The Dirty Side of “Clean Eating”

It’s a Saturday morning as I’m sitting in cafe scanning the clientele. My friend is a couple of minutes late so I order a coffee – long black with milk on the side because I  want a cafe au lait but for some reason no one seems to make it or know what it is.  I digress… Two ladies walk in wearing “active wear” and order kale smoothies. Their hair is neatly coiffed in perfectly positioned pony tails, makeup free faces are luminous in the early morning light. Something about them screams wellness. Did they just go for a workout because I don’t see any sweat? Is this what people look like when they rock up to brunch? Long gone are the mascara smeared hot messes in sweatpants and unbrushed hair ordering scrambled eggs and toast with a side of bacon (not that I was ever a fan of bacon).

I had just stumbled upon the “wellness” movement. It’s a place between work life and the home life in which perfectly coiffed people order their perfectly proportioned food in their perfectly put together “active wear” with a dab of makeup and pretend they have just thrown the look together, while taking filtered pictures of their virtuous plates on Instagram to get 500 likes. It’s a cause passionately advocated by many in which this unattainable, vagueness claims to be able to get you everything you have always wanted from money to love, beauty, enlightenment and more. Meanwhile we continually scroll through photos and view other people’s lives with rose-coloured glasses, waiting for that  moment when we will finally achieve and have it all in order to feel content.  The problem is that achievement, happiness and contentment rarely comes from comparing yourself to other people. Nor does it often come from striving for perfection.

The wellness movement is not necessarily a negative thing. We have come far from stuffing ourselves with low-fat, high sugar carbs to high fat low carb meat laden diets. Healthy options have  been introduced to fast food joints. People are starting to educate themselves about nutrition which is an amazing, wonderful thing. Before wellness we started out on the bottom, stuffing our faces with french fries, pizza and hot dogs. Before wellness not many knew what quinoa or kale was or that fasting all day and drinking slim fast shakes was not the answer to lasting weight loss. The kale chips are out there and lentil burgers are safe within our grasp but have we reached the point where wellness has become a new obsession that we cannot shake?

More healthy food equals more health right? So doesn’t that mean we should eat gallons of vegetables and swear off gluten forever ? (unless you are celiac or gluten intolerant) What about sugar? That’s bad too right? French fries are a definite no no. Forget birthday cake. I’ll have a gluten free, raw, vegan chocolate cake. Actually that’s my favourite desert! The waters start to get murky when food groups are sworn off without allergic or moral reasons or when food gets labeled as “good” and “bad”. Colourful plates of vegetables fill profile pages and I get excited. Does that mean I’ll never eat a potato chip again? Are us wellness people really healthier than the “sinful” fast food eaters who don’t workout or even pretend to by slipping into their active wear? As I sit in my cute cut out running shorts and stylish matching running shirt without intending to break a sweat today I ponder these things. The answer could be just as vague…