Clean Eating is a Scam and Why You Should Abandon It

By JC Deen



Please watch this video as it’s the follow-up to all three of my clean-eating articles:

Clean Eating

Photo Credit:

Clean eating – it’s a term we’ve all used and have surely heard a million times.  We’ve stumbled upon it in the magazines, seen it in our favorite diet books and have probably even heard it on TV.  Heck there’s even a magazine titled Clean Eating.

Now I have no problem with the magazine – the recipes are great(love them, by the way) and the pictures are something I enjoy looking at.  I do, however, have a problem with the negative connotation it presents to the minds of many health and fitness enthusiasts and even some professionals unwilling to consider other ideas.

The first thing I want to ask is this: what exactly does clean eating mean?

Most everyone will have somewhat of a different answer to the question. And every answer all boils down to some kind of belief system they’ve created – how they view certain foods. One person, perhaps a Paleo dieter, might actually say that fresh orange juice is off limits because it has too much sugar. However, they might feel a piece of fruit is okay, even though the amount of fructose and sucrose is very similar when comparing the fruit and the OJ.

Another example is someone who labels whole grain foods clean and foods like white bread dirty or off limits.  While the whole grains may have a bit more nutrients or fiber, the impact is minimal and hardly an issue as long as your diet isn’t completely out of whack.

And then we have the group of people who label all foods with any kind of preservatives of chemicals in them as completely off limits only until they get a craving for something or decide to compromise and have that bag of Oreo’s anyway.

As I mentioned earlier, it all boils down to a belief – whatever one believes to be good or clean and bad or a cheat meal. I don’t particular care for such a mindset because it’s very limiting.

While I don’t believe this to be true for everyone, for many who adhere strictly to the clean-eating principles, it cripples our relationship with food and can have a negative effect our social lives.  For some, it has much steeper consequences.  An obsession with clean eating and meal timing can be the cause for dysfunctional eating down the road for those with such tendencies.

I cannot say that clean eating is the cause of any particular eating disorder, but my hunch tells me ideas behind the concept are partly responsible for many health and fitness folk developing a tragic relationship with their cheesecake.

An Obsession in the Making

Keep in mind, the following section is a personal story. I live a very relaxed life these days, but in the beginning, I was quite obsessed with my diet and fitness regimen.

In my first year of college, I was very fortunate to get involved with a great group of people the opening weeks of class.  Most of these people also happened to be very physically active like myself and enjoyed competition as much as I did.

It turned out that every year a little contest was held during a student conference over Christmas break.  It was secret and non-commercial.  They labelled it the “best-body competition” although it had no formal name. I was invited to compete.

The cost was $60 to enter and there were about 15-20 participants.  There was first, second and third place prize money to be had and I made up my mind to be a placing contestant.

At the time of my joining, I was pretty chunky.  I was still athletic as I continued the resistance training I participated in for football but I really needed to lose about 35+ pounds to have a shot at this thing.

So what did I do?  Just like most everyone does, I scoured the internet and every magazine for all the info on clean eating and losing body fat that I could find.  Many of my sleepless nights spent searching were successful as I found a ton of information to get me very lean.

So for about 3 months straight, I put my new found knowledge to good use.  I ate 6-7 small meals daily, all of which contained about 30-40g of protein, fiber, healthy fat and some form of clean carbohydrate. In this context, clean meant foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes and lots of oatmeal.

What couldn’t I have? Everything from table sugar, to milk, to most fruits (due to GI index, which is complete bunk), and to anything white (rice, bread, potatoes).

I trained on the weights about 4-5 times all the while doing 20+ miles on the elliptical or treadmill every 7 days.  Smell a disaster?

Weekly schedule
Up at 7 to do my cardio.
Breakfast right after.
Weights after class.

In all reality, the only reason I believe I didn’t burn out had to be a result of my previous athletic conditioning and from the sheer amount of food I was eating.

I had an unlimited meal pass to the cafeteria, therefore in between classes, I used to roll in and grab some lean protein and a few pieces of fruit (bananas mostly) for a snack.  All my meals were deemed clean as I ate lots of egg whites (cholesterol is bad, so I thought), bland brown rice (no MSG from seasoning), oatmeal (not the packets either), cottage cheese, steamed broccoli (no butter), the occasional spoon of natural peanut butter and dry chicken breast.   The diet was miserable as I watched all of my friends eat greasy pasta, ribs and ice cream cones – they were as active as I was and in fairly decent condition, too.

While I never counted calories (I didn’t know how at the time), I’d guess I was eating between 2500 and 3000 calories on most days.  Some days were well above 4000 calories (when I would binge out of deprivation).  Keep in mind I was walking everywhere, training twice daily and always attended social functions (standing, dancing, lots of moving about).

To cut myself short, the moral of the story is this.  I lost a good 35-40 pounds in both fat and muscle and got the 2nd place prize money.  This was also the very first time in my life that I’d ever seen a full row of abs when gazing into the mirror.

And here is where it gets dark.

I was obsessed with this lifestyle.

But before we get into what I went through, let’s first establish what clean eating means to some people and why it makes no sense – no matter how you look at it.

Clean Eating Exposed

While there is no real basis as to what constitutes a clean and a dirty source of food, the idea is still prevalent to this day.  Allow me to educate you on why this faulty type of thinking stands firm.

I have no clue where the concepts came about or who originally coined these terms but I think they’re awful and here’s why.

Typically, clean foods are considered to be whole, unprocessed, low-calorie choices and dirty foods tend to be higher in calories, full of flavor, the occasional man-made compounds such as artificial sweeteners or trans-fats, and they’re only acceptable every once in a while (and for some – NEVER).

Many people think that clean eating will produce the muscle gain and fat loss results you want, while a diet full of dirty food will give you subpar results at best.  However, this makes no sense when looking at the macro composition of foods that are often referred to as clean or dirty.

If I were to sit the stereotypical, fitness junkie down for a flash card test, in which he/she labelled foods as dirty or clean based upon a picture, this is likely how I imagine it would go.

Flash Card: Pizza
Fitness Junkie: Dirty
Flash Card: Tomatoes, olives, shredded cheese, onions, beef
Fitness Junkie: Clean

Flash Card: Stir fry with white rice
Fitness Junkie: Dirty
Flash Card: Brown rice, broccoli, asparagus, chicken
Fitness Junkie: Clean

Flash Card: White bread
Fitness Junkie: Dirty
Flash Card: Whole grain, wheat bread
Fitness Junkie: Clean

Without further ado, I’m certain you get the point.  And here’s why it makes no sense.

Let’s take a pizza pie for example.  I love pizza and I love even more so to make my own at home.  I eat the same foods day in and day out so spicing up my diet with something like a fresh pizza is always a treat.

The typical ingredients for a pizza are dough, crushed tomatoes, cheese, meat (beef, pork, chicken), olive oil, lots of veggies and sometimes fruit like pineapple.  All of these foods by themselves are typically deemed clean by the informed fitness enthusiast.

Combine them for an awesome pizza pie and you have a solid, tasty meal.

We’ve garnered some sort of negative connotation with these foods that are traditionally higher in calories mainly because of the fast-food way of preparing them (lots of oil and other high fat items) but in reality, there is nothing different about the macro composition.

And this is why many people will allow their social lives to take a nosedive – all because of some false belief that a slice or two of pizza will make their waistline expand but an equal caloric amount of brown rice and chicken won’t.

Sure, you have trans-fats, some extra sugar, and processed flour, but from an energy balance standpoint, it’s pretty much the same – one is just more calorie dense.

Now let’s take a look at how this myth began to cripple me.

How a New Hobby Turned into Mental Chaos

After the competition was finished, we headed over to the local 24-hour diner.  I ordered the fattest plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, hash browns and cheesy grits you’ve ever seen.  It would’ve made Adam Richman (man vs. food) very proud.  If I had the money, I would’ve gotten the entire dessert menu for my appetizer.

For most, after long periods of clean eating, you’re supposed to have a cheat meal.  Mine was epic.  The mental anguish I experienced a few days later was more than I could bear.  After seeing a full row of abs completely blurred out as a result of the sheer amount of food and sodium I inhaled – I was in shock.  It was traumatizing to witness all of my hard work completely undone.

Little did I know that it was only water retention and I would return to normal a few days later.

Now when this happens I just brush it off because I know in a few days the water will flush out and I’ll return to my previous aesthetics.  Then, however, I had no such clue.

And this is where a bad cycle began.  All because of this view I had about clean eating and what I thought it was.

You see, at this point, the only smart thing to do would’ve been to cut back on the cardio, tone down the weight training for a few weeks and take a well-deserved break but I didn’t.

I fully believed in the go-hard-or-go-home approach, so I kept everything up.  Except this time, I was more devoted than ever.  I even started separating my meals into protein/carb and protein/fat portions for fear of fat storage.

What did this mean exactly?

It meant I was the only one abstaining from pizza during social outings.  It meant omitting the bun from my hamburgers during our Sunday evening cookouts.  It also meant I ordered the naked chicken tenders with water instead of enjoying the wings and beer with all my buddies at the bar.

It was all because of my obsession with the clean and unclean myth that plagues many fitness enthusiasts’ psyche even to this very hour.

Someone out there right now is worrying incessantly about whether or not to have some melted cheese on their chicken and rice when in the end, it doesn’t really matter as long as calories are controlled.

This went on for a period of time.  I wasn’t making progress and was tired of spinning my wheels.  Luckily, I found a coach who pointed me in the right direction.

The truth is, people like me, and many others have been on both sides of the fence and not just the clean eating side.  I’ve went through periods of time where all I ate was sugary cereal, and white bread for my carbohydrate sources with no ill-effect.  Nothing.  I didn’t magically gain any fat or lose any muscle.  I’d say the only real difference I noticed was a slight increase in hunger just because there’s very little fiber in those food choices and they’re easier (for me) to overeat, etc.

So yes, I know what it’s truly like to be married to a false concept.  I also know what it’s like to break that bond.  The grass really is greener over here, by the way.  Read my meal frequency article to understand what I mean.

Clean Eating and Cheat Meals – Don’t Get Caught Up

Finally, the last concept I want to mention is the cheat meal situation.  A cheat meal is usually a food that you’ve been abstaining from for whatever reason. It makes it really easy to overeat on those foods when we decide to have them.

But what are you accomplishing as a result?

Since most cheat meals, by nature, consist of a boatload of calories you’ve been depriving yourself of for weeks and even months, it does nothing for your long-term strategy.  The reason is because for many, the few days after a cheat meal (sometimes resulting in a binge) usually consist of excess exercise and a lack of nutrients.  After a few days of deprivation, you have the urge to cheat yet again.

A different approach would be to regularly include off-limit foods into your diet so you never really have to go off your diet. You’d simply just enjoy your favorite foods more often.

“Food is neither clean nor unclean, but merely energy my body needs to function and survive.”

That’s it.  If you look at it this way, there’s no reason you can’t fit a brownie in for dessert a few times per week.  By going about it this way, you eliminate the desire for a full-on cheat meal and you’ll prove to yourself that the clean eating concept is a made-up belief all along.

It doesn’t exist.

What do you think?

1/6/13 EDIT: I’ve since turned off comments on this article. It seems after 250+ comments, a video update, and 2 other follow-up articles, people are still caught up on their own belief systems, and can’t seem to look past a headline that rustles their jimmies. If you’re too caught up in your personal feelings about clean eating, or what it means to you on an emotional level, you might need to reconsider your relationship with food.

If you’re still hung up and wanna send hateful comments, or call me a moron, you more than welcome to by emailing me. also, read this article by Alan Aragon on the topic.

296 thoughts on “Clean Eating is a Scam and Why You Should Abandon It”

  1. Pingback: Clean Eating
  2. I don’t think Clean Eating or any diets are necessarily bad. However, anything that drastically restricts foods or meals can result in obsessive thinking and behavior. Personally, clean eating has worked wonders for me (weight loss, clearer skin, more energy, even better vision). Clean foods are foods in their natural form or as close to natural as possible. I don’t call any foods “dirty.” They are either processed or not. I don’t see Clean Eating as a diet. If you eat mostly clean, you’ll still lose weight and see the benefits. Choose fresh versions of foods instead of processed versions. But nothing is off limits. You can still have a donut or a slice of cake. Just don’t make all of your meals processed. Shoot for eating 80% clean and it will make a huge difference. I don’t see how making healthier choices is a scam.

    • never said making healthier choices is a scam. I merely called the idea of clean eating a scam because it’s just a false belief. it’s different for everyone. and no, just eating ‘clean,’ whatever that means, does not ensure weight loss and that you’ll see ‘benefits.’

  3. I admit…..I am a clean eater! I agree with the author’s premise that we shouldn’t be labeling things as “bad” or “dirty” but I think its important to be mindful of what you are putting into your body. Nothing is really bad in moderation but let’s face it….there are a lot of foods that you should avoid because they’re unhealthy. I try to avoid white foods (white flour and sugar) simply because they don’t have the nutritional value I’m looking for. Sticking with 100% whole grains and other brown food is giving me the nutrients I need. Eating items as close as possible to their natural state is healthier than eating highly processed foods. I haven’t completely eliminated any food items but by avoiding white flour, sugar, hard cheese, and processed foods I’ve lost 85 lbs in the last 12 months. I have an amazing amount of energy now and am far happier than I was when I was eating those ‘dirty foods.’ Clean eating isn’t a strict diet….its more of a philosophy you try and abide by. Not perfection, just effort. As someone who has tried multiple diets without much success clean eating is about aspiring to healthy lifestyle rather than trying to lose weight.

  4. It seems as though a lot of people are missing the point of this article. I’ve beaten myself up over what I eat and how I train but the moral of the story here is moderation. Stick with what works for you but if you’re at work and the boss pays for a barbecue lunch with Mac n cheese and all the fixins, then go for it. A lot of “diets” call for a cheat meal anyway. So, as long as you indulge in moderation and stay within reason while meeting your nutritional standards, why not. I have recently overcome a plateau by easing up on my diet and just eating more food in general. My strength and size have increased while my body fat has remained in check. Bottom line, stick with what works for. Don’t take what this guy or any other person on the Internet says as gospel. Trust me you and your general mental well being will thank you for it.

