What does it mean to “eat clean?” I saw that on the cover of a magazine at the orthodontist’s office the other day, and when I flipped to the article it was just a collection of some vegetarian dishes from Mark Bittman’s new cookbook, with no word on how this was eating clean – just an assumption, I suppose, that this was how you do it. (But more likely, given how magazines seem to operate these days, a disconnect between the cover presentation and the article inside. And disconnect is the most charitable assessment; too often there’s a bait-and-switch mentality in play.)
This has been on my mind as I seek to figure out what my particular “fuel blend” is going to be as I wean myself off the Slow Carb Diet. Nuts and cheese, for example, are a no-no on that diet, but are allowed on “The Perfect Health Diet” and are the new favorite lunch on my weekday regimen. Is cheese “clean?” I must admit I haven’t looked at its ingredient list thoroughly.
We’ve got this yearslong tradition of a weekly “cereal allowance” at our house, where every Friday since the kids were little I set out four fresh boxes, one per kid, and a supply of Raisin Bran for my husband. It was an attempt to put some kind of limit on their voracious cereal consumption and give me a chance to look for bargains. Over the last few years we’ve moved away from most of the junkier cereals, but it’s amazing how even the purportedly healthier varieties now strike me as overly processed. A couple of Weight Watcher cereals I picked up last week, for instance, a chocolate shredded wheat and a dried fruit and oat flakes variety, felt like factory food to me.
Weight Watchers products in general now strike me that way. That organization played a key role in my weight loss, helping me set up a framework and accountability system to keep me on track. But now, four years out, it strikes me as a first-phase program geared toward out-of-control carb junkies (which is what I was). You’re encouraged to eat lean meats and fruits and veggies, but there’s always a product table full of synthetic looking “treats.”
It’s not like Weight Watchers is so incompatible with how I eat now. (Though I haven’t been there all year, so I’m not even sure how the program might’ve morphed.) I’m tired of tracking everything I eat and counting points, not because it’s such a hassle but because it’s a system designed to handle temptations — and I don’t like to be in a position where I wonder what I’ll be tempted by on any given day. I now prefer a more structured eating regimen that I don’t have to think or obsess about during the week, followed by some kind of structured weekend leniency.
I’d like to think I could stick to whole foods, for the most part, steer clear of chemicals. I’m not so wound up about dairy and gluten, but I do want to minimize carb consumption, knowing how easy it is for me to inhale flour-based foods.
But for now, at least, I think I still need one day off per week. Not to go crazy, ideally, but just a way to sample some old favorites within a very defined time boundary. “A containment policy,” you could say. (Never mind the fact that every time I think this I’m reminded of a party conversation years ago about limiting dog poop to one restricted zone in a yard. If something works, it works – and if it translates to multiple applications, that’s a good sign it’s effective.)