Prue Leith warns clean eating trend could be contributing towards eating disorders

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‘Great British Bake Off’ judge Prue Leith has warned about the dangers associated with clean eating [Photo: Getty]
‘Great British Bake Off’ judge Prue Leith has warned about the dangers associated with clean eating [Photo: Getty]

The clean eating trend has been around for a few years now, and while many hail the lifestyle choice as an amazing way to lose weight and feel healthier, it isn’t without its critics.

Step forward, Prue Leith.

The Great British Bake Off judge has issued a warning that clean eating could actually be contributing towards eating disorders.

In an interview with Radio Times, the cookery writer said that the trend, which often involves avoiding gluten, refined sugar, dairy, animal products, and processed foods, could be causing people to fear food and could lead to anorexia.

“It’s surrounded by a lot of pseudo-science and I really hate all that because I think it makes people frightened of food and begin to be neurotic about diet and that leads to anorexia and all sorts,” she said.

“Food goes in fashions and this became a very London-centric, fashionable, yummy-mummy obsession.”

Attention has previously been drawn to a potential link between clean eating and a type of undiagnosed eating disorder known as orthorexia.

Although not formally recognised, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, the term ‘orthorexia’ was coined in 1998 and means an obsession with proper nutrition, ritual eating patterns and avoiding foods believed to be impure.

“Although being aware of and concerned with the nutritional quality of the food you eat isn’t a problem in and of itself, people with orthorexia become so fixated on so-called ‘healthy eating’ that they actually damage their own well-being,” the site explains.

However, UK eating disorder charity, Beat, says that the factors leading to eating disorders of this type, are often more complicated than just taking faddy diets a stage too far.

“Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses caused by combination of someone’s genes and factors in their life that can act as triggers, Beat’s head of communications Rebecca Field told The Independent.

“Pressure to conform to certain diets would not be the sole and direct cause for someone developing an eating disorder.”

But classing certain foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ could have an impact on those who are already suffering from an eating disorder or vulnerable to developing one because it can exasperate feelings of guilt surrounding the eating of certain foods.

“Eating disorders are manipulative and secretive illnesses and sufferers may pretend to be following a diet in order to conceal their ill behaviour. It is important to point out that eating disorders are not fads and unlike diets involve a feeling of loss of control and extreme distress for the sufferer.”

Other celebrity clean eating critics

Prue Leith isn’t the only celebrity to speak out about the clean-eating trend.

Earlier this year Nigella Lawson warned that healthy eating ‘fads’ might be disguising eating disorders.

She told a group of catering students at a college in Toronto that people had become “a bit extreme” with their eating habits.

“A lot of so-called healthy eating is a cover-up for an eating disorder and I think people persecute themselves to what they do eat and what they don’t eat,” she said.

The TV chef also spoke out against the trend back in December 2015.

“People are using certain diets as a way to hide an eating disorder or a great sense of unhappiness with their own body,” she said.

Earlier that year she also told the BBC that the notion of clean eating implies “that any other form of eating is dirty or shameful.”

Food shouldn’t be used as punishment for oneself, she explained, and one should enjoy food for being good instead of being “virtuous.”

Similarly, Ruby Tandoh, ‘The Great British Bake Off’ finalist, criticised trends like the clean eating craze, calling those that make money from it “dangerous as f***”.

According to Mail Online, she said at the Andre Simon awards at the Goring Hotel in London in 2017: “I don’t understand the wellness craze.

“It should just be about the food, not a fashion.”

For help and advice regarding eating disorders, visit Beat’s website

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