  5. I just read this today and loved it. I have been going crazy on learning to eat clean and I just need to go back to eating healthy for myself. One thing I can say has helped me is when I started the clean eating was eating often it actually helped me and I was able to lose weight. I can’t wait to get your newsletters and read those, it always good to get off the fad and find facts. Thank You!

  6. I’d like you to put out your diet for a typical week, I’m curious to see how much ‘dirty’ food you consider to be in moderation

    • I don’t know what “dirty” food is, therefore I cannot provide you with how much I consume. the whole idea of “dirty” and “clean” food is just silly.

  7. No offense, but you don’t really seem to have much of an idea of what you’re talking about. Clean eating is defined in varied ways for each person because of different health requirements. Some see clean eating as gluten-free or meat-free because that’s what their body requires to keep specific symptoms or allergies at bay.
    Can you answer one question for me? What about making a conscious effort to eat unprocessed food, no chemicals, and larger portions of fruits and vegetables is bad? Any educated nutritionist, doctor, food scientist, etc. will tell you that fresh fruit is better than fruit snacks, whole grains are better than enriched grains, organic is better than pesticide covered, mass-produced produce.
    It seems you didn’t understand what a clean diet was when you started experimenting with it. And just glancing at your website, I’d guess you have an addictive personality, meaning you probably obsess about anything you devote time to. Clean eating is about a change in eating habits to create a healthier lifestyle, not an obsession with a weight-loss plan to make you lose fat and gain muscle.
    You’re a moron and shouldn’t be discouraging what is a great lifestyle for so many people. And do you really need to post so much opinion about something that simply didn’t work for you but has helped so many others? Sounds like you’re still obsessed with clean eating, to me!

    • >Any educated nutritionist, doctor, food scientist, etc. will tell you that fresh fruit is better than fruit snacks, whole grains are better than enriched grains, organic is better than pesticide covered, mass-produced produce.

      clearly u have never heard of the crippling disorder of sugar and inlsulin called the diabeetus and if u had u would not be giving out this dangerous advices

      JCDeen I hope u will ban this person from giving dangerous medical advices on ur site such as telling people to eat sugars and incur a diabeetus storm upon there bodies

    • I agree with you, I just read this article and got dumber i think. All you have to do is look into the past of human kind say from the begining and see how much more of a ratio of people are skinny-to-fat and you will see that more and more people eat that crap food and more and more people are fat. Just because the author of this article was obsessed doesn’t mean anything, that is just the type of person he is. Clean Eating does not make people obsessive. I can’t believe i stumbled on this crap article.

      • If either you or SLJ, knew how to comprehend what you read or even knew how to click play on a YouTube video, you’d obviously understand I’m not against eating wholesome, fresh foods.

        I’m merely against the attitude and false beliefs that are associated with the so-called “clean eating.”

        • And if YOU knew anything about clean eating, you’d know that it’s not about an attitude or false beliefs. I’m not sure where you got your information before you started clean eating, but I’d assume it wasn’t a great source. YOU are the one spreading false beliefs that clean eating is a negative thing. Again, you’re a moron!

          • you obviously haven’t been around many fitness people advocating fad diets or fat loss tips based around clean eating then. Clean Eating, as an idea, is ridiculous because there’s nothing clear on what it actually is. You have an idea of what it means to you. There’s nothing negative, in general, about food. it’s all in how you look at it and it’s effects. perhaps this will enlighten you on my stance. if not, then I’m afraid there is no convincing for you:

  8. Thanks so much for writing this article!! I am currently underweight & trying to gain weight the healthy way. I came across clean eating & thought it looked like the best healthy way to do this. But the more I got into it, the more restrictive it felt. And I can see how it could very quickly lead to orthorexia. I have struggled with eating disorder in the past and am victoriously on the other side & did not want to start another obsession, however it was deceptive because it makes you think you’re “doing the right thing” for your body & excuses it. And like you said, eating nutrient dense foods & everything in moderation is the key of course. This has given me greater insight on how to gain weight healthily but still enjoy life too :)
    One quick question- in many of the clean eating sites i have noticed they recommend a post workout meal of either muscle milk, greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Does this really help post workout or is this another myth?
    Thanks so much again, I hope your article helps a lot of people!!

  9. I think you are absolutely right! I have read the article twice and everything just makes total sense. Although I can respect the whole concept of clean eating, I also think its up there with Atkins and South Beach. It is in our nature to eat and to be honest, I’d take a mars bar over a bowl of steamed broccoli. It’s totally about balance, not restricting ones self from everything that is delicious, otherwise you are more likely to fail. I did Atkins in my early 20’s and I became sooooo obsessed with every gram I ate and everytime I had half a piece of toast, the guilt was so bad I couldn’t bear it. So I started diet pills too to curb the guilt. I could barely write my name from being so jittery but I looked damn good, going from 140-104 lbs without setting foot in a gym. But eventually I crashed and burned and went back ul to 125. Now I’m 30 and after going up to 220 lbs during my pregnancy, I have been determined to lose it (I am now 139 lbs after changing my eating and exercise habits). But I can’t just go from eating Dominos and Nutella for 9 months to just lettuce and tomatoes! I balance lean protein, some veg, while wheat/high protein breads with the odd cheesecake slice or beer. I don’t binge eat and I don’t feel the need to do anything extreme after eating something non salad related. I can totally see how sticking to such a strict diet guideline can actually cause an unhealthy state of mind and obsession so I just won’t do it.

    And the previous poster’s comment about very ones body being different is totally right! Some people will thrive on clean eating and some just won’t. Just like every other fad diet

    And for those that will comment that it’s not about appearance, it’s about lowering cancer risk etc: if I can’t have a mars bar and a 6 pack of beer, I don’t want to live so that’s not really much of a motivation for me. Balance is what is key, not restriction

  10. This doesn’t seem like a productive article at all. It sounds like the author is a sore looser. I started clean eating and have lost 2 inches all the way around. I feel way better for it too. When the author stated “I have no idea where clean eating originated” – it made me take pause and think – so why on earth should I listen to anything you have to say. If you can’t take some time to do basic research (beyond just google) then you really shouldn’t way in on a topic. Eating lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats, and limited amounts of sugar, dairy, and carbs seems like common sense – I don’t know why your arguing (poorly) against it.

      • Interesting article. However, in my opinion every individual should really do more personal research and experimentation with what their own bodies require for optimal health. Also one should consider if maintaining that particular lifestyle is a realistic option. Clean eating may not be the best choice for everyone.

        On a different note, there is quite a bit of misleading information in your article about clean eating. (1)Refined foods, heavily processed foods, chemically engineered foods, and pesticide covered foods are not as healthy for the body as organic fresh foods. (2)Some foods that are other wise healthy may cause digestive issues when combined with others (Certain food combinations can cause fermentation in the intestines, gas, bloating, and prohibit digestion). (3)Some people are allergic or intolerant to certain ingredients and/or foods that may not bother some one else. Yes there are many variables to clean eating that may cause confusion but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Nor is there a need to obsess about it. My advice (not that any one asked for it or anything…. :/) would be to stop following fad diets and jumping of bandwagons, and do the work to find out what your body likes and you stick to that!

        • I don’t see where I ever said any of these franken foods were just as healthy? please point me to that statement in the article.

          can you provide data for number 2?

  11. Thank you! After having my baby four years ago I gained 40 lbs. I went to the gym and hit it hard and lost almost all that I gained. The last ten became a pain. One of my female bodybuilding buddies turned me on to the eating clean diet. I not only didn’t lose that last 10 pounds but gained another 10! I’m so mad at the whole concept. EVERYBODY’S BODY IS DIFFERENT. I am going back to eating the way I was before the eat clean diet. My body hates fat, that means all fat! I eat nuts and I can feel the difference in my body the next day. My body doesn’t do well on animal protein and dairy either. Pass the beans please! My body thrives on vegetables, fruits and grains and the occasional brownie or two! Done with the clean eating lifestyle!

    • I just eat whatever the hell I want when I want it & workout when I can & I can either lose weight or gain weight depending on the season. As long as it isn’t illegal, I could care less what people think is healthy or unhealthy. I have a degree in health & work as a personal trainer & people put too much emphasis on food…MODERATION IS KEY & as long as you stick to that, nothing else matters!! My grandfather never went on a diet ate whatever he wanted never exercised & lived to be 88 yrs old!

  12. that’s weird cus whenever i eat fast food, i get sick and am actually slower on the bike than when i do eat “clean” or make my own food wether it’s fried or not. however, i still do eat “crap” foods such as cookies, cheesecake, etc (assuming everyone else consider those as crappy foods) when i need more calories. i only burn about 4-5000 a day, though. maybe it’s different for others?

  13. Hi I have just started clean eating as people call it. I have just started getting in to the gym and one of my friends told me about clean eating. I was starting to think that I could never have certain foods, lucky for me I don’t find eating most of the clean eating foods hard except when it comes to eating greek yoghurt by it self all I can say is yuck I wanted my normal yoghurt so I did, but I am glad that I have came across this because it means I can still have food that I like as long as I exercise and eat well most of the time I should be ok right ? I like fruit and veggies and lean meats so that is not hard I do how ever have a weakness for cheese nice crusty bread and wine oh and luv chocolate. Do you think it is ok to have a cheat day and how many times is good to exercise I do 4/5 days a week is that enough ? Thanks

  14. I thought dirty food was when it fell on the floor and you didn’t pick it up within the 10 second rule.

  15. I like your article your right with eating in moderation I lost 30 pounds just portiom control and exercise. But after 6 months I could no longer lose any bodyfat even tough I did more cardio and lifted heavy. as frustrated as I was I was getting acne so I changed my diet to eating only foods that can spoil and my face cleared as well as my bodyfat went done drasticly. Maybe as people say clean eating is easier to digest now if I eat out I get a stomack ache. Dont get me wrong I cheat too but one meal once a week.

    • it’s not about the foods you were eating. it’s more so about the amounts. I’m not saying that it’s okay to eat junk food all the time, but white rice over brown rice, or having a burger from McDonalds every now and then is not going to hinder progress.

  16. I’ve just read this article after googling clean eating. Before google I thought clean eating simply meant eating food as unprocessed as possible. You know, fruit, veg, chicken, fish, and avoiding highly processed foods like McDonalds, frozen dinners, packet chips and diet coke!!! I certainly didn’t have any thoughts about ‘dirty’ food. I think people make things, including weight loss, harder than it needs to be. It’s not rocket science. Less calories in and more calories out = weight loss. For the most part, unless you’re an athlete or have certain medical conditions, what and when you eat is irrelevant for weight loss as long as you follow the less in more out rule. Now clean eating for a long and healthy life is a something we should all be aiming for. Just don’t get caught up in the mentality of clean and dirty. Try swapping the words unprocessed for clean and processed for dirty…makes MUCH more sense I think :)

    • and this is a perfect example of the point I’ve been making. we all have different *beliefs* around what clean eating is or should be. So we should stop putting these labels on our food, and worry about bigger issues.

  17. I lost approximately 25 pounds just by increasing my exercise and controling what I was eating (not just calories, but more veggies, less pasta/pizza, etc). And now, I want to drop the last little bit and get those abs you discussed. So I cleaned up my diet even more, and dropped another 5 pounds. Do I still enjoy breads? yes but much less than I used to. Do I still drink beer? Yes, but I try to limit it to social events and with fall approached, football games. Do I drink wine? Yes, but I limit myself to 1 glass of red. I follow some principles of clean eating, and if I eat something out that is greasy I feel sick so the clean eating has definitely affected my body. Clean eating helped me…but then again, I didn’t go crazy with it.

  18. Heard of you from John Romaniello’s website, I really like your approach JC and will be keeping an eye on your blog in future.

    I agree completely with you that no food is inherently good or bad, it’s all about the overall bigger picture. That said, and this may be something of a niche area, I’m as interested in the potential of the anti-aging effects of eating in certain ways as much as I am with eating to maximise performance or to look good naked or whatever.

    So for me, large amounts of sugar or trans fats from ‘junk’ food probably isn’t conducive to my goals.

    • hey Paul,

      I’m in much agreement with you. I’m definitely trying to maximize health and longevity, so I don’t see a ton of trans fats/junk in my future, but every now and again, it’s not that big of a deal.

      thanks for reading.


  19. You make a good argument against clean eating but it seems to be from a purely superficial point of view. One of the main motivations for eating clean should be to eliminate cancer causing processed foods from our diets and increase our chances of longevity. Its all very well saying that as long as you stay within your set calorie intake you will be able to maintain a lean body but you may be ingesting stuff that is incredibly detrimental to your long term health….aspartame, HFCS etc. Thats not to say that you shouldnt cheat on ocassion, everything in moderation!

      • We ARE individuals so always listen and respond to only to your body. For example if you feel great after something you ate, record the type and amounts as well as the ingredients. This means your body responds well to these. Also make sure you’re eating as a result of “refueling” and not because a television show, commercial made it look good. At this point remember whether this food made you feel good or bad and dwell on that. “What works for one individual does not always work for another”

  20. I agree with some of the other people; clean eating is perfectly fine in and of itself, and you’re just making a [lengthy] excuse for not having the will power to stick to it. Many people, myself included, have the strength, mental power, and iron will not to reach for that chocolate chip cookie. Every night, I eat leafy greens with a hearty helping of fresh chicken and feel GREAT about myself afterwards. Sure there are nights when I wish I could eat more or times where I want to take a bite of a brownie, but I use the iron will GOD gave me to resist temptation.

    Matthew 6:13 states “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” I apply GOD’S teachings to my diet and I believe that gives me the power to eat clean. Those who are too weak and have strayed from the Light need not write articles like this to let other people know that this is fine. It’s NOT!! There is no reason anyone should be told that eating a chocolate chip cookie is fine. That is the reason America is so OBESE these days! Because of misinformation like this.

