Picture this: It's been a breeze eating clean over the last few months. You're having nutrition-packed breakfasts and wholesome portioned lunches and dinners. Everything seems super easy to maintain and schedule. You're on a roll! You even wonder how on earth you ever managed to polish off an entire large pizza to yourself. You feel the satisfaction of "finally doing it". Never has your skin been so clear, your gut so happy and your body full of energy – so what's not to love?
What started out as a personal project seems to have become all-encompassing. After a few months, maybe the energy isn’t as high as it was when you first started. You ask yourself, “Am I obsessed with the idea of clean eating?”. It’s somewhat confusing to pinpoint how healthy choices can become, well, dangerous. Your mind is constantly filled with meal plans and ideas, and you even find yourself staring at the back of packages in the supermarket trying to calculate the amount of protein you’ve already consumed in your day. Sound familiar?
Eating a healthy diet is obviously important, but it can become harmful in other aspects in your life if you're not careful. Feelings of self-loathing, doubt and feelings of low self-esteem and confidence can stem from putting ideas like calorie counting first.
7 signs your clean eating has become unhealthy and how to fix it
1. You can’t stop thinking about food
You find that eating clean has taken over your life to the point that it has become the priority. Planning, preparing, calculating and never spending as much time on other thoughts during your day is how you normally function. Clearly, this pattern is definitely not the best solution to leading a well-rounded healthy life. Your relationships, work and even hobbies need to stay as equal as your eating habits. You don't have to put anything on the back burner in order to sustain a long-term, healthy routine!
2. You’re watching your body size more than ever
Improving your body shape might be the reason you started on the clean eating journey in the first place. But if you notice that you’re spending more time staring at yourself in the mirror and being critical of your body, you may just be heading down a path to no good. Trust that your body and your mind will alert you to a negative pattern that is developing. It’s actually an opportunity to hear what foods and food groups your body reacts to both positively and negatively. Don’t tear away your confidence, rather be proud of the body you are trying to keep in tip-top shape.
3. You’re HANGRY
Dreaming of cupcakes and candy? It's one thing to allow realistic replacements to satisfy your sugar cravings, and another to develop feelings of confusion and self-loathing if you feel like you have to handcuff yourself from reaching for a piece fo your colleague's birthday cake. This is a prime example of when clean eating is bad for you.
4. You avoid any social occasion
If you’re withdrawing from social events where you think there will be loads of unhealthy food and drink, remind yourself that you are in control. Your lifestyle doesn’t have to suffer. In the past, you would have enjoyed the fun and pleasure of living in the moment – so relax those rules and eat out anyway.
5. You feel guilty just thinking about junk food
You kind of sense that this guilt is slightly out of proportion, but it doesn’t take away the strength of the feeling. Guilt is a serious burden on your overall wellbeing, and can be completely all-encompassing. Why not try giving yourself a little of whatever it is you feel like. It doesn’t have to be a binge, but a little treat to remind yourself that you have self-love.
6. You prioritise your routine above all else
When you’re running late for your usual dinner time and it plagues you, you need to take a step back and reevaluate your routine. You haven’t ‘lost control’. You just have to tell yourself that nothing major will change or go wrong if you go easy on yourself and aren’t so strict with your timings.
7. You’re obsessed with celebrity and blogger food pics
Social media is amazing but can be destructive if you regularly check out and compare others’ meals with your own. This won’t make you feel any better. Rather it allows for negative thoughts, self-doubt and judgement to fill your mind. Put the phone down and remember that many people post these kinds of images because it has to do with their job. This is not what you need to do. Taking inspiration for flavours and dishes is fine as long as it’s motivational.
If you feel like clean eating has become harmful in your life, you may be suffering from an eating disorder or body image dysmorphia. If it’s impacting your life and more importantly affecting your health, work or relationships, then look for alternative support. Speaking to a professional, friend or family member can help you sift through your thoughts. They will help you to refocus and get back to why you began this journey in the first place – to be healthy!
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