Clean eating has become quite trendy in the health and wellness space, and for good reason. Clean eating prioritizes real, whole foods and limits the consumption of ultra-processed packaged foods, excess sugar and additives (which has vast health benefits both physically and mentally). It is a great place to start if you are looking at making dietary changes, but if you are looking to lose weight, burn body fat and boost your metabolism simply ‘eating clean’ is not going to get you those results. Heres why:
Whilst I don’t typically advocate for calorie counting, it is something to be mindful of if weight loss is your goal. I often see ‘clean eating’ recipes on social media that are hugely calorific, such as smoothies that are packed with high sugar fruits and 3 different types of fats (with barely any protein) and ‘bowls’ with 2-3 different carb options (sweet potato, brown rice, farro). By making some simple tweaks (low sugar fruits, 1 serving of fat, protein at every meal, swap complex carbs for veggies) you can still get the health benefits of these foods without the calorie overload.
Also be aware of packaged foods promoting themselves as ‘clean’ or ‘paleo’ (I don’t know about you, but I don’t think our caveman ancestors were eating cookies). These products might technically be “clean,” but they are still processed, packaged foods and often these foods are high in cals and low in nutrients. All packaged foods are typically engineered to make you crave more without satisfying your hunger, so that you will continue to reach for another serving. Focusing on making 80-90% of you diet real whole foods and save these packaged options for an occasional treat.
Sugar is still sugar whether it comes from “healthier” sources like coconut sugar, maple syrup and honey or its white table sugar. While the more natural sources are less refined and processed, they still contribute to blood sugar spikes and thus the release of insulin (which is our fat storage hormone). It is important to always check the labels for added sugars and to limit your intake, regardless of the form it comes in. Make sure to watch out for hidden sources of sugar as well, like store bought smoothies, fruit juice concentrates and even products made with mainly dates.
One mistake I often see people make is consuming too many carbs and not enough protein and healthy fats. Carbohydrates breakdown into glucose in our bodies and, just like sugar, causes blood sugar spikes. As previously mentioned, blood sugar spikes trigger the fat storage hormone, insulin, which can lead to weight gain along with inflammation, cravings and energy crashes, making it harder to stay motivated and stick to your goals. If weight loss is your goal, I advise limiting carb intake and instead focusing on meals made up of high-quality protein, healthy fats and fiber.
Whilst outdated advice suggested eating frequently throughout the day in the form of snacks and smaller meals, we now know this is not the best method for weight loss. When we snack throughout the day, we do not allow our bodies to properly digest and process the food we have already eaten, which can cause digestive issues. Frequently eating also keeps blood sugar levels high throughout the day, prevents your body from burning fat and is often the culprit for excess calorie consumption. I recommend sticking to 3 meals a day (spaced 3-4 hours apart) along with a small snack between lunch and dinner if needed. If you find yourself hungry between meals, you may need to increase your protein, healthy fat and fiber intake to keep you feeling full and satiated between meals.
Time Restricted Eating (or TRE) is one of my favorite tools in my weight loss toolbox because it is simple and effective (and totally free!). TRE is a variation of intermittent fasting which is much more gentle on your adrenal, thyroid and hormonal health. This gives your body time to properly digest your food, and it helps to trigger your body’s fat burning mode where it will burn excess body fat for fuel. If you are in the first 14 days of your menstrual cycle (the first day of bleeding is day 1) or are post menopausal (you have not had menstrual bleed for 12 months) then you can push your fasting window 14-16 hours overnight. If you are on days 14-28 of your cycle or are in perimenopause 12-13 hours overnight fasting is a better option for you.