• 6 Reasons Why Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You

    6 Reasons Why Clean-Eating Isn't Working For You | stupideasypaleo.com

    6 Reasons Why Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You

    Clean-eating not working for you? As more folks commit to eating better—whether you call it eating clean, Paleo, real food, healthier or whatnot—it’s really common to hear, “I did Paleo but it didn’t work for me.” Here are the top 6 reasons why clean-eating isn’t working for you.

    Reason #1 Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You: You’re trying to shove your old habits into your new plan.

    It’s super common to see folks apply the foods of their clean-eating plan to their old way of eating. If junk food, fast food and desserts were demons for you, trying to Paleo-ify them in your quest for healthier eating is likely to set you up for failure. That’s not to say you can’t have a treat now and then, but if you’re main objective is to figure out how much you can “get away with” on your new clean-eating plan, don’t expect to be very successful.

    Reason #2 Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You: You’re counting calories.

    It’s NOT a bad idea to gauge how much you’re eating and check in with yourself, but if you’re coming from a caloric restriction mentality, you need to give your body a chance to start sending you the proper hormonal signals of satiation / satiety and hunger again. So many folks want to make Paleo or clean-eating into a numbers game which can perpetuate unhealthy relationships with food. Paleo isn’t an “eat as much as you want of whatever you want” plan, but you’re fooling yourself if you’re going to like or thrive by eating 1200 calories a day. For a general guideline of how much to eat, check out this meal template from Whole30.

    Reason #3 Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You: You’re fat-phobic.

    While similar to #2, this is it’s own beast. Paleo and clean-eating are not meant to be low fat. Can we please just stop this insanity?! You physiologically need fat—as a fuel when you’re at rest, to maintain your cell membranes, to serve as hormonal precursors, to keep you feeling satiated and so much more. I used to do Weight Watchers, and I was hyperaware of how many grams of fat I ate, trying to limit it at all times. I was also hungry ALL THE TIME. Part of that was overall caloric restriction and part of it was eating 30 grams of fat per day.

    Reason #4 Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You: You did it for, like, a week.

    When you’re switching from a typical Western diet rammed with sugar, processed carbs and food with low nutritional value, it’s common to experience what’s lovingly called Carb Flu. Your body needs time to switch over to burning fat when you’re at rest and it’s a process. It won’t happen overnight. If you want stable energy, improved mood and fat loss, you need to stick with it for at least a month, possibly longer.

    Reason #5 Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You: You’re using a one-size-fits-all template.

    Yes, when you start out, you’ll probably need a template or outline to help you grasp what to eat—or not—but failing to consider your own needs in the long-term is a recipe for disaster.


    • If you’re really active and athletic with good body composition, eating carbs is not only good but necessary.
    • If you’re dealing with an autoimmune condition, avoiding nightshades  like potatoes and eggs is advised.
    • If you’re trying to get control over your blood sugar regulation, it’s wise to avoid “Paleo” or “clean” sources of sugar.

    Know thyself.

    Reason #6 Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You: You’re treating it as a quick fix.

    “Slim down for summer!”

    “Lose 5 pounds in 7 days!”

    “Drop weight for that special event!”

    Sound familiar? The marketers of radical diets are slimy enough, but you need to have enough savvy to realize their messages are utter nonsense. If you want lasting, long-term health, doing clean-eating as a quick fix will leave you sorely disappointed because the changes come a bit slower. See #4. Keep your expectations realistic.

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    Do any of these sound familiar? What would you add?

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    61 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why Clean-Eating Isn’t Working For You

    1. Hi Steph!
      Excellent post! I need to print this out and keep it handy (ie, read it daily). Yep, really challenging to NOT count the calories, eat the good fats, especially when everyone else around you is doing that. But I understand, learning and applying new science takes time.

      I really love that you are vocal about not Paleo-ifyng desserts, snacks, and fast foods. Your reminders help keep me focused.
      So, thanks for that point alone! (and everything else you do!)

      1. Hi Stella! These are mistakes I’ve made too, and they’re pretty common. It’s definitely a learning process 🙂 Thanks! I’m not saying perfection is the answer, but steering the boat away from desserts will help lots of folks in the long run.

      2. While I love a lot of the gluten free bloggers, I’ve always struggled with just looking at the dessert recipes. As a recovering sugar addict, reading about dessert recipes all the time starts to make me annoyed. So, I love your “NO to Paleo-ifying” stance. 🙂

    2. I needed this. Ten days in and my weight is on the higher side of my range of fluctuation.

      It’s only been ten days, Aleen. Chill. And stop weighing yourself.

    3. I needed this too! I’ve been suffering from carb flu since Friday. I just needed the reminder that this is normal and I will come out on the other side.

