Can two weeks of ‘clean eating’ make you healthier?

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WATCH: Dietitian Susie Burrell says you can change your body with clean eating, but other nutritionists say it’s not long enough to change your health – Sep 21, 2016

If you’re looking to make a noticeable and lasting change to your weight in two weeks without committing to mysterious green juices or questionable supplements, look no further than clean eating – at least, that is, according to Susie Burrell, dietitian and founder of the Shape Me diet and lifestyle program. She claims just two weeks of clean eating, which involves controlling calories and carbohydrates, can help shed those crucial early pounds.

“I would say that the initial two to four weeks are the most important when it comes to working on sustainable lifestyle strategies,” Burrell told The Huffington Post Australia. “What we know from behavioural research is that people are most likely to stick to a program when they get initial results, which is why a relatively short period of strictness with our food choices is important.”

But will two weeks of changing your diet make you healthier? And what exactly is clean eating? We found out.

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Can you change your body in two weeks?

How much change and how drastic that change will be is largely dependent on your starting off point, says Debbie Gurfinkel, assistant professor in the teaching stream at University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. But, it’s important to note, two weeks is not long enough to quantify those changes.

“Good quality food is more satiating, which means you will naturally eat less [over 14 days],” she says. “And you’ll likely see an increase in your energy levels and some weight loss from shedding water. But I’m not sure anything can really change your health in as little as two weeks.”

To really see and feel a difference, you’ll have to stick to a clean eating diet for the long haul. “You may have slowed some of the degenerative processes occurring in your body over two weeks, but it’s not long enough to experience sustained cumulative benefits,” she says. “We know that degenerative processes and diseases accumulate slowly, and if you go back to your old habits, they will continue to catch up to you.”

What is clean eating?

The term “clean eating” is somewhat fluid – some believe it to mean raw food or only green vegetables – which is why Andrea Miller, national media spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada, likes to describe it in very specific terms.

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“I like to tell my clients that ‘clean eating’ means consuming whole foods prepared from scratch at home and eating at a table with other people,” she says.

Miller’s point is simple: weight loss isn’t just about changing up what you eat, but also how you eat. That’s why her first step is to educate her clients on what it means to eat in a well and balanced manner.

“You have to listen to your body,” she says. “Don’t eat more than you need to and don’t eat outside of hunger.”

In its most basic form, a clean eating diet means focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates (like whole wheat pasta, oatmeal and ancient grains like kamut), and lean protein, and washing it down with two litres of water daily. What it doesn’t mean, Miller says, is cutting out carbohydrates altogether.

“When you cut out carbs, you will lose weight,” she says, “but it’s a simple question of biochemistry. For every gram of carbohydrate you consume, your body requires three to four grams of water to digest it. So when you stop eating carbs, your body doesn’t need water. But once you start to reintroduce carbs into your diet your body will accumulate the water to help digest them. You may think it’s bread that’s making you gain weight, but it’s a simple fluid shift.”

READ MORE: Detox or cleanse? You may want to try ‘clean eating’ instead

How to eat clean

If you want to clean up your diet, as Burrell suggests, try the following.

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  • Choose a variety of vibrant fruits and vegetables: the more colourful they are, the more vitamin, mineral and antioxidant benefits you’ll receive
  • Make mindful substitutions: instead of having a muffin the morning, eat a bowl of oatmeal, or order a green salad as a side as opposed to french fries
  • Try to add a rich protein source to your breakfast like eggs or baked beans, as they’ll keep you full longer
  • Carry a protein rich snack with you at all times, like cheese and crackers or a nut bar, to prevent you from making unwise, on-the-go food choices
  • Incorporate more dairy into your diet, like yogurt and cheese, to help manage blood pressure as well as get a good calcium kick
  • Drink two litres of water a day: aside from the obvious benefits (staying hydrated and flushing out your system), it will also prevent you from eating mindlessly since we often mistake thirst for hunger
  • Consult Canada’s Food Guide for measurements and quantities

Above all else, Burrell says, be kind to yourself. It’s easy to slip up, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the diet altogether.

“Remember, what you eat does not have to be perfect, it just needs to be consistent,” she says. “So as long as you eat well most of the time, a meal or two off here or there does not matter.”


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