Why Eating Clean Could Be Ruining Your Weight Loss Goals

If I told you that eating twinkies, Oreos, Doritos, and cereals packed full of sugar could help you to lose weight would you smack your lips at the prospect of a diet you can get behind or would you scream out in anger that ‘eating clean’ is all you need to do?

What about if I consulted Mark Haub, professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, what do you think he’d advise you to do? Considering Professor Haub lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks, by eating PURE JUNK in the form of high sugar sweets and treats, his answer may surprise you.

Healthy Mediterranean Food

What is Eating Clean?

The idea behind eating clean is to consume whole foods and limit your consumption of processed foods.

A ‘clean eating’ diet would consist of foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. You can also expect to see lots of green leafy vegetables, chicken, avocados, and nuts in your meals.

You would avoid processed foods where possible, especially ones with a big list of ingredients and additives and would stay away from excess salt, sugar or fat.

Many people believe that as more and more foods are being packed full of extra additives, many of which are not natural, in the search for extra flavor and bigger portions, that ‘eating clean’ is the best thing for their health as it closely mimics how our ancestors ate, free of artificial ingredients.   

Eat THIS to Lose Weight 

From as far back as we can remember foods have been demonized when it comes to losing weight.

  • Low fat
  • Low carb
  • No sugar
  • No processed foods
  • No gluten
  • No artificial sweeteners

The list could go on and on and on.

It’s also not uncommon to see high sugar foods like cakes and donuts or fast foods such as pizzas or burgers, demonized as being ‘bad’, ‘naughty’ or ‘bad for you’ with people being told that eating them will cause them to gain weight and ruin their health.

Accompanying the list of ‘banned’ foods is often a list of ‘healthy’ foods that supposedly promote health and accelerate weight loss.   

Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell the full story, from a pure weight loss point of view, the types of foods do not matter.

Calories do. 

What are Calories?

In its simplest form, a calorie is a unit of measurement, used to measure energy.

Everything you do requires energy, whether that be breathing and moving your eyes as you read this, or running up the stairs on your way to lift weights at the gym.

The energy you expel is expressed as calories burned.

You need to fuel your body, with energy, to be able to do those things, and you get that energy from food and drink.

Everything you eat or drink contains calories and that is referred to as calories consumed.

  • If you take on more energy (through food) than you burn (through exercise), it is stored as fat and you gain weight.
  • If you take on as much energy as you burn, you will stay the same weight.
  • If you burn more energy than you take on, you will use your energy reserves and lose weight.

When it comes to weight loss, you need to be in a calorie deficit, which means the energy in, must be lower than the energy out.  

Doesn’t it Mean You Starve Yourself?


Let’s say hypothetically that to keep your body alive, to be able to do what you normally do, around the house, at work, when you exercise, when you play with the kids, that your body needs 2000 calories a day.

Now let’s say that you’ve been eating more than this and as a result have extra stores of fat.

If you want to lose weight you need to ensure you take in fewer calories than the 2000 a day your body needs.

The typical deficit assigned is 500 calories a day, why?

Well, there are 7 days in a week and 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so if you consume 500 calories less each day (3500 a week), you should lose 1lb of fat a week, it’s just easy maths.

But it’s also a small enough deficit to make sure you’re still able to function properly and if done correctly, you shouldn’t feel hungry.

However, the problem is food choices. 

Pizza, burgers, cakes, and donuts are typically higher-calorie foods, meaning you wouldn’t get to eat many of them before exceeding your 1500 calorie limit, for example, there are 530 calories in an EXTRA Crispy Chicken Breast from KFC, whereas the USDA state that a 3.5 ounce serving of roasted chicken breast, without skin, has 165 calories  which is far fewer.

However this doesn’t mean that you need to avoid KFC, it just simply highlights that you need to plan better, after all, once you’ve eaten your 530 calorie Chicken Breast, you’ve still got almost 1000 calories to use the rest of the day.

So Doesn’t That Mean Clean Eating is Better?

Due to the high-calorie nature of foods you won’t typically find on a clean eating meal plan, many people believe that eating clean is the way to go, and as a result, they swear by it, but they forget one important thing, the calories.

Clean eating is by no means a magic bullet for weight loss, but it could help as the foods you will be consuming generally have fewer calories than the alternatives, however, they still do contain calories and it doesn’t give you free rein to eat what you want.

It’s not uncommon to see people that eat clean, but don’t pay any attention to their calories because they are ‘eating the right things’, struggle to understand why they aren’t losing weight, and the answer is always calories.

The aforementioned professor of human nutrition, Mark Haub, can attest to that.

Before switching over to his ‘junk food diet’ and losing 27 lbs, professor Haub weighed over 200lbs, had a body mass index of 28.8 and was clinically classified as overweight, DESPITE eating nothing but nutritionally sound, ‘clean’ foods, that didn’t contain any additives or other ingredients and weren’t packed full of calories.

Professor Haub would avoid the EXTRA Crispy KFC chicken, instead opting for the roasted chicken breast, but continued to gain weight.

When it comes to losing weight, the best diet is one that puts you in a calorie deficit AND is sustainable.  

 Tracking your Calories (The shocking Results)

What professor Haub wanted to experiment with was the idea of calories being king, no matter where they came from.

He embarked on a diet that included all the high sugar treats you can think of and would normally identify as junk, he did eat one can of green beans at dinner with his family, to set a good example for his children, seeing him eat vegetables.

The results were shocking, by sticking to his calorie goal, Haub lost 27lbs in 10 weeks, even though his calories all came from foods he had usually avoided.

Perhaps even more striking were the results of Haub's traditional health markers, such as his cholesterol levels which drastically improved.

How You Can Make it Work for You

When it comes to weight loss the results truly come from managing your nutrition, but people go about it all the wrong way, trying to abstain from chocolate, alcohol, pizzas, and burgers, and feeling like a failure if they have one of these things.  

A better way would be to try what is commonly known as flexible dieting.

What is Flexible Dieting?

Flexible dieting is an approach to eating that doesn’t exclude any foods, you can eat what you like, as long as it fits your macros (protein, carbs, and fats).

That means that if you want a burger, you have a burger, but you plan the rest of your day to ensure it’s within your macro goals.

Flexible dieting has proved popular due to its adaptable nature and the fact that it allows for the types of foods that most diets would ban.

A huge component of losing weight is being able to stick to your diet plan and not feel tempted to stray.

Following a low carb diet is all well and good until you want a slice of pizza.

Giving up fats work a treat until you want a slice of cheesecake.

Flexible dieting doesn’t discriminate, if you want something, as long as it's within your macros and calorie goals, you can have and enjoy it.

Take-Home Points

Too many people believe ‘clean eating’ is the be-all and end-all, unfortunately, they don’t account for two things.

  • No matter what the food is, calories are king, simply eating clean, but over your calories, won’t make you lose weight, unless you are in a calorie deficit.
  • Clean eating can sometimes be boring, making it harder to stick to the way of eating long term. No matter how good it looks, grilled chicken and broccoli doesn’t match the flavor of a slice of pizza.

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