    To anyone reading this: DO NOT DWELL ON EVIL THOUGHTS AND SUCCUMB TO TEMPTATION!! GOD is here for you and he has GIVEN you the power to eat clean and be healthy….

    • “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

      1 Timothy 2:12

      • Both of you morons took the scripture you quoted OUT OF CONTEXT.

        Maria…I’ve lost weight without following the clean eating hype. Portion control, moderation, cardio and weights. It’s not complicated.

    • Maria, by your post its evident you don’t know nothing about Scriptures and about please next time stay quiet if you don’t have something useful to say. You can’t be applying Scriptures to eating habits, is like downgrading the Scriptures.

  21. I think it’s you that is the problem, and not “clean” or healthy eating. You can’t seriously believe that eating processed foods with artificial chemicals/coloring/preservatives is just as good for you as lean proteins, fruits, veggies and nuts. Yes, it is better to eat an orange than a whole glass of juice, for the obvious reasons. But in case it’s not obvious, do you know how many oranges it takes to make a big glass of OJ? Of course that is too much sugar (natural or not) to take in at one time. I eat healthy foods 90% of the time with the occasional splurge of tex-mex or pizza. I don’t “obsess” about it, overexercise, stare at myself in the mirror, etc. I eat healthy foods because they make me feel better. I have more energy, and yes, an added benefit is that I lost a few pounds. But that’s not why I changed my eating habits. It wasn’t to lose weight. It’s because I started caring about what I put into my body. Processed foods? Anything with corn, canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup or any kind of soy product are more than likely made from GMO foods. I, personally, do not want that in my system. OMG, I could go on and on, but I won’t. Long story short (well, not so short) is that we should all eat whole, healthy, unprocessed foods. It will NOT cause eating disorders. Just stop obsessing about your weight or body. Concentrate on feeding that body nutrients and not crap, and stop looking in the freaking mirror. It’s your weight/body obsession that is the problem

    • What do you mean “too much sugar?” Unless you’re a diabetic with a sensitivity to sugar (which you didn’t take note of, so I’ll assume you aren’t), there’s no such thing as “too much sugar.”

      Sugar is a carbohydrate – why is taking in 60g of sugar, from any source, viewed as taboo while eating a bowl of your whole grain, paleo pasta (~60g of carbs) completely fine? Is it because the paleo pasta has been scrubbed clean whereas the 60g of OmFgSUGARZzz is .. well, sugar? The only reason “sugar” has a negative connotation associated with it is because some parent let their kid get fat on Halloween one year by ingesting several pounds of sugar. The whole point of this article is that if you take everything in moderation, you’ll be fine. I guarantee that if you overeat your “healthy foods,” you’ll wind up putting on a few pounds. Don’t believe me? Try it.

      Just because something worked for you doesn’t mean it’s the end-all, be-all and that everyone should follow it. I’m glad your eating lifestyle makes you feel better. That’s what everyone is here for after all, right? Eat your “whole, healthy, and unprocessed foods” if that’s what suits you, but get off your soap box and quit preaching that it’s the one and only way to do something. That’s how shit like Jehovah’s Witnesses and CrossFit get started.

    • What is GMO? Please help, I’m going crazy. In 2 months I’ve done fitness pal, BeyondDiet (clean eating) and now WW. I don’t know which way is up?!?!?

  22. There’s no reason to become obsessed with clean eating. Obsession is character issue and has nothing to do with eating clean. Eating clean simply means no added preservatives, chemically things we can’t pronounce, etc.,. Eating as much whole, natural food includes meat, potatoes, veggies and fruit all of which are the basis of a healthy diet. Eating products that have a shelf-life of two years because of the preservatives that are added, not so healthy.

    • you have to define what healthy is. is it a certain amount of vitamins and minerals? What about the boxes of cereal that contain way more V and M’s than a piece of fruit?

      I’ve already made my point over and over and over again both in video and in writing (3 articles on this subject), so I don’t need to make it again. Clean eating, in this context, is just a belief. nothing more.

  23. You can’t really believe what your saying…. you don’t even really say anything… clean eating isn’t that the orange juice is bad, its a GLASS OF OJ. to eat an orange gives you the juice, its sugar, and the fiber…. there is so much that you haven’t researched its even silly that I am addressing this… it doesn’t take much education to see the truth in clean eating.

  24. Just wanted to say thank you for writing this article. Fitness is a big part of my life, which of course goes hand in hand with making reasonable food choices. The pendulum swings so heavily when eating habits start taking on labels. I thought your article made a great point of discussing how illogical it is to make stand alone whole foods “good”, and yet taking those same foods and combining them can sometimes be condemned as a “bad” incarnation.

    I have a long history of disordered eating that had to be worked through, but old fears sometimes creep in. I often think to myself that this strategic labeling does more harm than if a person learned that deprivation is more of an enemy than the occasional cookie.

    I get that often food choices are driven by a desire for a particular result. I also want to live my life and enjoy what I ingest. I think we can have it both ways. Lets beat that dead horse: Moderation is key.

  25. I understand your frustration with your diet when you were eating clean. Perhaps, it had more to do with the lack of flavor and not the food itself. If I eat quinoa or brown rice by itself it is rather bland and not so enjoyable. Now if I add fresh tomatoes, kalamata olives, peppers, basil, lemon and heck let’s live it up and add some cold pressed olive oil as well as salt and pepper…what a different eating experience.

    I think it comes down to learning how to cook, knowing what flavors go well together to make eating clean a successful lifestyle. My suggestion is that you enroll in a coking class or two :)

  26. I enjoyed reading the comments more than the article I think!

    I am your average reader and figured I’d throw my 2cents in…

    The title of the article was meant to incite curiosity. You all read it. Think of all the others who read who may not have felt the need to comment. The clean eating fans are barking their indignation, some readers are looking for insight into weight loss/eating, overweight readers might have printed this out and are waving it around eating a candy bar, and a few are genuinely touched by his story. Those are the people who will buy his books and it will only really affect those people. Its all about marketing. For myself, it was an interesting read to hear one person’s opinion, that’s all this video/article was all about. His experience with “clean eating” for the purpose of extreme fitness (read: goal) was build-up to his point.

    I may have entirely missed said point of the article, however what I believe he was getting at was unless you were the man/woman to have “trademarked” the phrase “Clean Eating”, you shouldn’t cast judgement on others for their eating habits. If you are happy/healthy with the choices YOU are making, and your friends are happy/healthy with the choices THEY are making, then who cares? Are you going to lose sleep at night wondering if the cupcake they ate will give them cancer? (Or whatever). However if you are struggling with health issues, conditions, diseases, etc. then obviously more care & consideration must be made.

    Food = fuel. Over the ages we’ve turned it into art, money, entertainment, and comfort. Its not wrong to love food, in moderation, as he stated over and over. This can be said for anyone of any “lifestyle”. There are just as many delicious vegan cake and cookie recipes as there are full-fat/full-refined sugar ones. A healthy lifestyle is about finding balance for your body.

    Now, the only recurring “dirty” thing I found personally was the idea of “cheating”. Cheating implies bad, wrong, unacceptable. That’s a horrible way of looking at having “variety” in your diet. The world is so unpredictable, you can’t prevent a 100% clean environment, and I know that’s not what the average clean-eater is striving for, but it doesn’t hurt to throw something “dirty” at your immune system once in awhile. Vaccinations are given to build up antibodies.

    I’m not a nutritionist, I don’t have the same level of education as well-seasoned/practicing clean eaters (and honestly, I hate the term “Clean Eaters”, it makes you sound like a character out of The Land Before Time). Bottom line is, healthy means something different for everyone. Unless YOU are a person’s doctor/health practitioner, the only thing you should be giving is support. Take things with a grain of salt (ha-ha paleo enthusiasts! Just kidding. salt prevents goiter BTW) and do what is best for YOU!

  27. Some people I work with are into the whole Clean Eating thing, and just listening to their monologues on the subject made me shake my head. The whole “five ingredients or less” concept makes no sense, as it doesn’t take into account what those ingredients are. I was struck by the lack of a balanced nutritional plan in he Clean Eating mantra. To me, at least, Clean Eating seems more like a cult philosophy than a diet or way of living. Good job exposing this to the world; keep up the good work, and be fearless.

  28. I think the one shortcoming of this article is that it wasn’t lengthier, where you could’ve gone on to address more breadth in this topic. It might not be obvious to some but the message you’re sending is, in fact, worth our attention.

    I cannot agree more with you that imposing so many restrictions on yourself can be counter-productive or at least unpleasant. And who are we to say what food is ‘bad’ or ‘good’, when most of what we eat falls in the grey area? The answer is, as you said, moderation. Don’t put off something for so long that you binge; have a little bit here and there, you won’t die. Its like something I was told when I was on some other diet awhile back:

    “Food is made available for you to eat and survive, so don’t be arrogant and deem this or that bad. Eat proportionately and in moderation and you’ll be fine.”

    The important take away from your article is, I should think, mainly targeted at those who haven’t really settled for an eating plan they’re comfortable with or benefiting from.

    But if you avoid milk like its the plague and swear by unsalted food, and you’re happy and healthy, then fine, you are entitled to that.

    Just nobody go round telling others they’re wrong and something else is right. Provide them with the information that they can use should they want, because just as we were given the time and space to make mistakes and learn, we should give the same respect to others whom we might think are making the wrong decisions.

    I can’t wait to read your ebook :)

  29. So you chose a completely irrational diet and suffered the consequences, and now you’re trying to tell everyone “Clean Eating is a Scam?” You shouldn’t be giving advice until you get you’re own shit together. I’ve been “clean eating” for the last two years because I enjoy the health benefits. I stay away from most grains and eat mostly meat and vegetables. If I go out on the weekend with friends, I still eat healthy on my own accord, but if I want a burger, I won’t deny myself. The purpose to clean eating is being healthy and happy with yourself; if you’re taking it to the extreme to where you aren’t happy, then of course you’re overdoing it, but your disregarding diet is even worse… Get you’re act together before you post this kind of nonsense.

    • The bottom line of this article was that everything needs to be taken in moderation, and it’s perfectly fine doing so: something people don’t seem to understand, or refuse to believe is fine. This article is directed towards people who are completely hell-bent on sticking to a “clean” diet (milk is clean, ice is clean, SMOOTHIE IS UNCLEAN AND SINFUL) or omitting things such as grains from their diet because some paleo Crossfitter said carbs above [(π/3)*(Body Weight in eV/C)^3] grams a day causes unwanted weight gain.

      What Juicy here is getting through to (most of) his audience is that if you eat a cupcake, chances are you’re not going to die (note: using that as a metaphor, diabetics pls consult your physician before eating said cupcake) or grow love handles. I’ve read this article to my grandchildren many times over the years, and I can tell you it’s about overcoming the mental battle with food more than anything – something many people, myself included, struggled with (or are still struggling with). Knowing you can eat that cupcake every now and then and it will literally have NO effect on your metabolism, ass size, gym performance, etc. is a HUGE sigh of relief for some people. Being free mentally is part of being healthy too, is it not?

      After reading your post the first time, I instantly pictured you as someone who is obsessed to a fault with “clean” eating and is set on defending your beliefs to the death – sorry to say, but you’re not getting any reassurance here. Sounds like you’re the one who needs to get your shit together.


    • Paul the problem is you’re focusing on the things in life that don’t really matter. When I was a kid I had hopes and dreams. We all did. But over time, the daily grind gets in the way and you miss the things that really matter, even though they are right in front of you, staring you in the face. I think the next time you should ask yourself “Am I on the right track here?”. I don’t mean to be rude but people like you I really pity. So maybe you could use the few brain cells you have and take advantage of the knowledge I have given you now. Good luck.

    • I think its amazing how little we misunderstand things spoken in our own language. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe many are missing the message that it trying to be conveyed. JC Deen is not trying to say that some foods in nature are not more healthy to consume then others because we all know that a diet consisting of twinkies and 16 oz steaks exclusively will bring us to the grave a lot faster than many other choices.
      The “Clean Eating” beliefs or concepts are not necessarily a “scam” in nature, it is more the culture that surrounds it and when taken to the extreme it creates issues in the way you view others (superiority complex) and food (causing over indulgences ie. To restrict things from your diet just to cheat on it later by consuming those very things can be very counter intuitive because of binge eating which creates guilt and unhealthy associations with food.)
      Again correct me if I am wrong, when he is referring to “clean eating” he more so referring to the belief system and culture rather than the food itself. He is using extreme concepts and verbiage in order to get people to open their eyes and see the dangers of taking anything beyond its appropriate moderation. Teaching people that words and labels are powerful and can easily cause more harm than good. Such as labeling certain foods “clean” and “dirty”. He is trying to teach that it is better to see food in varying degrees rather than black and white. It is better to look at food and see the “macro composition” of it and see how it fits into your bodies personal needs. Our bodies are so amazing they will let us know if what we are putting in them have a negative effect on us or not, but if we let obsessions or restrictions, whether that be food addictions or diets, get in the way of us hearing our bodies we are not living a balanced lifestyle.
      I for one think that many of the philosophies adapted by the “clean eating system” are good guidelines for a healthy existence but they were not created by them and are not exclusive to them. The arrogance that one must have to say that it is the only healthy way to eat and live is way off. One clue to this is just look at all the controversies over the foods that are fence sitters some consider clean some dirty. I say its fuel use it wisely and I’ll echo many including my mother that we should have “moderation in all things” whether that be food, work or play.
      I hope I was able to convey my ideas clearly without offending or misrepresenting anyone. This is my opinions and interpretation of what I have read here and many other places.

    • And to that I say please read the entire article before you pop off. Your philosophy on eating is identical to his and had you read all the way to the bottom your retort would have been one of gratitude instead of major attitude.

  30. I kept waiting for the damages on your organs from eating processed foods to be brought up.. but it never came! Dyes, high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, and transfats, HAVE been linked to obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Would be nice if these were all addressed rather than just relating clean eating to a weight loss muscle gain perspective. Man made chemicals ARE harmful…. but you just related the calorie comparisons of clean and dirty food. what are your views on this?

