How Clean Eating works for weight loss (and how it doesn’t)

Clean Eating

Its a popular trend at the moment, but what does it actually mean?

And how can it help us lose weight? (if at all)

Note –  Many people “Eat Clean” with absolutely no thoughts or goals of weight loss. I think that’s great. However, since I am a fat loss coach, this article is for the group of people with fat loss as a goal.


clean eating

There are many different definitions of clean eating depending on who you ask. But for the intents and purposes of this article, I am going to go with the following….

Eating whole foods closest to their natural state. Free of chemicals, preservatives and processing.


Reminder – weight loss happens when we burn up more calories than we consume. You can view a visual demonstration HERE


Clean eating is a protocol we can use that might help us achieve the calorie deficit needed to achieve weight loss.

See also “What the hell is a calorie”

Below are some ways that clean eating can help us achieve a calorie deficit and therefore achieve weight loss, whilst simultaneously improving our health and energy levels.

1) Lots of nutrients

When you choose whole foods close to their natural state, you are almost certainly consuming foods that also contains lots of nutrients.

When our daily nutrient needs are met (as may not often happen in a standard Australian eating plan), our hunger is managed and energy levels increase.

When hunger is managed and energy is high,  it is much easier to

  • Stay motivated
  • Say no to temptations
  • Exercise and move lots
  • Eat only what you need and no more

2) Less (poor) choices

When you are “Eating Clean”, lots of choices are automatically taken off the table. Such as

  • Take away
  • Processed foods
  • Packaged foods
  • Convenience foods
  • High calorie, low nutrient foods

Think of it like this. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, obesity was not a big problem. That wasn’t because they had truckloads more will-power than we do now. It was simply because they didn’t have all of the high calorie, low nutrient, cheap and convenient choices that we have today. They ate within their energy needs, without ever being aware of it.

Less options (can often) = weight loss.

3) Dietary intolerances may improve

Some people have negative responses and reactions to certain foods and ingredients. When these items are eliminated, health and energy often improves. Making it easier to move lots, avoid temptations and over-eating.


The above reasons,  can make it easier to achieve the calorie deficit that is necessary to achieve weight loss.

If you switch to eat more whole, natural foods and you lose weight… CONGRATS, this is the ideal situation

However please be aware… The calorie deficit is what achieves the weight loss. Eating clean is a protocol that can make that easier and provide us with health benefits along the way.

*** Note – – This does NOT have to involve calorie counting. In fact most people arrive at a calorie deficit without ever being aware of the fact. But make no mistake – – To lose weight, you need to burn up more calories than you consume.


Below are ways that that we gain weight… YES, even if you eat 100% clean.

1) You consume more calories than you need.

Over eating “healthy” or “clean” foods and drinks will result in putting on body fat. The internet is filled with stories about how clean eating has made someone gain weight. (Google it if you don’t believe me) 😉

2) Blood sugar spike and crash

A blood sugar spike and crash will not directly result in weight gain. However, it can make you hungry and low in energy, making it harder to avoid over eating and temptations.

See also “Blood sugar management and long term weight loss success”

  • I particularly see this with “clean eating desserts and treats” such as THIS example
  • and drinks such as fruit juices and smoothies, like the Boost Juice in THIS example.

They are high in natural sugars that can result in spiking and crashing your blood sugar.

Nothing wrong with eating treats or desserts (clean or not) every now and then. I believe that all food can fit into a healthy, balanced fat loss plan.  The problem can occur when a dessert or treat is deemed “healthy” or “clean”, some people are more likely to over eat it. This is commonly known as the Healthy Halo effect.

3) Guilt, restriction and blow outs

What could possibly be wrong with someone aiming to eat whole, natural foods with less preservatives? Sounds great doesn’t it?.

Problems can arise when people take it to the extreme and aim to eat clean 100% of the time

I have seen many of my fat loss clients who previously subscribed to the 100% clean eating protocol, beat themselves up with guilt if and when they “fail” and eat something that doesn’t follow their rules.

More times than not, this so called failure in their minds results in some form of punishing themselves. Maybe with hours of exercise or maybe going the other way and having a full on binge on all of the foods that are “off limits”.

I think reducing processed foods and chemicals is a really good thing. However, if you want to include a few treats and a few things from packets every now and then, that’s fine too. The world is not going to come to an end. You can fit these foods into a balanced fat loss plan.


A little bit about me and my eating philosophy

  • I don’t label my eating plan as “clean”  – – – But I do eat lots of whole, natural foods
  • I don’t count calories – – – But I am calorie aware
  • I do eat sugar – – – But not too much of it
  • I eat some things from packets – – – and don’t beat myself up with guilt
  • I believe that all foods can fit into a healthy, balanced plan
  • I believe that beating yourself up with guilt does way more harm than good
  • I believe in balance

I would love to hear your thoughts..

Please head over to my Facebook page and let me know your experiences with weight loss and clean eating

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