Anna Maria Locke

Clean Eating 101

February 2015Anna Locke1 Comment
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Clean eating is a really trendy topic right now. Pinterest is full of clean eating recipes, tips, and tricks, and all the health and fitness magazines at the grocery store check-out line promise to help you find ways to EAT CLEAN AND LOSE WEIGHT TODAY!

There are a lot of different types of “diets” or lifestyle philosophies out there that revolve around the clean eating concept: paleo, raw, vegan, just to name a few. Each one promises that if you eat according to their rules, you’ll lose the pounds, feel amazing, and all your life problems will be solved. But what exactly are the right rules when there’s so much conflicting information? And why is it so easy to feel like no matter what we do and what choices we make when it comes to our personal well being, we’re never doing enough?

I believe that what we put in our bodies determines how we feel, both physically and emotionally. I desire to feel energized, confident, happy, and joyful every single day and so I’m on a quest to figure out what I need to eat in order to achieve that state of overall well being without getting too obsessive. The more women I meet and talk to, the more I realize that we all struggle with the same fundamental desire to feel good and find that elusive healthy balance! So I’m feeling almost a desperate need to share EVERYTHING I’m learning and experiencing in my own life in order to help other women overcome their inner obstacles and achieve their ultimate state of physical, mental, and emotional well being too.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is clean eating?

My personal definition of clean eating means eating as many whole foods as possible and limiting consumption of processed and artificial food. More plants, fewer chemicals. More home cooked meals, fewer boxes. I try to stick to food that doesn’t have a Nutrition Facts label or ingredients list because it is a single ingredient in and of itself. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, lots of water, alcohol and sugar in moderation.

A few more definitions that I feel good about:

“At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or "real" foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.” 

"Eating Clean is not about deprivation. It’s not about giving up one food group or another. Eating Clean is about giving your body what it needs to thrive...Eating Clean is about choosing fresh, whole foods with all of their nutrients intact." 

Basically, eat more real food!

The more nutrient dense foods we put in our bodies, the more energy we will have and the better we will feel. It’s not about deprivation or eliminating certain food groups, or counting calories or restricting yourself from the food that brings you joy--it’s about eating to feel good!

The danger of the clean eating trap

All this being said, it’s dangerously easy to get too obsessed with making the best food choices all of the time. I actually am trying to wean myself out of using the term “clean” when referring to food because it implies that food is either clean or dirty with no in between. I don’t like putting restrictive labels on food because let’s be real--food is food and a calorie is a calorie! You can gain or lose weight no matter what you eat, and putting qualitative labels on foods just welcomes negative feelings of control, guilt, shame, and fear. 

My baseline for a healthy and happy balance is being able to go out to a restaurant and order a salad because I CHOOSE to, not because I "have" to. I don't want my food decisions to affect my life, stress me out at parties, or make my friends and family say things like "oh you can't eat that, right?"

This article on orthorexia really hit home for me, since it’s my job to spend a lot of my time immersed in the health and fitness community on social media.

Yes there are more healthful and nutrient dense foods that we should be choosing most of the time, but that doesn’t mean we are a bad person if we eat froyo or chips, and we shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed for indulging in food that doesn’t fit our restrictive definitions of “healthy” or “clean,” as long as it’s bringing us joy and fulfillment.

Just make the best choices when you can. If you’re traveling, visiting friends or relatives, or find yourself in a situation where you can’t control your food, go with the flow and don’t let your need for control end up controlling YOU! In my mind, family and friendships always trump clean eating.

My clean eating philosophy

I’ve been starting to really think about my emotional relationship with food and the pressures that society and culture place on us that cause so much negative stress and guilt.

Here's the thing: I love food more than I love my abs. I don’t have any medical conditions or digestive issues, so why shouldn’t I eat what makes me feel good, even if books or articles tell me that meat/dairy/grains are "bad"? The majority of the time I eat whole foods, but I allow myself to indulge in treats whenever I truly want to in order to feel emotionally good. Sometimes you have to eat what gives you joy, even if it doesn’t fit the label of “clean” or “healthy," like the bottle of wine, cocktails, ice cream, and pizza I splurged on over Valentine's weekend! Eating healthy, unprocessed, nutrient dense REAL FOODS most of the time makes me feel good, and gives me the freedom to indulge when the mood strikes. Then I enjoy and move on.

If I indulge too often, or start to develop bad habits (ahem wine and ice cream every night...), then I start to feel physically bad so I get back on the wagon and spend a couple days focusing on upping my veggie and water intake. The key is to not beat yourself up, and to not let one day throw off your entire mindset. Life is a long term balance, so if you have a couple days that make you feel crappy, just eat more veggies the following days and your body will re-set itself without having to resort to juice cleanses or extreme detoxes! Keep in mind it takes 2-3 days for your body to physically react to either positive or more negative choices, so just trust the process if you're trying to get back on track.

Final thoughts on "dieting"

If you allow yourself to believe you’re on a diet that you can “cheat” on, and view your health or fitness program as a short term project that will get you from point A to point B at which time you can go back to your old ways, guess what? You are setting yourself up for failure. You’re going to perpetuate the shame and guilt cycle and while you might lose weight in the short term, you won’t find fulfillment or self acceptance in the long term.

Crappy, right? You're worth more than that, girl! Treat yo'self right! Treats, not cheats ;)

10 Healthy Balance Tips

1. Focus on adding MORE to your life instead of removing or depriving things. Eat more veggies. Drink more water.

2. Limit your alcohol, sugar, and processed foods but have a “not right now” instead of “never” mentality because a treat won’t kill you or ruin your day!

3. Prioritize your treats. Indulge mindfully and always ask yourself “is this worth it?”

4. Cook at home! Make it fun :)

5. Move your body every day. When you feel like you’re making positive choices, you’ll motivate yourself to keep going.

6. Stop obsessing.

7. Trust the process and give it time.

8. Find supportive and positive friends who will motivate you to stick with your healthy lifestyle.

9. Make decisions based on what FEELS good, not what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat.

10. Start living your life!

Once you establish a foundation of overall wellness, your body will become more resilient to the occasional splurge, and you’ll be able to enjoy life without feeling guilty or hating yourself for “blowing it!” Life is not an all or nothing straight line, and one weekend of pizza, pasta, and candy isn’t going to set you back if you can balance it out with a few days of nutrient dense, plant-based choices.

If you want to change your habits and mindset and overcome the shame and guilt roller coaster, you have to take it one day at a time. Don’t give up when you feel frustrated or discouraged. It’s going to take months and years to actually make lasting positive shifts, so be kind to yourself and celebrate each little victory along the way! You can do it, and you deserve it.


+Food Matters
+It Starts With Food
+The Eat Clean Diet
+Make Your Own Rules Diet

Feel Good Blogs
+The Real Life RD
+Isabel Foxen Duke

+Here are some clear and easy to follow tips if you are just starting out on your wellness journey! 

+Find all my delicious and easy whole foods recipes here.

Do you want some one-on-one advice? Are you completely overwhelmed? Hit me up and let's work things out so you can break through your inner mental blocks and finally start living the happy and vibrant life you deserve!

xo Anna


Note: I am NOT a professional nutritionist or dietician, just a girl on a quest to live my life and love my body, and share everything I'm learning along the way! This post and everything on this blog is my personal opinion. If you need professional guidance, reach out to someone who is certified to help you <3