    • Show me the studies – the abstracts from pubmed and not some gross over generalization of a story you read in the NYTimes.

      Also – did you watch the video, or read the other articles in the series? I’m not against eating whole foods, and that should be clear in this article, the video and my other writing. I’m merely making a statement (and I feel like I’ve said this a million times by now) that people are ruled by a BELIEF in something that’s just not there. “clean” eating is just some way of making people feel good about their food choices, and for some it even gives them a superiority complex.


      • get a grip dude your a whack job you say clean eating is a scam because its a belief. the only true statement there is yes it is a belief system. just like vegetarianism or religion. clean eating isn’t just a diet or can’t make you anorexic. you eat clean because you believe in clean as in chemical free both in food and in your environment. it’s a life choice no different from choosing where to live if you don’t want to live in polution you my choose to live in the country, if that’s not an option you compromise. its the same with your food if you are choosing what you believe is the best option for your bodies health and if you believe chemical free (clean) is best where is the scam? the girl who claimed she lost too much weight is no different to other kids that leave home and eat badly and gain weight, they are immature (this is not meant to be offensive, but a matter of fact. all people are immature about life, including health decisions until they begin making those on their own and gain wisdom over time). have ideas about things but are still learning to bring their knowledge and beliefs into their own personal package. eating clean didn’t make her skinny, under eating or excessive exercise or stress or health issues or any number of factors did thatch. choosing chemical and preservative free does not Alone make someone fat,skinny,or scamful! if you say clean eating is a scam do you also believe God is a scam afterall not everyone believes in him but most acknowledge a persons right to believe in him. let people believe in their own food choices without telling them it’s a scam, the food is real, health concerns are real, chemicals are real, there is no secret food or wonder drug someone is trying to sell,they are just promoting what is already naturally there. move on man!

        • “scamful” isn’t a word

          God isn’t a scam, he’s a fairy tale

          The “enter” key on your keyboard exists for a reason

          There are some major fallacies in your argument, your grammar being one [hundred] of them, I’m honestly not sure where to begin

          Usually we run psychiatric tests to get a good foundation on your argument, so I need you to answer this question: y u mad?

          • Well obviously “scamful” isn’t a word. Didn’t realise that sending a comment through would be considered a document worth the scrutiny of proof reading or that I was being graded to be taken seriously or not.

            I believe that people are entitled to their opinions, including me, and if you want to rebut that then it makes for good debating. However, as I don’t believe I entered a Grammar Contest, I think I will move on.

            Oh and yeah, I found the enter button, thanks for the tip!

            Hey if you believe God is a fairytale you’re not alone. Whilst I think fairytale is just as insulting a comment as SCAM is to those who do believe, I personally don’t believe in God but respect others rights not to be ridiculed about what they believe.

            Would you mind telling me what in my comment is not true, so I have the chance to rebut or gracefully accept that, yes, perhaps I was wrong?

        • Hey Sonja, is Haagen-Dazs considered “clean” because it has no preservatives in it or is it considered “dirty” because it’s ice-cream and you’re socially conditioned to say ice cream is a “dirty” food?

        • They need to do way instain mother> who kill thier babbys. becuse these babby cant frigth back! it was on the news this mroing a mother in ar who had kill her three kids. they are taking the three babby back to new york too lady to rest my pary are with the father who lost his chrilden : i am truley sorry for your lots

          • How is babby formed? Let me show the ways.

            Find girl with depth, and breasts, and look bright

            Get her drunk till she has no sight.

            Till she reasons not and hath no grace.

            Take her to a level ya don’t see most days

            Convince her of a need in the dark of night

            Get touchy-feely, whether wrong or right.

            Begone with purity, sing the opposite’s praise

            But passion, that’s something ya can put to use.

            One shall feel no grief as one laith

            In the morning, the fogginess she’ll lose

            Desperately she’ll wonder why she’s in your bed…

            But it’s too late, she can’t unchoose…

            that’s how babbby formed, that’s how girl get pragnent.

      • Perhaps it’s your attack of clean eating that has clouded the message you are trying to convey in your article. Anyone who happens to be pro-clean eating will automatically have thier backs against a wall, those who oppose it will naturally side with you and condem clean eating as bad. If your point is that processed foods, high fat foods, etc can co-exist in a healthy diet, why not say that? What you did in your college days can be very much likened to the beginnings of an eating disorder. The problem wasn’t with the clean eating but the way you incorporated it into your daily life. This same scenario could have happened with eating any diet plan. I agree with the main point that moderation is the key, but I think you would also agree that a lifestyle of eating mostly processed foods is counterproductive to a healthy diet. Balance is the key.

  31. It sounds like what you were doing was extreme! The clean eating diet I know & love is full of tasty meals, and recommends a cheat meal once a week, which I save for my saturday night out with mates! I have healthy meals, but avoid processed crap like white rice & flour – did you know they’re bleached?! I eat butter, not margarine – again, bleached & dyed yellow. I have plenty of fruit, veg & meat and never feel hungry or like I’m missing out, because its MY CHOICE and I wouldnt have done if i wasn’t happy with it. I don’t give a shit if my friends eat crap, and do it in front of me.
    Regarding juice, when you consume a glass of organic OJ, preservative free or full of chemical crap, It’s still equivalent to about 6 oranges! That us a lots of sugar, natural or otherwise. The key to any diet is balance. If you are naturally obsessive you will take anything too far & you clearly did. It was obviously not sustainable for you & you have now worked out your own lifestyle needs and are happy & healthy as a result. To say clean eating is a scam is a gross generalisation and unfair, simply because something didn’t work for you, when you were young, uneducated & obsessive – thats just wrong. I appreciate the valueof this post as a warning to people to maintain healthy balance in life & not go crazy!

  32. I’m just starting to get into clean eating but, not for weight loss as much as overall health. It’s just my opinion but, if a social life prevents you from eating healthy…why that seems real backwards. Diet plays a role in insulin regulation, blood pressure, cholesterol and immune system just to name a few. Put these things out of whack and one could be potentially socializing a lot more with a medical professional or not at all.
    I’ve been told to focus on what you can eat instead of what you can’t eat and find healthy replacements for those things you tend to fall week for. Nowadays there are social circles built around healthy lifestyles so, expand your social horizons make a new friend or two. There are some clean eating guides that miss the mark on some things but, I wouldn’t call the whole concept a scam and the OP seems more concerned about socializing than healthy eating habits.

    • Did you watch the video?

      Socializing is not the point – it’s the problem with this faulty belief system that I’m frustrated with. clean eating obviously means something different to you than it does anyone else.

      You can’t define what clean eating is, so telling people to “eat clean because it helps regulate insulin, blood pressure, etc” is confusing.

  33. Wow, people totally missed the point of this article.

    Obviously if you’re nowhere near in shape, are struggling with attaining basic health, or just really sensitive to processed foods, you might need to be a bit more strict about your diet. JC is talking about the myths of what “clean” is and clean/dirty eating in the context of aesthetics and body composition. He’s not advocating eating processed junk for every single meal and claiming it will have no effect on health. He’s just saying you can have some “dirty” foods occasionally if you’re out with friends, and STILL meet your fitness goals without being super obsessive about your diet.

  34. Just changed my life! I am just stating out in my own apartment and trying to cook very healthy. I loved clean eating, but it has left me miserable about cooking, food, and nutrition. All I was trying to do was eat healthy and I lost 6 pounds (Mind you I’m 5’10” and already at the very bottom of my weight range–can you say bag of bones?). Even my family and friends were starting to notice the changes in my body and my clothes were hanging off of me. I have never felt so weak in my life and seriously felt like it was becoming a problem because cooking is one of the things I love most in this life. I was totally sucked in and becoming horribly thin. You made me reconsider how I look at foods and not be negative when I want something sweet or want to enjoy a burger with my friends. Cheers to healthy AND hearty!

  35. The way I was introduced to clean eating is totally different to your view. Yes, I did start “eating clean” to lose weight. But I also appreciate the fact that by eating clean, I am treating my body well. Sure one piece of pizza and a meal of chicken and rice have the same caloric value, but pizza (lets use for example a bought pizza) has way more transfats in it than the clean meal. And you can’t denie the impacts that would have on your body if you ate pizza on a regular basis. In the same token, I believe it is unhealthy to completely limit your diet – it is important to treat yoursel once in awhile. None of my ‘fitness freak’ friends limit themselves all the time. We all treat ourselves to something we love one a month or so.
    All I’m saying is what is wrong with priding yourself on putting healthy foods into your body, rather than sugary cereals and fast food.

    • it’s just that – why should you be proud or any better than someone else who likes to have a treat every now and then?

      If I’m at a party, and you’re busy telling me just how awesome your diet is, and subsequently how awesome you are for not having some chips and salsa with me, you’re a BORE and probably uninteresting for the most part.

  36. Thank you for this article. I was sucked into that cleaning eating, must only lift hard and heavy, HIIT only lifestyle and it has triggered MASSIVE eating issues. Thankfully I am now ‘seeing the light’ and am slowly working towards having a better relationship with food, not one that is dictated by bro-science and myths.

  37. I think anyone who “knocks” Clean Eating” or another way to put it is an older term…”Whole Foods” is not nutritionally educated . Eating foods as close to the state they were grown in..It’s Health! God made it Whole, so eating it whole is the most beneficial! More flavor, more nutrition, more fiber, Our bodies can use WHOLE FOODS much more efficiently, and Processed foods are NOT used efficiently at all and cause so many more problems for us. So many diseases can be solved just by changing what you eat. I know, I am a Clean Eater for life. I have a list of things I have been delivered form that No Doctor could figure out ! Changing my food intake to Clean, CHANGED MY LIFE! and i HAVE IN TURN helped OTHERS change THEIRS!

  38. I too think that the title of this post may not be the best…I do however think that your opinion on that clean eating is a “scam” is complete crap. Hydroxicut, and other weight loss pills, those are scams. Eating clean (read: unprocessed, chemical, preservative and hormone free) is a way of life for some. And every single authority on the subject will tell you that before you start this lifestyle, define what it means to you. Now, I have to ask…if you think that it’s a scam, do you then think that it’s acceptable to eat only processed food? Our bodies have been designed through centuries of evolution to process whole, actual foods; not the crap from the drive-thru. And let’s face it….that is not anything close to real food. I personally, don’t think that eating clean in a scam. It has been well documented since the beginning of last century what amazing benefits eating clean has to offer. I do not know of anyone who follows the clean eating lifestyle that is overweight, or has high cholesterol, or the like. Eating clean is about putting food into your body that is unprocessed, that contains ingredients that are found in nature (not modified by some dude in a lab). I don’t feel good about eating fake food. I do think that eating food in as natural a state as possible is not a scam and that there are zero downsides to that.

  39. I have been into health, fitness, and wellness almost my entire life. It wasn’t until college of course, when I really began digging deep into the subject. First, let me say that this is a well-written article but I feel that your title is inappropriate. Hold on before the defense mechanisms come up. Here are a few reasons why:

    A body-building/figure competition (or similar name) is a beast all in its own. I have seen and help to train individuals. The extreme diet is just that, an extreme diet. I feel that it is unfair to loop clean eating in with something of this caliber. The diet is unrealistic and cuts out certain foods that I consider “clean” because it’s mainly about fat content and your % of protein/carbs. In your article you talk of obsession with foods, as many participants in such a competition do.

    Another reason I feel the title is inappropriate is that clean eating is not a trademark. I myself eat clean 85% of the time. What I mean by clean is no preservatives or artificial additives. Simple as that. I agree with you in the aspect that it can be detrimental mentally to restrict yourself from certain foods you may like (i.e. ice cream) but I am a firm believer you can make almost anything healthier the majority of the time.

    Lastly, I would like to touch back on the obsession aspect and the negative effects it has on individuals. A person with an obsessive tendency will become this way towards ANY diet. On top of that, a problem is that when any diet or new trend grows like wildfire, the core idea is mutilated by lack of education, business ventures, and ill opinions.

    EDUCATION is key. There are so much research available and being conducted on how FOOD is a healing source. And how many foods are just the opposite.

  40. Clean eating isn’t a scam just because you became too obsessed with it and wasn’t able to make it part of your daily life. It’s about a way of life, and if you can’t comfortably make it part of yours, don’t do it.

    • hi, Kelly,

      Did you read the article? I said Clean Eating, the false belief, is not serving us. Clean Eating is nothing more than a belief that means something different to everyone – you just proved my point.

  41. Everyone defending clean eating IS AN IDIOT.

    Longevity is not decided by diet.

    All supercentenarians eat whatever the fuck they want. Some drink alcohol.

    You think eating “Clean” will let you live longer?

    You’re an idiot if you think that.

  42. Are you fucking retarded? Shit, with stupid ass views that ignore logic, you should go see if Fox News is hiring.

    Ass clown. Be sure to hand out heroin to children while you’re at it since being healthy is a scam. It isn’t everybody else’s fault you’re a weakling and you became obsessed. Lame, get a life.

    • Heh. I never said there was anything wrong with being healthy. I merely said it’s bad to label foods as clean or unclean and to justify them based upon false beliefs.

    • Joe, while I can see you spent quite a long time articulating your views on the subject, your stated views are clearly in opposition to your actions. Stating you are logical while expressing an emotional response to the subject matter intimates a reader with the incoherent nature of your thoughts. I would suggest you expand your reading beyond Men’s health and Dr. Oz . Take a look at the plethora of knowledge available on the subject, what you find may be enlightening.

      Executive Summary: Joe, you don’t know what you are talking about. Please, visit a psychologist because I suspect you’re slightly retarded and may be a danger to those around you.