    4. Why are eggs ill-advised for those of us with an autoimmune disorder? I have Type One Diabetes and I love eggs because the are less than 1g carb. Thanks!!

    5. This is an awesome post! One thing I would add though is that simply eating “paleo” or doing a whole 30 is not always enough to lose weight (if that is one of the reasons you are participating). I did a whole30 a few months back to get healthier, work on getting my hypoglycemia in check, and deal with the health pitfalls of being on a rotating night-to-day shift schedule. And, yes, to maybe lose some weight. I achieved all of the first three during that whole 30 – I feel like a completely different person! My hypoglycemia is almost never an issue and, when it is, I know exactly which foods will help get it back into control. I’m able to get better sleep with the shift work whereas before I was loading up on sugar to manage the loss in energy. The one thing that didn’t happen was losing weight. I didn’t have much to lose to begin with, which may have been the issue. I stayed almost dead at where I was when I started. This time around (I started another whole30 the day after I got back to Louisiana from being at home in Indiana for the holidays), I added exercise to the program. I’m eating the same (with some changes to account for workouts) and I’ve seen a real difference. I’m 10 days in and have lost 4 pounds. So, even though the whole 30 isn’t about weight loss, if you need some, adding a bit of exercise might be the extra proverbial ooomph you need.

      1. Great point, Kaci 🙂 There’s also something to be said for folks who are sort of chronically undernourished that when they start a program like Whole30, sometimes they’ll gain weight because they’re simply nourishing themselves better. Once hormonal regulation starts to come back into balance, folks will often see their weight decrease again. Here’s to your forward progress!

    6. What a fantastic post! I did the whole life challenge in the fall and ate chicken wings for the first time in forever. I would always deny myself them because they are so “fat”. I ate bacon and chicken wings and ate a lot….and in 8 weeks lost 4.5 inches and 8 lbs. it was a big eye opener! Starting another round of the challenge on Saturday and excited to see if I can see the same results.

    7. a wonderful post, my love! loved everything! also liked the template you linked up to the post for a guide when planning a meal! that helps me a lot now that i have made the switch from being a 6 meal eating girl to a 3 meal a day girl 😉 (plus pwo!) hehe

    8. I have been approaching it as a work in progress over the last couple years, both in eliminating unhealthy processed substances, and increasing raw, organic food. Last year it was HFCS and the year before it was fast food in general. Right now it is one of my biggest demons, white sugar, and while I am already experiencing a better temperament and even-energy levels, the challenge is that sugar is already in a lot of otherwise simple things – like peanut butter, which I love. It’s a good thing that I am open to making my own condiments I guess. The point is, I don’t think I could do a complete switch over and be successful, but I envy those who can make the transition faster!

      1. Everyone seems to find their own unique way to transition over, so the fact that you’re taking a much more gradual approach is totally fine if that’s how it works best for you 🙂 There’s no right or wrong timeline.

    9. Hi There Steph,
      Cool Post, Okay today I ate very clean, but for some reason I feel super duper guilty, I am not sure why and these thoughts pretty much destroy you from the inside-out. Please help me!
      I look forward to your next post

    10. Love this post! ! I don’t know if anyone else has this problem. .. but it seems like if I even have just a little “cheat” I suddenly think the day is wasted and I should just eat junk and start fresh the next day. I have to remind myself that if I give in once in a while not to dwell on it… move on and get back on track!

      1. You are definitely not alone on this! My main issue is if I go to the grocery store hungry. I may stock the cart full of clean eating food then pick up a candy bar at the checkout and feel terrible for my lack of control. It really does get easier though I promise. I’ve been “clean-eating” for about 6 months now and it’s all about learning your body’s triggers (i.e. eat before grocery shopping) and working with them, not against them.

    11. If I were to cut out everything that I have read that can interfere with good health, healing and weight loss, I think my meals would consist of water, hamburger patty, chicken thighs, romaine lettuce, olive oil, and salt.

      Of course that must be tripled-filtered pure spring water blessed by fairies, grass-fed by hand plus daily massage pastured cattle raised far from any air pollution at $30 per pound, free-range chicken raised on bugs and worms organically grown and catered in a temperature-controlled yard, lettuce organically grown for 7 generations in a garden lovingly tended by hand 24 hours a day, oil cold-pressed by hand in Crete by native children, and sea salt mined from the mountains of Himalaya. Anything less and you might as well be eating Hamburger Helper.

      And I am SO sure Grok was all worried about his balance of Omega-3 to 6, and the level of phytates in his veggies, and whether they were the evil, dreaded nightshades.

