Who Cares What's in Bella Hadid's Fridge
Has the trend of “clean eating” gone too far?
By Hanna Loffe
Fruit is not nature's candy. Frozen grapes don't taste like ice cream. And there’s nothing particularly “clean” about a green smoothie. I don’t know when it became cool to be healthy, and I don’t know when “clean” eating became the most universally accepted diet — a way to restrict without restricting, a lifestyle! Clean eating has become so normalized as to enter common language.
Perhaps the concept originates in what Steven Zdatny calls the “hygiene revolution” of the 1950s, when postwar French Culture equated modernization with highly regimented personal hygiene and lifestyle standards. Maybe it comes from a place of anxiety about our bodies and the ultra-chaotic world around them. Maybe it’s simply some excellent marketing on the part of food companies and wellness brands. Either way, we’re a culture preoccupied with extremes and trends, especially when it comes to food. Goodbye to the #PSL season and hello to the turmeric/charcoal/reishi latte season.
Whether it be the endless elimination diets or the hundreds of cleanse variations available, eating clean is as popular as it is extreme. Sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten, soy, corn, eggs, even foods with a too high pH are all the evil, dirty culprits. Certainly, being aware of what one chooses to consume is not an inherently bad concept; no one is advocating for excessive consumption of white sugar or highly processed foods. But, labeling foods as “good” and “bad” encourages not only disordered eating but places far too much emphasis on what we consume.
The food industry has fueled this obsession by commercializing clean eating.
The number of Juice Presses, Pressed Juiceries, and Juice Generations almost seems to outnumber Starbucks locations on the street. Trader Joe’s, also known as Millennial Mecca, now carries cauliflower pizza crust and rice, kombucha, and cultured coconut yogurt. Even Walmart has a health foods section. Eating less processed, more nutrient-dense foods at a low cost is great. The issues start with priorities and approval; when clean eating becomes the primary source of one’s identity and individuality, a toxic relationship with food can develop. You are not the “healthy” girl, the “paleo queen,” or the “vegan bodybuilder.” You are just you, regardless of what you choose to consume.
Not convinced that clean eating has gone too far? Consider the following:
A quick Google search for “clean eating” yields 890 million results. To put that in perspective, a search for “Vietnam War” yields 452 million. Fashion icon and founder of Man Repeller Leandra Medine writes about her experience with healthy eating, questioning how she came to have joined “a collective — a new movement permeating our society and bringing us one step closer to a lifestyle favored by some large pockets on the West Coast.” That was 2014. It’s 2018, and last week I read an article titled “This is Exactly What Bella Hadid Keeps in Her Fridge.” As you can imagine, the article detailed all of Bella’s super-healthy-clean-whole-superfood-whatever-go-to’s! From Icelandic yogurt to Gingerade Kombucha, rest assured, you can now keep exactly the kind of fully-stocked, realistic fridge that Bella keeps! I don’t mean to sound bitter, but frankly, who has time for this?
It is disheartening and concerning that people look to this as not only news, but worse, advice. Articles like the one above — and this is not to fault the writer, by any means — breed a culture of monitoring and excessive comparison. How did we come to such an extreme obsession with “cleanliness?” We can start with why the editors are pushing this kind of nonsense material to writers. Then, we can look at the corporate sponsors pushing and financing those editors. But, more importantly, we need to really pause and think critically about what’s going on. Why do we feel the need to compare our eating habits with those of Bella Hadid’s? Why the lack of confidence in one’s own decisions? Why the replacement of innate, intuitive body cravings with that of the filtered and marketed choices of Bella Hadid? I believe that a large part of it is linked to corporate power. Someone is sponsoring this message, and their goal, solely and continuously, is to sell. There’s a lot for companies to gain when celebrities are somehow deemed better than us “regular” people and selling products is much easier when a celebrity uses them. But while corporate America plays a large part in perpetuating this trend, it isn’t enough to explain it away.
We need to ask these sort of ridiculous, introspective questions to get at the heart of the issue. We need to understand the values motivating us as a society. We need to pinpoint where we went wrong. While it’s incredibly easy to blame technology and social media, these are just the tip of of the iceberg; technology doesn’t cause eating disorders and it definitely hasn’t spurred the human need for validation and approval. But, microscopic shifts in our priorities have occured, and they are not for the better. To get at the heart of what seems to be a mainstay of American culture, this obsession with “good” and “bad” ways of living, we need to evaluate our priorities and the role corporate America plays in them. When did we become so focused on approval and advice from people we haven’t even met? More importantly, what steps can we make at the individual level to challenge the norms and values corporations place on us?