      • I absolutely love post’s like this because they always become so nasty and as usual religion always get’s involved by those who like to preach.
        I just watched the video and while some of it dragged I think the main point is simply common sense. Yes eat healthy but if your body is craving something then you shouldn’t deny it either. The main point here I think is moderation, people should also look at their portion size by the way. As for the post I read about the lady getting acne, maybe it was the fact that you were already stressing about the last few kg’s that weren’t budging, after all stress/hormones contribute to acne more than what you eat. For those who like to preach about the health benefits sure it’s obviously better for you to eat ‘whole’ foods (sorry don’t like the clean and dirty labelling, sounds like a brothel) to bring in that it will be better for preventing diseases… get a life people. I know so many vegan’s that are so strict in what they eat and go to church for all the religious people that wanna bring god into it and they have had cancer or lost immediate loved ones to cancer. I lost my husband to cancer at 37 yrs of age, unfortunately it’s life we were born to die.
        As for the titlle ‘Clean Eating is a Scam’ that’s what brang me to this site as it is the latest fad that i’m hearing of lately. As far as I’m concerned anything that promotes they want to help you live a better life ( right after you give your card or bank details) is a scam as they’re more into it for the money. Joe, I think your article was good, obviously most people will have a whinge session but i’m sure they’ll get over it and move on when the next fad comes along. Thanks again and keep the articles coming, if people don’t like they shouldn’t read it. Otherwise they make for good entertainment with their post’s.
        Naomi :0)

  43. Very interesting read! I guess Clean Eating has a different definition for everyone. SHoudl anyone really be in such a regimented “program” unless you are suffering from an actual condition such as diabetes, etc? I defintely don’t buy into ones “labeled”, be it Clean Eating, Atkins, Zone…everything in moderation…including moderation! I guess that could be a label. :) There are those that follow clean eating “rules” and say “X” is allowed and “Y” is not – why does anything (in terms of food) not have to be allowed at all? After reading and researching and evaluating my own lifestyle, I have cut down on what I deem to be “processed” food (mostly pre-packaged foods with loads of sodium and/or added sugars, etc…) I have certainly seen a difference in weight and energy but to me, it just simply means by making it at home with “fresh” ingredients it tastes better to us and I can control what goes in it and the effects on my (and my family’s) body. I can’t always do it, I am a full-time working mom and sometimes even with planning, I need to reach for the mac and cheese and hot dogs and I;m OK with that. I don’t do it 7 days a week – I am talking once or twice a month – and that’s what works for us and doesn’t seem to impact our bodies and having it once in a while even tastes GOOD. I don’t need it everyday, I don’t crave it – I just am reasonable about it. By pure economics, fast food and restaurant chains are simply not going to be able to provide the quality you can have at home AND sustain profitability to thier standards – I hope that changes some day by a shift in supply and demand but for now, with a handful of exceptions, it seems like that is a ways off. I am also willing to bet that not every “processed” ingredient is bad for you and there is probably some “natural” stuff out there that is! That being said, you do yourself no justice by “depriving” yourself of foods you enjoy. Mental health has just as much of an impact on your ability to stay fit as diet and exercise! Humans need healthy socialization as much as they need anything else to stay mentally and physically “fit”! If you go out with friends – share the nachos with them! You just have to figure out what is reasonable for you – you might be able to do that once a week with no consequence in energy or on the scale, maybe its only once a month and the other times you hang out with your salad and water…but…if you are depressed about missing out or having gained some weight because you are doing it too much – woudln’t it make sense to keep trying through trial and error to find a balance that works for you? WITHOUT worrying about some book or group saying “you have sinned!”?? I like the magazines and websites because it does contain alot of good information but it is not my entire world and I do have to weed out what makes sense and what does not make sense to me (and seems over the top!) I am pretty sure if I became obsessed with it, my hubby would ban me from the forums and probably grocery shopping and the kitchen as well, – it wouldn’t do anybody including myself any good! Just my two cents…

  44. I agree I like to calorie cycle and I mostly eat clean but in the past I would have nothing deemed junky now I’m not so extreme sometimes I’ll add a half cup of lucky charms to my cottage cheese or have a couple slices a pizza in a week or a cookie. My diet is still one most make eyes at me when then see my tupper wear of foods but I give myself some slack compared to years past and I have gotten my best results. Most likely it’s better to eat 85% of the right foods year round then eat 100% of the right foods for 3 months and gve up,

  45. Very interesting point of view. I believe we definitely give food too much power whether we indulge or restrict it. Either way, we focus too much on food, and not enough on the things that really matter in life. I agree that food should be treated as fuel, because that’s pretty much all it is. Once we starting doing that, we won’t want to fill our bodies with foods that make us feel/perform badly–whatever that food may be.

  46. I am a 32 year old mother of one. I lift weights, do cardio six days a week and I used to count calories. Before I started eating clean I was eating 1200-1400 calories and day and not losing any weight or inches. I weighed and measured myself daily. Since eating clean, the pounds and inches have been melting off and I feel better than ever. I am no longer tired or hungry all the time. I get to eat way more than I was before and don’t feel the need to binge or cheat because I am never hungry anymore. I don’t feel obsessed about food anymore and I still go out to eat with friends. There are lots of healthy choices at almost every restaurant now. Eating clean does allow for those unclean foods, just in moderation. I also eat pizza, baked ziti, lasagna, spaghetti, cake and ice cream. I use clean ingredients and it tastes delicious!

  47. Clean eating is a scam??? Well, you have fun stuffing your face with junk food, I’ll stick with a clean way of eating. Clean eating will affect your social life? I’d rather focus on my health than eating cake with friends, they don’t hold it against me. I don’t understand why you would think it would lead to eating disorders. It’s about taking responsibility for your life and choosing a healthy lifestyle. I find this article pretty ridiculous.

    • I think the takeaway message here is “everything in moderation”. If your kcal count is in the right range, don’t stress too hard about *what* you’re eating and just enjoy it. On the same note, don’t eat McDonald’s three meals a day either.

  48. Wow! I wish I had found this article before I announced on Facebook that I would be eating clean foods- just yesterday. I have never been into diets and have always been thin by genetics but since turning 30 and the birth of my second child who is now 10 months old I have been very frustrated with my stomach and thighs. Just after one day of attemtpting this diet, I have seen the difficulty and have already considered the fact that I can no longer go out to eat. I also have started a list of foods that I want to eat on my cheat day- because of course now that i cannot have it, I crave it!

    I know myself and I know that I will never follow any diet exactly so I don’t anticipate that I would have lasted long eating clean simply because it is so difficult and time consuming. Not to mention I was starving all day
    ! I appreciate your article because now I will be able to illiminate the guilt. I have never eaten well, never had to. But I want to be healthy and what I will take away from researching clean eating is buying more fruits and vegetables. And I do have to reduce my candy and pastry eating. I think the key for me is eating what I know to be healthy and stop when i feel full.

    Again, thank you for saving me from being another “victim”

  49. I have to say this posting is right on point as far as my situation is concerned. I too have a tendency to become obsessive and took clean eating to the same extremes. I was experiencing daily headaches (probably due to extremely low blood sugar levels) and isolating myself socially. I also found myself as far from friendly/likeable during these periods. I would beat myself up about everything I ate depending on how “clean” I rated it in my mind and found it hard to be happy if my meals weren’t perfectly clean. I am so glad to know you have overcome this without gaining a ton of weight. I would like to enjoy food again.

  50. Wow, reading this thread has been quite entertaining!

    As someone who had anorexia and bulimia for years, I totally understand your point as far as the obsession goes. Regardless of what anyone’s version of “clean eating” is I get that your point was to explain how it can become obsessive and interfere with quality of life. Maybe some people are perfectly happy and never crave “dirty” food, but other people are restrictive, obsessive, and unhappy.

    Debating the NUTRIENTS is one thing and debating the psychological effect is another. I can’t say I agree with every word of the post but I’m not even going to comment defending (or bashing) eating “clean” food because I know your point was more about the detrimental effects it had on you mentally/socially. I think it’s funny how upset some people are getting over all this… ha.

    • yeah, nutrient quality if different, but there’s no harm in covering your bases first and then having some other foods as long as they junk doesn’t make up a majority of your diet…

      I still get the lolz rereading all the commentary!

  51. Great article. I think it’s really all about “Knowledge”. At the time, you didn’t know that the pizza had virtually the same ingredients as the “clean” food you were eating. And it was when you decided to separate your Protein, Carbs and Fat meals that your social life started to suffer. I have actually never done this, but I do tend to eat natural sugars instead of processed sugars whenever possible – and always eaten whole foods and natural foods (well, try to anyway). I think that when it comes to nutrition, the most unhelpful health obsession has to be Counting Calories. People have obsessed so much over this, and as a result don’t think about “What” they are eating. After all, the number of calories in a meal is only a measurement of “Energy”, and nothing more.

    • I think that when it comes to nutrition, the most unhelpful health obsession has to be NOT Counting Calories. People have obsessed so much over “healthy/clean foods”, and as a result don’t think about “HOW MUCH” they are eating. After all, the number of calories in a meal is only a measurement of “Energy”, and nothing more.

      • I see what you’re saying, and for the most part I agree. counting and obsessing over kcals can become pretty problematic, too.

      • Thank you for your feedback. :)
        I suppose that some people find that their body “tells” them “how much” they need to eat, so they tend not to overeat or eat too little. You could call it “eating intuitively”. I think over time, a person can become more able to be in tune with their body, if they found that they weren’t before taking up physical exercise. Unfortunately, some folks might find that they are not able to just eat intuitively. One well documented example of this, is the case of people who are very overweight. This now widespread problem has augmented an area of the mental self-help industry, known as NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) which is a kind of hypnosis. In this industry NLP Practitioners (who might not know an awful lot about nutrition or sports science) are able to change their (obese) client’s unhelpful eating habits, thus improving their physical health. I must confess that I have no idea what determines a persons ability to eat intuitively. I guess the answer must exist in the study of the mind… ?

        • the area of NLP and self-help psychology is definitely very interesting and I do not doubt there are ways to help people with their obesity through manipulation of the psyche. However, I am not well-versed in the studies to make any remarks further than that…

  52. I agree with you on some points – but the ambiguity of the phrase “clean eating” creates some problems in calling the phrase a false belief.

    “Clean eating” for me has always been to take advantage of food with higher nutritional content, and to eat processed food as well as food that makes me feel like shit in moderation. However, I definitely agree that obsessing over the food, as well as cheat meals (binging) isn’t advisable. I like the guidelines sort of approach.

    • I think my point is proven – clean eating is undefinable and always built around a personal belief/opinion. it’s different for everyone…

  53. I just stumbled on this and wanted to throw in my two sense about clean eating. As a lifestyle that I just stumbled upon I think its important for me to distinguish the why. In my case its not about weightloss as a primary goal nor is it about achieving a fitness model physique. A healthy weight comes from eating the proper foods and the proper amount of them. So clean eating for me is getting rid of all those things that do not contribute to or detract from overall health and wellness. Sugar and preservatives aren’t necessary. Sure we enjoy them and sure its much easier not to avoid them but the damage to wellbeing in the long run isn’t worth it in my opinion. Bottom line is that the term isn’t meant to have one definition and people can accomodate the principles in their own way but at the end of the day the direction to a healthier self has to be the most imporant part.

    • there is no reason why you cannot enjoy some processed, refined foods every once in a while.

      Why would you suggest (as I interpret from your comment) that these foods are damaging to well being in the long run and that you should give them up entirely? That’s not very practical.

      As long as your diet is not entirely comprised of processed food (hello obesity), and you enjoy it in moderation, there is no real issue.
      read this:

  54. The “problem” with clean eating or any healthy eating is the notion that it can’t taste good. The point of clean eating is that you can eat anything you ever ate before, made from scratch with natural ingredients. When is the last time anyone had high fructose corn syrup in their kitchen pantry? I know I never have.

    Your eating habits were certainly extreme and bland, and you really were missing out. I still eat pizza, ice cream, and all kinds of deliciousness, but I make it myself with minimal ingredients. Sure, it may not be as convenient as calling Pizza Hut, or stopping at Taco Bueno, but there was a time when those places didn’t exist, and home cooking wasn’t a convenience but a necessity.

    The reason “bad” foods are bad is because they include unnatural ingredients to improve shelf life, color, and texture to keep their appeal after months or even years after production. Or the fact that sugar is added to nearly EVERYTHING. All of those prepackaged and fast foods can be cooked at home, with fewer, natural ingredients and eaten fresh, or frozen for later enjoyment. And if you don’t care about calories or fat, you could still add all the sugar you could dream of. I love that I can eat all the same things I used to, but don’t feel like crap after and feel even better about it because I made it with my own two hands. However, I am no 100% clean eater. I still love my beer, and therefore, I have no problem eating out on special occasions. I’m certainly not going to alienate myself at family gatherings and such. However, on a regular basis I feel much better eating “clean.”

    Eventually the tables will turn and stricter food regulations will make “clean eating,” not some weird fad, but the norm, as it was for past generations.

    • clean eating is merely a belief that is justified depending on the individual. believe what you want, but food is merely energy, regardless of the source. sure, some choices are more nutritious and filling than others but in terms of energy balance, it doesn’t make a difference and that was a main point I was making.

      • I’ll give you the energy balance thing [kind of]. When I was eating processed sugar, I required the same carbo intake as I get now from fruit for daily function and satiety. The difference is… my body was so inflamed on the junk food that I could barely function. It’s not really a “scam”, but being orthorexic to the point of destroying yourself mentally isn’t good either.

        • the idea of saying you have to eat “clean” every second of every day is indeed a lie and causes a lot of unnecessary emotional distress for many. ;) long time, no see. how are ya buddy?

  55. You’re a good writer. But to me your rationale and belief systems are a bit off.

    What it comes down to is this:
    – the more “real foods” you eat, the less “fake foods” you desire.
    – the more your diet is based totally off “real foods”, the less likely following your natural hunger cues are to lead you towards overeating and hence being fat.

    You can make pizza out of real foods. “Clean eating,” I don’t think, doesn’t mean you can’t eat a good pizza. The rules at Precision Nutrition make pretty good sense to me: if you just lifted some heavy shit, its cool if you wanna make yourself a pizza on some sprouted-grain (or just regular whole grain flour, more processed, but easier) dough, with some sauce, cheese, a nice selection of spices (especially if they’re fresh!), some chopped up chicken, chopped up veggies, and pineapple. That sounds like awesome. But I dunno, I don’t live by “Clean Eating,” but I’d call that “pretty damn clean.”

