Unless you have been living under a rock, I am sure you will have noticed a particular hashtag cropping up all over social media.
#cleaneating or #eatclean is a recent phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm. Usually accompanied by a picture of a glass of questionable-looking green juice, a smoothie bowl or some avocado, this trend is hard to avoid.
No longer just the domain of personal trainers and nutritionists, the idea of #cleaneating has made its way into our mainstream lexicon.
Now, we are just as likely to see an Instagram post featuring smoked salmon and scrambled eggs accompanied by the hashtag #cleaneating on the account of a 16-year-old girl from down the road as you are on the account of a nutritionist to the stars.
The number of accounts devoted to healthy eating, wellness and fitness is overwhelming, proving the trend is way more than just a fad.
Search #cleaneating on Instagram and you will find over 25 million posts; a plethora of tanned limbs, rippling muscles, murky juices and granola in Kilner jars.
On the surface this could seem like a bit of harmless fun. Perhaps it’s a way of letting your followers know you are feeling virtuous after a healthy meal? Or it could be a sense of smugness that you are ‘being good’ while your friends are guzzling down a Big Mac.
#cleaneating could just be a way of promoting healthy eating and surely there’s nothing wrong with that?
But is there a darker side to the hashtag?
For starters, going to the supermarket used to be an easy task. If you were watching your weight or just trying to be a little healthier, you would head to the fruit and vegetables aisle and make a conscious effort to avoid the aisles with the sweets and biscuits. Simple as that.
Now, there is an abundance of ‘health foods’ to confuse you. Just when you thought you had mastered the art of eating healthy, in come chia seeds, kale, gluten-free this and dairy-free that. Protein balls anyone?
One minute we are told milk is good for us to build strong bones, the next minute we are told it is the devil.
Many people have argued that the pursuit of #cleaneating could actually have the opposite effect and is making us ill.
We are bombarded with a sea of images of people virtuously downing juice, eating seeds and going for a hike, and it’s hard not to feel inadequate. There is no wonder people feel they can never live up to these unrealistic expectations.
Many of the main people advocating #cleaneating, Madeleine Shaw, The Helmsley Sisters, are not trained nutritionists. People believe them because they look good.
One could argue that the pursuit of #cleaneating is leading to extreme diets and even eating disorders, with girls as young as 12 tapping into the trend.
When I was 12 I was certainly never concerned with how many calories were in my pickled onion Monster Munch.
Social media and the rise of #cleaneating could even be attributed to a growing number of people suffering from orthorexia- an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.
The sufferer will avoid specific foods (like carbohydrates) that they consider to be harmful.
But can avoiding whole food groups constitute to eating well? Should we be doomed to a life of cauliflower rice and courgetti rather than consuming an actual carb?
#cleaneating is an example of how far social media can go and how much influence it can have over people.
The sentiment underlying this trend is not a bad one, but should be exercised with caution.
Perhaps we should take #cleaneating with a pinch of salt (although not too much because that’s bad for you).
What do you think about #cleaneating? I would love to hear from you!