Clean eating, real food, whole foods...all buzz words that you hear tossed around in the health and fitness community. So if you are trying to lose weight, will cleaning up your diet help? Absolutely. Here's why:
- Whole foods supply a wide variety of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your body needs. Providing your body with the right nutrients helps shut down cravings.
- Whole, unprocessed foods fill you up faster and keep you full longer. This prevents that “I'm starving and I want to eat the entire gallon of ice cream” feeling at 10PM.
- Your body has to work harder to break down and digest whole foods than it does processed foods. The digestion process burns calories, so naturally, your body will burn more calories digesting an apple than it will a cupcake.
- Your liver is partially responsible for fat metabolism, but its job is also to filter out toxins (from processed foods and the environment) from your blood and body. If you are continually stressing it with toxins, it will not be very efficient at burning fat. Plus, processed foods are not exactly full of nutrients for your liver, so if you aren't providing it with proper nutrition, it will have a hard time doing its job.
So, whole foods should be chosen most of the time...but eating processed food occasionally will not completely ruin your diet! In other words, this does not mean you need to eat 100% clean.
It is possible to eat 100% clean and lose weight, but it's also possible to eat 100% junk food and lose weight. While I wouldn't advise eating 100% junk food if you are trying to drop a few pounds (you won't feel all that great and you'll struggle with mega cravings!), I would also caution you against creating strict food rules for yourself and trying to eat 100% clean.
Making a commitment to eat 100% clean (either temporarily, or for the rest of your life) can work for some people. If you truly feel the need to completely detox your body and not consume any processed foods for a specific period of time, maybe this is the path you should take. (Check out the Whole30 diet if you are interested in doing something like this...but know in advance that the Whole30 was not created as a weight-loss solution.)
However, for some people, this type of eating and living can backfire and cause a whole lot of stress and anxiety about food. Stress and anxiety can derail weight-loss efforts too, and set you up for an unhealthy relationship with food.
If you don't feel like you are addicted to sugar or junk food, then the 80/20 rule is a good one...eat clean 80% of the time, and the other 20% of your meals (or calorie allowance) can go towards processed foods. It doesn't have to be all junk food, but maybe something that has some added sugar or ingredients you can't pronounce. Set your own boundaries, make your own rules, draw your own line in the sand for what you consider "clean" and "processed". Remember that if you're making an effort to clean up your diet, then you're most likely eating cleaner today than you were last month. Progress, effort, and gradual improvement will get results over time.