    The point is you know what’s up with your food, so its all good. Yeah, eat some McDonald’s once in a while, but turn it into a habit and its gonna show.

    • How is my rationale and belief system off? ;)

      I wrote this because there is no such thing as clean eating. It’s a made-up idea that has a different meaning for everyone. To some, clean eating means no processed foods. To another, it means processed foods are okay as long as it contains whole grains. For yet another, it means no fast food. It’s basically just a way that people can justify whatever they’re putting in their mouths. And many actually judge others because of their decisions around what they eat. It’s quite silly.

      Lots of people will overeat, regardless of what kind of food they eat. Studies show people suck at reporting their intake. it’s why people can “eat clean” and not lose any weight.

      To me, taking the time to make a pizza with a bunch of fancy ingredients is not worth the trouble when I can go down the street and pick it up at the local pizzeria (who can likely make a much tastier pizza than I ever could). And this is mainly because I don’t eat pizza every single day. If I did, I might find a way to make it “more clean” than take-out.

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  57. Wow, so much of your articles are all SO TRUE to how I have been over the last year or two! Passing on family dinners at home, skipping out on going out to eat with friends, and never touching a cookie, candy, chips, shoot not even an m&m etc if it was outside of that ONE cheat meal I had per week, whether I was dieting, maintenance etc. I guess it always stayed in the back of my mind (since I grew up quite chunky and got picked on for it) that if I ate outside of my realm of clean eating foods that I was just gonna revert right back to how I grew up my whole life. Bout time I start adding in a bit more variety on days I feel, and lose the rigidness with food.

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  59. I agree with you that healthy eating can turn into an obsession. I also agree with many of the commenters even though they often contradict each other. I think it all boils down to eating healthier, but using moderation, variety, and common sense so you don’t burn out.

    • well sure. I’m a devout evangelist for moderation – I was merely making a point that clean eating is nothing more than a false belief.

  60. I appreciate what you’re saying JC. This way of eating became an obsession for you. I don’t have anything against carbs, I just know they fuck with my stomach something awful. See, that’s my problem. I have a stomach thing. And this clean eating method has changed my life. Once I cut out fatty, salty, sugary foods, I didn’t have to lay down all the time w/ a fat bloated stomach. It’s not about fat loss for me b/c I’ve never had a weight problem. But truthfully I love hearing different viewpoints and am going on to your next two posts now.

  61. i guess you can sum this up into: there’s no magical foods that can make you lose fat, fat storage is caused by the overconsumption of calories.

    • Not all calories are created equal when it comes to nutrition. A great deal of research has shown that processed foods and saturated fats alter your hormones and the parts of your brain that make you feel full. Sugar has been shown to stimulate the reward centres in the brain in a similar way to cocaine, and there has been a great indication that some individuals can be prone to addiction to sugar (I would put myself in this category).

      I understand the idea behind moderation, but not all people can handle moderation. I find that it is easier for me to cut out sugar entirely than to try and moderate my eating of it. True cleaning eating doesn’t mean giving up things that you love but finding healthy ways to eat them (for example, I have found a recipe for clean ice cream sandwiches).

      I’m not sure why we have this idea that we should be able to eat whatever we want. Sugar isn’t good for us, period. Trying to push people into believing that not having moderation is somehow wrong (which many people do, ie. those saboteurs) is no different than trying to argue that things like smoking, drinking or drugs are good in moderation. It’s not everyone’s thing, and all of the above cause some harm to the body. I guess it just depends on whether we feel the short-term experience is worth more than the long-term wellness factor. And yes, it needs to be about wellness, not weight loss

      • it depends on what you mean by sugar. Sugar can be in the form of bread, candy, cupcakes, oatmeal, fruit, etc. I never tried to say that not being able to practice moderation is wrong. I merely want people think about what clean eating really means.

        And the fact is that it means different things to different people. To you, it’s finding an alternative way to eat an ice cream sandwich. To others, it’s cutting out all trans fats. To someone else, it may be not eating carbs and fat in the same meal. All it comes down to is a belief system, whether it be serving us or not.

        Moderation can be learned and it needs to be within the fitness community. And just because I decide to have pizza or ice cream a few times per week doesn’t mean I’ll be paying for it later on in my lifetime. Now for those who eat it on the regular and who are obese as a result – that’s a different story.

        I just hate it when fitness folks shove BS down others throats due to their insecurities or false beliefs about how their methods are better or more righteous than others. Who really cares?

        There’s a lot more to be worried about than if your diet was absolutely perfect for the day.

        Maybe you haven’t found a way to incorporate a small amount of candy or whatever else you crave into your diet. Maybe a permanent solution for you is to cut it out in its entirety. I’ve just found that’s not the case for the majority. Life is too short to worry about minutiae.

        I choose to focus on the big picture and that’s the aim of my work. Focus on the stuff that matters and not obsess over the cupcake you have at your random company luncheon.

  62. Hi JC.
    I like your style of writing and don’t disagree with the “you don’t have to eat clean” mantra, although I don’t know whether that is because I don’t want to eat clean but I digress.

    The only problem I have with your post is that you started it by saying how you were chunky but got a full rack of abs by eating boiled chicken, broccoli (no butter) and brown rice. Now that surely proves that eating clean isn’t bad, in fact, the results sound fantastic. I was blinded by that so much that, for me, the rest of the article just paled into insignificance which is unfortunate as I still believe the message is right.

    Maybe it is easier to let go when you’ve achieved such a difficult goal.

    • well, letting go is what it’s all about, really. The whole premise of the article was not to bash clean eating, but the negative relationship the whole idea can create for a person. More on this in a week or so.

  63. The thread that never dies!
    Why label it as “cheats” anyway? Why not just call them treats, that’s basically what they are.
    There’s no reason why people who eat basically “clean”, (or healthfully, really, for those of us “clean” eaters who aren’t obsessive) can’t have treats on occasion. Or “normal” food. You don’t need to go crazy either way.
    I think that’s really what JC is advocating. He just likes to do it in a provocative manner, n’est ce pas?
    Needless to say it’s been QUITE enlightening.

  64. When I decided to eat better (which I didn’t do in one obsessive leap), I learned that there are a lot of foods that taste really good that aren’t fried or made of bread. I learned that I feel a lot better physically and have more energy when I eat well than when I don’t. I eat out with friends. If we’re at a pizza joint and I’m craving vegetables, I’ll see what I can find that will suit what I want. If we’re at a pizza joint and I’m not craving vegetables, I’ll have a slice. But if I eat two or three slices, I don’t feel well. I can eat a small serving of ice cream (or other sweet) and be fine and enjoy it, but if I eat a restaurant-sized portion, it physically makes me sick and I will be spending a good portion of the evening on the toilet.

    I eat well because it tastes good and because I feel good, not because I should. I don’t need cheat meals because I don’t feel deprived.

    Just because you are a double-or-nothing person doesn’t mean that everyone is. The clean eating wasn’t the problem…

  65. love your POV, and love your closing point that food = energy. anyone who disagrees needs to look up ‘calorie’ in the dictionary. and i also love that you point out that the mindset (cognitive) theoretically attributable to ‘clean eating’ is the problem, notsomuch the food choices (behavior) themselves.

    keep it up! i’m coming back for more of these pieces.
    p.s. as a female, i’m chuckling over the observation that most of the fired-up, offended commenters are also females. females are more socially pressured to be a certain body type, they are also more likely to seek out weight loss, and they don’t like it when more than one answer can be correct. an unfortunate trifecta, no?

  66. However, with that said, I agree with your point about being happy about what you eat. Ultimately, if you feel miserable following a particular diet, or feel like you’re “restricting” or “limiting” yourself or “sacrificing” anything, then in the long run, it’s likely that you’ll fall off the bandwagon of that diet. Satisfaction and the lack of guilt about what you’re eating means a happy eater, and a happy person is always healthier than a “clean-eating” but unhappy eater…. I think. :)

    You might wanna check out Thrive by Brendan Brazier. It’s a fantastic book that’ll change your perspective on food, calories, energy, nutritional stress, recovery, and training. :)

    • Again, I respect your opinion but I am in no way interested in becoming vegan. I don’t see any advantages to that lifestyle and to be completely honest, I really enjoy beef, pork and poultry.

      And I’ll leave you with a quote I once came across (all in good humor, of course).

      “If we weren’t supposed to eat animals, they wouldn’t be made out of meat.”

      • Hey buddy,

        I’m a eating raw veg style now. I love this shit! I eat 6,000 calories a day completely guilt free :) Eat like 10lbs of food per sitting, Now that’s life!

        I’m all about the meat, but I have to admit… Eating all I want and knowing there’s little or no consequence for doing so is a pretty rockin way to live.

        • dude, c’mon! that’s what I do everyday anyway! just kidding. Good to see you around. So why the idea of nothing but raw veggies? Glad I ain’t frontin’ yo grocery bill!

          • Screw the all raw veggies. That’s for those wimpy gaunt vegans. I’m an FFB… I go almost exclusively sweet fruit. Pack that stuff in like crazy. Have energy like a crackhead.

            Once I figured out how to buy, it’s not so bad. I’ll spend about $100 this week. My unclean diet was way more expensive than that.

  67. Actually, food is not just mere food that gives you energy. Not all calories are the same. If that were true, all the overweight, junk-eating Mac-donald fans would have the most energy since they consume the most calories. Energy is a complicated process. Our body uses up energy everyday in doing simple things such as digesting our food, rebuilding cells, clearing out toxins, and even more energy is used up in exercise, etc.

    Not all food requires the same amount of energy to be digested. Things such as fruit and raw vegetables are digested very easily, and thus place very little nutritional stress on the body. Hence, when eaten, they spare our body more energy left over to focus on healing and recovering from workouts, etc.

    Animal protein and grains are very difficult for our body to digest and assimilate, so more energy is required to break them down. Food therefore is not just pure energy.

    You said you were “eating clean”, but in reality, your diet is not really “clean”, since animal protein often comes with megadoses of antibiotics and pesticides, growth hormones and other chemicals that farmers pump into meat. Too much animal protein also leads to a variety of illnesses such as colon cancer, gout, kidney failure, etc.

    Clean eating is not a scam. DO eat whole, unprocessed, unseasoned foods. Fruits are our best fuel, and so are raw veggies! Meat is NOT clean. Meat is dirty and toxic, from all the shit that farmers feed their animals!

    • I would be very interested in reading the research you have here. I use to eat clean and saw no improvement in my blood profile so I did not see the benefits others claim.

      Since eating moderately everything has improved. I highly doubt the extra clean eating did much for me. Still maybe I’m an outlier so is still be interested in reading the research

      • “saw no improvement in my blood profile”

        This doesn’t surprise me. I was on the verge of death at age 26. Barely looked forward to waking up in the morning. Got blood work done. “Healthy as a horse!” said the Doc. Then why do I feel like walking death?

        Now I eat cleaner than just about anyone. I doubt there’s much difference in my blood profile these days (even my body comp), but my life has completely changed. Running a half marathon takes about as much energy as walking to the bathroom to drop off a shit used to.

        Just sayin….

  68. I went years without starch and added sugar in my diet and feared the pairing of fats with carbs, but of course I didn’t realize I had to count my calories. I finally released my stubborn clean-eating mentality a year ago after reading various fitness blogs citing legit studies debunking all that nonsense.

    I have a much happier relationship with food now, and am finally back to eating things I love in moderation (even adding back the most basic of things like potatoes and carrots. God, how I missed potatoes), as well as adding a little sugar to my home-cooked meals. Freedom, I feel it.

    So, thank you for writing these types of articles.

  69. I got caught up in clean eating obsession for a while myself, lately I’ve loosened up my diet, I enjoy ice cream,chocolate, pizza even pierogies most of the days and I’m still losing fat. Great article JC!

  70. Haha, wow. Great article, haters gonna hate.

    I actually tested out “clean eating” the same way as you. After reaching my goal weight/bf% and a month of keeping it there, I cared only about reaching my calories and protein every day. Then I filled in my left over calories with ice cream, 100 cal packs of chocolate covered pretzels and the occasional big mac.

    I found myself being even more satisfied from the peace of mind it brings, and kept my abs. The only downfall is wishing I had known this 2 years ago.

    • Awe Hell naw! Anybody knows that if you get to your freakin goal you can pretty much cheat here and there and watch your calorie intake and you won’t gain a whole bunch of unnecessary weight.
      Do this for me, gain 20 pounds back. Stay there for a month and then try eating like that and tell me if you either just get to your goal slower or don’t get to your goal at all?
      To get to the goal you have to eat a certain way for a period of time whether its clean or whatever then you can have you little cheats.

  71. Let me share something Alan just wrote on a forum thread where this article was shared:

    Let me begin by challenging anyone to hit their macros on burgers, fries, shakes, & soft drinks. It won’t happen. Hitting your macros is almost a self-regulating “diet cleaner”. Getting some variety across the food groups helps, especially if you plan on getting enough fiber to crap with any comfortable level of regularity. I also think that making a conscious effort (not a neurotic one) to have a variety of foods hedges your bets in the direction of long-term health. In practice, roughly 10-15% of your total calories (daily or weekly – your choice) coming from whatever you damn well want does not significantly hamper progress, and in many cases actually helps.

  72. I’m confused. Exactly how is clean eating a scam? You ate clean and you became healthier so clean eating apparently works. It’s not a scam just because you personally felt deprived.

    • Alright, so did you get past my headline? I understand that I did mention clean eating being a scam there but I fully elaborate in the body. Did you read that part?

      • I’m just saying that your headline is extremely misleading. The definition of “scam” is a fraudulent theme so I’m just wondering how you came to the conclusion that clean eating is a fraud. You clearly obtained the benefits of this type of diet and yet bash it and call it a scam. Again, just because you were obsessed, felt the need to binge, and have the mindset that any type of food is energy no matter what, does not mean clean eating doesn’t work.

