint of green juice and we can all just shut up about it.