The ‘Healthy’ Dilemma

Meet Esme. Esme turns her nose up to anything resembling a vegetable. She also goes to McDonalds much more often than she ought. She is constantly told by her mum that she is not healthy. And she knows it.

On a bid to become healthier, Esme taps the Instagram icon on her phone and types in ‘#cleaneating’ . Instagram is the mother of this popular movement and Esme has high-hopes it could work for her. Scrolling through posts by clean-eating instagrammers, she drools over flawless bowls of chia, goji and coconut porridge; stacks of Matcha green tea protein pancakes; gorgeous displays of vegan cacoa-nib-chip cookies and bright green glasses of spirulina, coconut and hemp smoothie… Transfixed by what she sees, Esme decides to become a ‘clean-eater’!

But the problem emerges when Esme tries to recreate one of the aforementioned recipes. To afford the ingredients, she would need to delve deeper into her jean pockets that humanly possible to reach the cash needed to buy the ingredients. And this is a lifestyle she has tried to adopt. She can’t afford one spirulina, coconut and hemp smoothie, let alone one-a-day, 365 days of the year!

Luckily Esme is sensible enough to ditch clean-eating approach and turn for help elsewhere: Holland and Barrett. They are the self-proclaimed ‘leading UK health retailer’ so it seems an appropriate choice, right? But browsing the brimming shelves of bottles, jars, bars and bags is like learning a foreign language…

“G-ginko bil-oo-ba?” Esme attempts to pronounce her new vocabulary. “And what sort of capsules are these? Ac-id-o-phil-us capsules… but do I get Ultra Maximum acidophilus capsules or Mega-potency acidophilus capsules?” She opts for neither in the end after looking at the price tag. That’s a common problem in Holland and Barrett like most health shops: something snatches your attention but the extortionate price sends you packing…

“Oh, a chocolate bar! Something I recognise!” Esme exclaims with a sigh of relief. “Oh. Hang on. £1.09 for 35g of chocolate can’t be right.” Puzzled, she notices the Nakd bars her mum buys from Asda for 59.3p each. Here they are priced as 99p. Horrified, Esme makes a dramatic exit and crosses the road, heading to McDonalds instead.

Whilst queuing for her Happy Meal Esme decides to have one final attempt at this whole ‘healthy lifestyle’ thing. A youtuber springs to her mind: ‘Freelee the Banana Girl’. Typing her name into the search bar, it quickly appears as a Google suggestion. She clicks and, after a little reading, starts to get the picture…

Freelee promotes ‘raw till four’ meaning no cooking till after four. So definitely no Full English. Ever.

Freelee promotes ‘mono-meals’- meals of one ingredient. So Fish and Chips is a no-no.

Freelee also eats up to 51 bananas a day. But Esme doesn’t like bananas.

“What would you like?” Esme is interrupted by the smiley McDonald’s cashier.

Without hesitation, Esme blurts, “Big Mac, with large fries and no gherkins please.”

 * *

Esme is not real. But I reckon many will relate to her story. And I believe blame can be placed on greedy health food retailers and irresponsible clean-eating bloggers; they are privatising a healthy lifestyle. Their obscure ingredients, myths and magical remedies overcomplicate health, pretending that health is only attainable to those who follow strict regimes and have bottomless bank accounts.

It is not the green smoothies I snub. And I don’t even have an issue with chia seeds, flaxseeds or linseeds. Admittedly I whip up courgetti as a snack and ‘banana nice cream’ for pudding sometimes, both popular with clean-eaters. But what I do disagree with is basing your lifestyle on a trend.

So here are my three handy tips:

1) Don’t follow the restrictive rules defined by instagrammers; the self-proclaimed experts on nutrition. Your only lifestyle rule should be that it works for you. 

2) Don’t compare yourself to ‘Deliciously Ella’, Madeleine Shaw or Freelee. Their flaws are conveniently hidden from their millions of followers.

3) Don’t let health food shops bust your bank account with their totally unnecessary remedies and capsules that they say will ‘boost your brain power’. They won’t, trust me.

Whether you agree with my stance on this or remain unconvinced of an issue, I highly recommend the 30 minute documentary by the BBC: Clean-Eating’s Dirty Secrets. Both an entertaining and eye-opening watch!

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