        • It’s funny how a few emotionally-charged words slammed together in a headline can create such a response.

          Clean eating, in the way we keep referring to the term, doesn’t really exist. I mean, what exactly is clean eating? As I alluded to in the article – it’s nothing but a belief or a mindset, but guess what? Everyone’s ideas and beliefs around this concept are a bit different.

          For example, in some extreme cases, some only feel that organic and raw foods are deemed clean while everything else has been “contaminated” by pesticides, cooking methods, cross-contamination, etc.

          Then you have others who feel non-organic foods are okay under certain circumstances. Then, you have others like me who don’t really care if my apples, bananas or brownie mies are organic or not. I simply try to eat a well-balanced diet and never deprive myself when I want a burger or some beer and pizza. if I want to eat pizza for one meal everyday each week, fine. I just work it into my diet.

          I suppose my biggest problem with the term is how many people become self-righteous and some even develop an elitist attitude (not saying anyone here is doing that – just making a point). It’s funny how others, as we can all see in that long thread on bbcom and even in some of the comments here, project their personal beliefs without considering other viewpoints or ideals.

      • Alright then, why not title your article “How Clean Eating can lead some people into obsessive unhealthy dieting practises and why you should lighten up and take it with a grain of salt”?
        HONESTLY! You knew you were going to get a rise out of people. And how productive is it to point out that yes, some people can surive on twinkies for a month? Some people can also drink a fiver of scotch and smoke two packs of cigarettes everyday until they’re 80 and still be ok. Most people can’t though.
        So, the moral of the story should be do what works for you. If that’s clean eating as a particular person defines it that’s okay. Don’t ram your clean eating down the throats of others who have no stomach for it. And don’t ram your “IF” down the throats of people who feel ravenous enough to chew off their own leg first thing in the morning because it worked for you.

        Use common sense folks. If anyone should preach anything it should be that. And no, I don’t have any scientific data to support that statement.

    • JC has written me back with his thoughts and I accept what he is going to be coming out with next week but I have to say……. my sentiments exactly to your post. I thought the EXACT same thing I just didn’t write it. Anyway, it’s the ideas or thinking surrounding “clean” that the problem. Not the acutal eating style.

  73. JC:

    *Not sure why you are getting harsh comments. After reading the article, seems to me its more about behavior than a particularized diet. Maybe the title was a bit polarizing…

    *Meanwhile, eating the one true way is a quest akin to the search for the Holy Grail. Too many factors are in play for anything but opinions. It’s an interesting bit of irrational behavior that allows people to become dogmatic about things that they can’t prove one way or the other (you crazy iconoclast).

    *Doubt yourself, experiment, keep what works, discard the rest, and recognize that, at best, this is a poor approximation of a solution.

  74. JC,

    Now to comment on this “problem” you have with Clean Eating. I am very saddened to hear you bring this in the light this way. Many have adopted this because is the most sensible adaptable nutrition plan that they have heard of to date that they can actually stick to. Have you read the Clean eating Magazine? I just picked up a copy three days ago and for those who have a hard time (like some of my kin folk) getting on any kind of plan the two week menu actually sounded doable to some of them. I do agree, and we even laughed, that some of the go OVERBOARD with the CLEAN verses UNCLEAN thing. They even bring in herbs and veggies I have never heard of and etc.
    This is my take on it. I believe in moderation of my favorite foods every now and then and I even agree with something I read on your fasting. I fast for religious reasons periodically therefore I know about it. I eat my food clean 80% of the time because it’s the easiest term to use since its become some coined phrase. If I deviate I will not die! I am eating what I know to be healthy to get the results I want and to have the healthiest human body I need. That’s it! I wouldn’t slam Clean Eating though to promote my own thing. People will listen to you without doing that.

    • okay, did you read the article? How do I not take a moderate stance? How am I slamming clean eating to promote my own thing? What am I selling?

      I’m merely slamming the mindset and the false beliefs that clean eating has sprung from. It’s just a belief system that one food is deemed clean or unclean. That’s it.

      Again, I will cover this in my follow-up coming out next week but I just don’t get how there are people on both extremes. It’s either I’m completely bashing “clean eating” or I’m preaching moderation. Which one is it?

      If you read anything else on my site, you know I take a moderate stance on just about everything regarding fitness and the lifestyle accompanied with such an endeavor. I also took a moderate stance with this one, too.

      In fact, my good friend RogLaw did a great job explaining the scope of my article here.

  75. JC, its a fresh & common sense approach to eating & i am sure i have seen and done my share of clean vs unclean eating. the only thing which ever bothers me is i can’t eat certain foods my friends eat at certain times of the day. it just could be that their bodies handle these foods more efficiently than mine. i have truly tried it. Non veg early in the morning doesn’t sound attractive to me at all where as my friends relish it. i feel sleepy if i just overdo a little at whatever time of the day. i do sound like a sissy but i am not. i can operate on empty, go hardcore kickboxing just by drinking a coffee & few nuts. my wife will get headaches. but overall what you said about some of us going anal with regards to food combining/separating/clean eating etc is serious overkill.

  76. Damn JC, didn’t know you could send people into a fury of rage with a well thought article from PERSONAL experience. This is a blog after all right?

    A couple things I doubt the women are doing is heavy resistance training and counting calories.

    You write for bodybuilding dot com, a site these two little ladies probably aren’t frequenting often. You also deadlift and squat more than twice your body weight, respectable numbers for anyone.

    She gained weight by eating ‘unclean’ foods but who (aside from us OCD fitness freaks) counts the calories in the fun sized Butterfingers their shoving down their throat while watching TV?

    Resistance training and adequate protein of ~1.5 kg/lb LBM (the former more important when dieting IMO) will yield good results whether you’re eating ice cream + protein power or an isocaloric diet of clean foods.

    I realize this is tough for some people to grasp but it really takes personal experience. Thinking outside the box isn’t easy for a lot of people…I like it much better out here *munches on homemade toffee cookies* nom nom nom.

    Clement, eloquently written response. JC love your blog dude, you’re definitely going places.

    • Thanks Ace for the support. I think I just caught some people off guard. It’s clear many who came in bashing either did not read the actual article OR they know nothing about me. I’m perfectly fine with it and I always encourage others to seek out the truth for themselves. So, if you doubt my ideas or philosophy – that’s fine. Go find what works for you!

      oh and have a beer and some pizza every now and then – you know; practice some moderation. (had to say it)

  77. As we all know, our body composition directly reflects our eating habits.

    Upon comparison of availiable pics, JC strikes me as much more impressive.

    Therefore, he and his flexible dieting tactics are clearly the victor, here.

  78. When I was growing up, my mom was a big fan of clean eating. For me, at least, not for her (she was skinny). Trying to live on fruits, veggies, brown rice, cause huge weight gain due to bingeing. Now I eat lots of veggies, good fats, healthyish carbs, etc. When I make pizza at home, I do make it with whole wheat pitas, add lots of veggies, but I won’t turn down a standard piece with pepperoni and mushrooms occasionally. And yes, even one slice makes me very full. I am chemist, not biologist, but it seems that those who make all these claims about insulin are missing something, or missing a lot of the story, or have minimal understanding of physiology, or are trying to sell something.

    Eat your fruits and veggies, don’t smoke, minimize stress. I think the rest is mostly just pissing in the wind.

  79. nice article, i was wondering what food would you suggest when you really want to cheat, something that will stop that craving, and what a balanced “clean” diet would be, I mean if you eat normally and you had a brownie here and there wouldn’t that set of a chain reaction, to have another one and another one since you are eating cleaning after all (i guess until you get used to that kind of eating you would have that effect).

    • well, not so much. I mean for me, if I want to have a brownie and and some ice cream, I just replace some of my other energy carbs/fats with it instead. I also practice Intermittent Fasting most of the time, so this helps as well.

  80. In your article you say (paraphrasing) that fitness junkie consider pizza as considered dirty but individual ingredients used as clean, and you think thats wrong.

    But here is what its all about – when you make pizza, 90% of pizza is “pasta”, white bread which will spike your blood sugar and than you will have energy drain and feel weak few hours later, healthy stuff in pizza is meat but its not really too much of it in there and many “creams” and other stuff that goes in pizza is also not really good, + most of healthy ingredients that are actualy there are DESTROYED with fried food

    so when you eat it you eat pure simple carbs that will spike your insulin and give it no good

    you should eat complex carbs that will release your insulin slowly through day

    so i dont say you should not eat pizza but its just not same eating pizza vs eating ingredients from pizza

    • Are you basing this on the GI index because if so it would be incorrect. GI is blunted when eating it with protein and fat. GI I believe is not relavent to the gen pop, its.mostly for people with insulin problems and diabetes.

  81. All I can do at this point is throw my hands up and walk away from the conversation.

    I think the difference in our approach to food is staggering.

    I think Heather makes a valid point in her rebuttal by stating that clean eating is not all about weight loss or about extremes. It’s about general health as well.

    If you and your readers do not agree that clean eating leads to better overall health, there is just nothing I can do or say.

    I agree that somebody could lose weight by cutting calories alone. That’s undisputed. However, if two people lose the same amount of weight, one eating clean foods and one eating many processed foods, guess which person will actually look and BE healthier at the end of their weight loss?

    I guess my main concern is the fact that you equate clean eating with a scam and with fanaticism. This is so far from the truth for so, so, so many people.

    I will leave this conversation now, as I’m getting a little to worked up by it to respond with clarity and fairness. However, as a registered dietitian in training, I will simply say that I whole heartedly disagree with most of what you’ve said. I’ll leave it at that.

    Thanks for the discussion. It’s been eye-opening to say the least.

  82. @Tiffany:

    Hi. I think you’re misunderstanding JC’s point here. He’s trying to make it known that you don’t have to force-feed yourself clean food and torture yourself by only consuming steamed chicken breasts and broccoli 3 times a day. You can lose weight as long as you keep track of your calories.

    In my opinion, 500kcal of vegetables does make a difference in the long term because it provides satiety and roughage. But chocolate bars are also a source of energy. People talk about needing to eat more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains and more anti-oxidant food… But NO, you just need to eat LESS in general! The reality is that only if you’re overeating will such benefits be felt. If you’re eating less than maintenance, I assure you that inflammation will be non-existent. Caloric restriction and fasting are proven to reduce inflammation. If you eat 300kcal of vegetables above maintenance, I assure you that you will gain weight still!

    In fact, if you talk about fat storage, James Keiger at has done plenty of research and concluded that whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats do cause insulin spikes and have a large increase in blood sugar as well. Insulin increases lead to fat partitioning as well as protein synthesis and minimize protein breakdown. So there really is no other benefit to eating “clean” unless you want to feel more satiated than food that digest faster! Other people would feel satisfied just consuming their favorite cheesecake.

    I do agree that at a lower body fat percentage and if you’re looking to get shredded at 3% body fat, then you need to reduce your processed food intake, because carbohydrates and sodium increase water retention. But to just get ripped, caloric intake and adequate protein is all that matters. Also, you lose a lot of weight by cutting carbohydrate sources and starches as a lot of glycogen and water is lost. These can blur your abs and cause you to lose muscle definition – the bane of every bodybuilder. But body fat loss is mediated by a negative caloric balance. You cannot burn body fat by eating more fruits, more vegetables, more healthy fats… You can only burn it by creating a metabolic deficit!

    I am positive that JC would also strongly encourage anyone who loves and enjoys eating clean food to continue doing so. The reality, however, is that most people can’t. Nowadays, food is so much more than just plain fuel, as it satisfies emotional needs as well. The point he is making is that people should relax around food. Also, he does not warn people off jumping on the “clean” bandwagon. He just provides his perspective and I respect and agree with him for that. We respect your opinion, but if you read the whole research paper and not just the abstract, like i do as a graduate student and like many other experts like Brad Pilon, Craig Ballantyne, Martin Berkhan, Tom Venuto, Jon Alvino, JC and James Keiger – proven fat loss experts – do, you will find something that studies that spawned the popular Atkins, Zone, Mediterranean and South Beach diets have in common – people in the studies ate less! Many experts encourage you to eat whole, natural food because they do satisfy you more and can actually be delicious, but there’s really no need for anyone to get uptight about it.

  83. Clean eating is not meant to be a punishing form of eating and of total denial. Clean eating can be just eating healthier food, more the way nature intended it to be and before corporations decided to add all kinds of chemicals and garbage to our food. When did we become a society where eating food in it’s natural form is wrong?

    If a person has an eating disorder, they will take everything to the extreme, whether it is clean eating, Weight Watchers, or any other eating plan.

    Eating clean doesn’t mean eating like you are prepping for a body building competition either. To me, the chicken, egg whites, brown rice, cottage cheese, veggie diet is too extreme.

    For me at least clean eating is just eating more healthy, natural and less processed foods.

  84. I will probably follow a clean diet all my life because it truthfully costs less. It’s much less to buy two bags of 26 8oz chicken breasts each for $16, cheap 50 lb white rice bags, big bags of oats at Costco, gallons of milkand recession whey from true protein. I can imagine this comes out to less than $60 per month. I’m not trying to prove anything but if you can come up with a shopping list which comes out to the same amount of money and still allows me to get 180 g of protein per day,(sorry can’t go the higher range I’m poor), 400 g of carbs(if I ever I need to eat that many), 70 g of fats(easily gotten from olive oil, peanut butter, milk, and butter, I’m all ears(:

    • did you read the article? When did I ever say you have to eat this stuff all the time? I was merely making a point that there’s no real difference in the foods labeled clean and unclean – it’s just a mindset.

      • I feel i have to eat that way because it’s the cheapest. If u can find a way for me to get my macros in just as cheap with “dirty” lol foods, I’m all ears.

      • But there IS a difference. The way that foods are prepared are part of what makes them healthy or unhealthy. For example, grilling meats substantially raises the level of carcinogens in them. Deep frying is way different than stir frying. And if I was going to eat some tomatoes and cheese, the proportions would very likely be different than the proportions of tomato to cheese on a slice of pizza.