      Sorry. I’ve been doing this for three years, following all the recommendations with no progress at all – I’ve even gained 15 pounds. I’m now so paranoid about everything I eat (Is … is … is … it PALEO?!?!? Is this allowed?? Will I spontaneously combust if I eat this??? Will the Paleo Police get me???) I pretty much hate food and eating now. One meal a day, gets me through. Yet I am still fat.

      1. The good news is that there aren’t any Paleo police and doing the best you can with your financial resources, even if that means eating regularly raised meat and veggies, is a totally valid strategy. Some people get really far afield with special foods, but I think they’re totally unnecessary. It’s really hard for me to speculate about weight gain, but I can say that dialing back carbs a bit can be helpful.

      2. Wow, you have been doing Paleo for 3 years? And you haven´t seen how the community have evolved, and “loosened” up?
        Well, me and my girlfriend are living in Norway, grass-fed is a rare treat if you want to burn some cash! And same goes with everything organic that cost a fortune. BUT we have a great time doing this, trying out recipies, following all the great bloggers who can just walk outside the door and buy food we dream about! I heard about grass-fed organic , raw-milk latte at someones farmers market, i wish!
        Enjoy it girl:)

        1. 4 years last week 🙂 It has but in a way it’s gotten more confusing for folks just starting out. Ah indeed…food is so much more expensive in Europe! I spent 4 months in the UK and kept thinking that us Americans are lucky.

    12. Since eating PRIMAL IS WORKING for my husband and me (who are retired) when no other “so-called healthy diet” worked for us in the past (we just kept gaining MORE weight on all the other diets). On the primal diet we have lost about 20 lbs. each in about 3 months. We each eat about 2-3 slices of bacon and 2-3 eggs (cooked in bacon drippings) for breakfast around 8AM which satisfies our appetites so we don’t need anything until lunch time. For lunch we have grass fed ground beef cooked in bacon drippings with portobello mushroom slices and chopped kale added after the beef is cooked, OR an organic spinach salad with sliced hard boiled egg and onions which are cooked with bacon, topped with dressing made with apple cider vinegar, maple syrup (just a little) stirred into the bacon drippings. For dinner we have a serving of healthy beef, lamb, pork, or fish/shellfish (or beef liver) served with steamed baby broccoli topped with ghee (clarified butter) or a cabbage/carrot/onion stir-fry (fried with coconut oil or bacon drippings). Foods that we no longer eat are….rice, beans, fruit, (and no canola oil). We had already eliminated wheat flour and white sugar a few years ago. We DO have a piece of dark chocolate (try to find some without soy lectithin) for dessert after our healthy lunch (which is probably a little bit of a cheat because it has some sugar in it) and also a glass of red wine with dinner. When we DO snack, it’s almond butter spread on celery rib(s), a slice of pate’ (Trader Joe’s mushroom pate’), 1/4 of an avocado or a small piece of KerryGold cheese or french brie with mushrooms. (This diet is also what worked for Christina A to lose all that weight). For the folks who aren’t having luck on the Primal diet, I think it’s because they don’t like some of the foods that we eat (kale, pate’, mushrooms) and find it too hard to give up things that will cause the diet to fail. If you eat away from home, it’s hard to be as successful as we have been. We are homebodies! And I truly enjoy cooking in my kitchen with my pro gas stove…. and it’s not too bad finally fitting back into those small sized jeans either.

    13. Thank you for the info. I gotta say, I’m enthusiastic about this new life style, but OMG it is hard to re-train my brain to eat, eat, eat. I used to be a calorie counter for much of my “dieting” life (which pretty much meant STARVE). I’m on day three of Paleo. I was a moody b***h for the first two days, but after reading your quick-start guide, I understand that it was just my body “adjusting” to NO SUGARS and CARBS.
      BTW, chips (or any crunchy-type food) is my weakness. I hope to find some paleo-substitutes in your website.
      Thank you again for the useful information.

    14. I’ve been about 80% Paleo for the last year. I did it for health reasons. I have only lost about 6lbs but have lost inches, NEVER have that blah~bloated feeling and enjoy my food. I am also a chip addict but no longer buy big bags. I buy one small bag at the dreaded check out. Need to work on that! The best news was…My cholesterol dropped 21 points in the last 6 months!! I struck the stain conversation at my doctors appointment..he nearly blew a gasket. I took myself off and fired my doctor. I will continue to take control of my own health and search for a doctor who cares about me. If I can do this, anyone can. I’m approaching my 61st bday and feel better than ever. This year I ‘m working on more exercise.