        • and here is the deal. When did I ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever state our diets should be full of this stuff? I mean really? When did I EVER state it the way you are suggesting? He wanted to know how he could get extra kcals on the cheap.

          I’m perfectly content with having my animal prepared on the grill and I do enjoy the deep-fried tempura on my sushi when I go out for all-you-can-eat with all my friends. This is a perfect example of worrying about the small stuff and I choose not to waste my time being concerned with minutiae when the rest of my diet is in check.

          • But you’re changing your argument. In your post, you argued that crap food and good food are the same:

            “Let’s take a pizza pie for example. I love pizza and I love even more so to make my own at home. I eat the same foods day in and day out so spicing up my diet with something like a fresh pizza is always a treat.

            “The typical ingredients for a pizza are dough, crushed tomatoes, cheese, meat (beef, pork, chicken), olive oil, lots of veggies and sometimes fruit like pineapple. All of these foods by themselves are typically deemed clean by the informed fitness fanatic.

            “Combine them for an awesome pizza pie and you can’t bust their mouths open with a baseball bat.”

            I don’t disagree that indulging in crap food on occasion is a problem. But pizza is not the same as the list of ingredients (mainly because of proportions and preparation), and “the informed fitness fanatic” would know better than to call dough a health food.

            (And in this thread of comments, you suggested the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s, which surely you don’t believe is healthy food?)

            • When did I ever say that it’s okay to eat junk food in place of more nutrient-dense, healthier food on a consistent basis? I’m merely making an argument that we don’t have to be obsessive-compulsive about this so-called clean eating. Eating some fast food now and then is not what causes problems.

              It’s when we do it day in and day out ALL THE WHILE BEING SEDENTARY. Look at many active athletes who regularly consume a diet full of health food and who also have their fair share of junk food. What do you think is more important in this regard? What has the biggest effect on their health and body composition? It’s because they’re so active. If they were sedentary, it would be a different story. But I’m rambling here…

              Proportions have nothing to do with it. Proportions are based on expenditure, personal macro goals, other variables, and are irrelevant to the discussion.

              Bread is usually made of dough. Umm, when is it bad to eat bread?

              (And in this thread of comments, you suggested the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s, which surely you don’t believe is healthy food?)

              Right; but it’s in context. Words: they mean things. I don’t mean to sound rude or pompous but seriously… I never called it health food. He wanted to know a way he could cheaply eat calorie dense food (call it dirty if it makes you feel better) and fit it into his diet. I gave him a solution. A buck for a burger sounds pretty cheap to me, no?

              So I gave him an example. Much like I talk about eating McDonalds hamburgers in this article I wrote for

              I’ll even quote myself.

              If you enjoy McDonald’s every now and then, go pick up a few burgers from the dollar menu and squeeze them into your macros for the day.

              One hamburger is only 250 calories with 12g protein, 9g fat and 31g carbohydrates. Heck, a Big Mac is just 540 calories with 25g protein, 29g fat and 45g carbohydrates.

              Just to put it in perspective, someone who’s dieting on 2500 calories per day could easily fit this into their meals. Even someone dieting on 2000 calories per day could fit a few hamburgers into their diet throughout their week if they wished to do so.

  85. Wow.

    I tried to read your article with an open mind. But as the author of a clean eating recipe blog and somebody who has been eating clean for over 3 years now, I have to strongly disagree with you on just about every level.

    The way you write about clean eating makes it sound like it’s a fad diet similar to the grapefruit diet or cabbage soup diet. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    The simple fact of the matter is that the QUALITY of calories you put in your body matters just as much as the quantity. You can eat 500 calories in veggies or 500 calories in candy bars. Guess which one will give you the best nutrition?

    You say: “The typical ingredients for a pizza are dough, crushed tomatoes, cheese, meat (beef, pork, chicken), olive oil, lots of veggies and sometimes fruit like pineapple. All of these foods by themselves are typically deemed clean by the informed fitness fanatic. Combine them for an awesome pizza pie and you can’t bust their mouths open with a baseball bat.”

    This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every clean eater I know enjoys a regular slice of pizza. It’s pizza. It should be its own food group! The only difference is, we make our own using whole grain flour instead of white flour which is processed and turned into sugar by the body much much faster than whole grain flour. This is why you can eat 5 slices of pizza, and then be hungry again a short time later.

    I can also tell you that the ingredients you mentioned there, are indeed clean. I could take them and turn them into a FABULOUS pizza for dinner and still have it fall into the clean eating category. I eat pizza all the time and I enjoy every bite. (Case in point, I just posted a recipe for BBQ Pizza on my blog).

    You also state, ““Food is neither clean nor unclean, but merely energy my body needs to function and survive.”

    NOT true! The body processes different foods very differently. The more refined and processed a food is, the worse it is for your body. The body processes refined foods very quickly and dumps the glucose into the blood stream. The pancreas than has to kick into overdrive to make up for the excess. Do this often enough, and you end up with diabetes.

    There is no denying the correlation between the rise in processed foods and the rise in diabetes. Just look at the statistics. Unhealthy, processed foods DO have a negative effect on the body and on our overall health.

    As a person who is working on weight loss, I can tell you that I did not gain the extra weight by eating clean foods. I gained it by eating the very foods you are calling “mere energy”.

    While I understand you are preaching moderation here, that’s not really what comes across in your article.

    I certainly treat myself on occasion to something that is, as you call it, “unclean”. But that isn’t going to lead me to a full binge. I simply include it in my eating plan and make adjustments to be sure I’m still getting good nutrition elsewhere in my day.

    Personally, I feel your assessment of clean eating is narrow and unfair.

    • What’s up Tiffany? Thanks for stopping by.

      I appreciate your input and value your opinion as a fellow writer and blogger. My response below.

      The simple fact of the matter is that the QUALITY of calories you put in your body matters just as much as the quantity. You can eat 500 calories in veggies or 500 calories in candy bars. Guess which one will give you the best nutrition?

      well sure. How can I disagree with you here? But where did I ever say one should remove all of the nutritious foods from their diet and replace them with junk? I don’t believe I ever did. If you find a place in the article that suggests this idea – then I’ll gladly amend it to make it clear. However, I’ve received quite a few emails and lots of confirmation on the bodybuilding dot com forums that my point was well understood by those who read the article and didn’t feel the need to project their preconceived thoughts about the issue.

      The only difference is, we make our own using whole grain flour instead of white flour which is processed and turned into sugar by the body much much faster than whole grain flour.

      Would you mind providing a reference for the bold statement? If you’re referring to the way the body uses the carbohydrates based on the glycemic index, this is old news. The pizza contains enough dairy, protein and fat that the glycemic impact is nullified.

      NOT true! The body processes different foods very differently. The more refined and processed a food is, the worse it is for your body. The body processes refined foods very quickly and dumps the glucose into the blood stream. The pancreas than has to kick into overdrive to make up for the excess. Do this often enough, and you end up with diabetes.

      Would you mind providing a reference for these statements as well? The processing you speak of dependent on a multitude of factors.

      There is no denying the correlation between the rise in processed foods and the rise in diabetes. Just look at the statistics. Unhealthy, processed foods DO have a negative effect on the body and on our overall health.

      word. I agree with this BUT these people are eating junk for every meal and most are overweight. I never said one should do this, ever.
      by the way – did you ever see this link?

      As a person who is working on weight loss, I can tell you that I did not gain the extra weight by eating clean foods. I gained it by eating the very foods you are calling “mere energy”.

      Okay, I can buy that but only because eating clean foods typically helps one eat less due to the satiety factor. Regardless of how you look at it, it’s only a matter of energy balance.

      I certainly treat myself on occasion to something that is, as you call it, “unclean”. But that isn’t going to lead me to a full binge. I simply include it in my eating plan and make adjustments to be sure I’m still getting good nutrition elsewhere in my day.

      And this was the point of the entire article. Many others understood this as well. I smell a part two coming on.

      • Great response. Although I do not know her qualificaition, Tiffany seems to be pretty knowledgable, but throwing out random scientific facts with no numbers, tests, or data to supplement what she is saying makes the argument vague. While I do believe she was giving you your credit I think she missed the entire point of the article and felt compelled to back up clean eating because thats what she practices. JC never stated that a person should binge on junk food all day and night and consequently will never see any negative health benefits. He simply stated that losing your mind over determining if every bite of food you take is unprocessed or not is not worth it.

  86. It’s the whole clean-eating conundrum, isn’t it? That’s where orthorexics and bulimics and the like are formed.

    For me personally, short periods of all-out dieting are really no problem. I go extremely draconian, then relax and ease off. The moment I feel unsatisfied, I start the extreme diets again. However, I make sure that I don’t fall off the wagon so much that I have to diet for more than 1 month. I also am aiming to gain muscle, so I believe that by focusing on muscle gain and periodically losing any excess fat, I won’t look too shabby at any one time. So it’s not bulk and then cut, but micro intervals of them.

    However, I know people who can’t handle “crash diets”. My friend would purge whatever “dirty” food he consumed. I was shocked when I caught him at it one day. But what could I do? I introduced him to, of course. He’s now leaner than I am!

  87. I like this article because, just like everything else in life, moderation is key. I don’t think someone who is on a quest to look good naked can eat fastfood a couple times a day and get to the point they want. But on the other hand I don’t believe putting some BBQ sauce on your chicken breast or some cheese on your burger is going to be the difference in your physique, comment not intended for bodybuilders. Although, I do belive eating unprocessed foods, most of the time, does have its benefits in everyday life. More energy during the day, less dragging after big fastfood meals, feeling full but not “stuffed”.

  88. If I were to eat “clean” I’d do it for health reasons and not because I worry about calories. For example, avoiding deep fried food (acrylamides) and hyrdogenated oil (trans-fat), the stuff you can’t burn off.

  89. Great post as ever. I’ve still yet to see an explanation of how ingesting 2500 calories a day of crap carbs/fats and 2500 of good carbs/fats will result in any difference in body composition. As long as your protein intake is in line, you’re taking enough healthy fats enjoy food!

    • well sure. And I’m stating this because of those who might get the wrong assumption based on my writing.

      I am not advocating one should consume a diet full of crap. I’m just saying we get caught up in a BS belief system and worry about the small stuff. Why not just enjoy your food, and live a normal life?

  90. Couple of questions. How much weight did you gain from your binge after the contest? Must have been a pretty decent rebound.

    I have friends who like to look lean all year round, where I don’t. So, when I’m on the quest for size they laugh and call it “That dirty bulk.” It’s pretty funny, but, like you said, a lot of the food is pretty much the same as their clean food, just presented differently.

    I think for the average person trying to lose a little weight and get in shape, this concept can be mentally draining and force them to quit. When the slip up, and have a “dirty food,” they get down on themselves, and reinforces old negative mental patterns.

    PS. With all that sodium in you, you should have headed to the gym and maxed out on bench press. I guarantee you would have set a new PR by at least 10lbs.!

    • I have no clue how much I regained, honestly…

      The concept is mentally draining and often makes a fun and healthy hobby become a nightmare.

      • In answer to your request for “references” for Tiffany’s response, watch the video “Sugar – The Bitter Truth” and you will see all sorts of lovely scientific, technical explanations using basic chemistry which explains EXACTLY why one form of energy is better and the other is detrimental to our health. It also explains how processed foods containing preservatives and hfcs are the downfall of the health of our society.

        Having said that, I fully see your point about the “all or nothing” struggle as I struggle myself at times with such a mentality. It is not, however, a byproduct of clean eating and people who are true clean eating enthusiasts learn how to incorporate it into their lives without feeling deprived. Those others are indeed the “fanatics” of which you speak.

        • Marlena — If you can sit through 90 minutes of Robert Lustig smugly pontificating without providing the proper context or dosage specifics in his lecture, then I’m sure you have 15 minutes to spare reading this summary of how he got smacked down in this debate:

          JC — Great article, man. I like how you put things in such a clear/straight-forward way. I like how you gave your personal account as an example to help illustrate the folly of “clean eating” & how it’s a completely subjective term. The fitness realm is such a strong attractor of obsessives who have zero concept of moderation. No one’s immune to that; we’ve all been through it. Some of us are past it, and that’s good to see.

          • Great article JC……You are on point with this article…. I was exactly where you were in my ” eating clean phase” at one point in my life…I adopted my own Leangains program using Brad Pilons techniques and Martin B’s……. Now I eat as much as I want and whatever I want on the weekends while I “Stop Eating” at times during the week. It has worked wonders for me. You should also mention the whole protein “myth”…As I have found muscle building and strength results off no food at times and very little protein…Clean food is a joke, the only satiety you can achieve in life is to never worry about what you are eating all the time.

            • Good stuff man! I love it

              Are squats good or bad? Depends! Depends on YOUR body and HOW you squat.

              As mentioned, is a pizza good or bad? Depends on how YOUR body processes it.

              Carbs for people who are diabetic are bad. I view them as very metabolically INflexibile–their body can’t switch to process carbs very well without side effects (high TGs in the blood, etc).

              Carbs for most hard training athletes are fine. I view these people as very metabolically flexible–they can process carbs (and also fats too) just fine.

              I agree that the terms “good” and “bad” need to go away as they are completely subjective and relative. In general, food is good.

              Rock on
              Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

              • “It’s common knowledge that clean eating will produce the muscle gain and fat loss results you want, while a diet full of dirty food will give you subpar results at best.” Sadly, many fitness professionals believe this unfounded claim. When evaluating evidence that paints a different picture, they often cannot avoid critical thinking deficits- one side bias, natural myside bias, misunderstandings of basic logic and so on.

                Clean and dirty dieting are relative terms. I don’t think either term has much value.

                • Loved your book Should I Eat the Yolk – Passed it around to family and friends who weren’t sold on the necessity to count calories as long as they ate clean and low carbs.

                • Knowledge and Nonsense…WIN. Except that kettlebell shit. :P

                  JC you’re turning heads with this article dood…*cough* book idea.

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JC Deen is a nationally published fitness coach and writer from Nashville, TN. Currently living in the blistering Northeast. Follow me on X/Twitter