    15. Hey there….I love the fact your an athlete. Cycling is where I’m at and low carbs is not a problem. I cheat of course but have no bread in the house, no pasta, etc. carbo load is not my idea of a good feeling gut.
      Love your insights….Cheers,

    16. Clean eating wasn’t working for me because I had a severe digestive issue…I got tested and have hardly any stomach acid and the contents of my stomach empty much too slowly. All of these contribute to me not absorbing any nutrients…regardless of what I put in my body! It could only be fixed by building up my digestive tract – much more than merely high-grade probiotics. So, sometimes it may be a medical issue…

      1. Totally. That’s absolutely legit. You point out something important: eating / digestion and assimilation are two very different things. Hope you’re better now!

      2. After trying everything to get my health in order, I realized paleo, low-carb, etc. were not working for my Type 1 diabetes due to mold exposure. My metabolism was so mixed up! After doing laser detox, things are getting much better. It took a long time to piece together the clues.

    17. I really wish you had a mobile-friendly site. I click a link almost daily to this site from FB and I sigh and realize in not going to actually be able to read it. The text is only on the left side in a narrow margin. I guess I should stop clicking.

    18. I’m totally trying to figure out #5. Clean eating worked awesome for me a couple years ago up until I hit an extremely stressful point in my life. Whenever I have even a hint of stress, it manifests in the form of a cyst on my face, a chest infection, some weird torso rash that lasts for months and weight gain. So that time put me right off the deep end. I’ve been eating as clean as I can, supplementing, doing yoga, weight training, meditating….nothing seems to put me back in the sweet spot I was in a couple years back. All I want to do is sleep and surrender to muumuus. I have no idea what to do anymore.

      1. Hi Tianna,

        Here’s the thing…those periods of extreme stress can manifest for a LONG time after the stressful event is over. If you’ve significantly withdrawn from your health savings account and ended up in debt, you could still be trying to recover from that even though you’re doing everything “right” at the moment. Perhaps you’re even dealing with some residual hormonal imbalances or gut permeability issues that are causing you trouble. When you’ve hit this point, sometimes seeking out a practitioner (like a functional medicine practitioner or a naturopathic doctor) will give you the objective view that you desperately need.

        Wishing you luck!

    19. Never have truer words been written! Thanks for posting this. I am struggling at this time after a great start last July. So reading this helps me get my focus again! One thing I learned from my doctor that hasn’t been mentioned in the comments is that if what you have in the fridge at breakfast time is leftovers, go ahead and eat the leftovers. You don’t always have to have bacon and eggs for breakfast. I’ve had salads for breakfast, with some chicken added. The best I did on this lifestyle was when I didn’t get mired in “rules” of what to eat when.

    20. I’m on my second time round I was 370lbs and went Paleo and got down to around 240lbs in about 12 months. I then started CrossFit injured my shoulder requiring surgery went back to bad food and regained nearly all the weight I lost.

      Been back on Paleo again for last year and its a lot slower this time. Only lost about 70lbs in last year compared to 130lbs first time.

      I am training a lot and add post workout carbs prob around 150grams a day. Total daily calories is around 2500. I eat when hungry but weight loss has more or less stopped for last 4-5months.

      Any ideas?

        1. Ive been training 4 days a week for last 4 months doing a bodybuilding routine. I’ve just changed to a 6 day routine to try and shift the weight that includes bodybuilding and cardio.

          1. Hi Phil,

            Without knowing much about you and speaking in extremely general terms, cardio is not the most effective way to go about losing fat. I highly recommend you check out Jason Seib’s work. He does a lot of great stuff and has some great strategies for folks trying to lose a significant amount of body fat.

    21. Thank you for this. I have had a busy few weeks between vacations and weekends away so I got away from the clean eating (paleo) and am finally on track. I thought I would loose the weight I gained a lot faster and was getting frustrated. Thank you for this reminder that is just takes time for our bodies to adjust.

    22. Another reason, family, friends, and colleagues shoving non-paleo stuff into your mouth. They always get you to eat what they eat just because it’s in.

    23. I have “been there” and “done that,” with Paleo. A few times as a matter of fact. I am at it again years later and now I can’t seem to cut like I did before. I keep thinking, that perhaps my body isn’t responding because it keeps itself in starvation mode. Or, I am not being strict enough, i.e., not eating breaded chicken, or not eating that wrap because it had a “flour tortilla!” I am not burning fat. It’s still there! I feel as if its water weight and it just wont leave my body. I have weighed more than I ever have! In the last 4 years I have been 3-9% in body fat. Last November, was down to 2.1% and thinking that was a major factor in maintaining my current 18% (that is a guess).. like perma-starvation mode.

      Send help!

      I need it.

      1. Zach, why did you cut down to 2.1% body fat? With what you’ve told me, my hunch is that you were consuming a low number of calories and then you decided to eat more (maybe even a lot more) and didn’t ease back into it. As a result, you’ve swung the pendulum back the other way. Is that accurate?

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