It was the irony that first caught everybody’s eye.
"Bacon," one person tweeted - enough to catch anyone's attention. "Her name is Bacon."
Amanda Bacon runs a juice bar in LA and was just featured on the website for US Elle. It was a 'day in the life' feature about what she eats - or, to be more accurate, what she doesn't eat.
Because Amanda Bacon's 'diet' consists of only a handful of solid food every 24 hours. She consumes (spoiler alert): tea, a warm drink, veggie 'shots', juice, bee pollen, cashews, another juice 'shot', raw courgette and olives, more tea, coconut yoghurt, fresh and dried fruit, hemp milk, seaweed and mushroom broth, and almond milk. At bedtime, she eats chocolate made from raw cacao, mushrooms, and rice protein.
At one point she literally eats dust. 'Brain dust', to be exact: it's hard to tell from the website what’s in this supplement for nut milk. My guess is, not brains.
Her piece was published without a compassionate edit. Phrases like 'before I wake' and '23-minute breath set' haunt the text like the stink of nutritional yeast. She talks about chasing tea with juice shots; a nori roll is 'her version of a taco'; avocado 'nourishes her hormones'.
At its best, the piece reads like an aspirational fantasy in which Bacon never gets hungry. Her diet is exotic. She enjoys the sanctity of a vegan diet, but she also enjoys a meal out, a 'nightcap' and 11pm treat. Her food is so healthy she gets to mention her endocrine glands before she even gets to elevenses.
But at its worst, the article's a disaster. Bacon was skewered on social media, with men and women alike offering to bake her buns, send her cakes, and (of course) make her a rasher sandwich.
She’s not the only person bigging up ‘clean eating’, either. It’s the latest big trend in publishing - last September one publisher agreed a six-figure sum for a book on the subject. No surprises why: in 2015 Ella Woodward’s Deliciously Ella sold more than a quarter of a million copies.
Now the concept is everywhere: Buzzfeed ran a two-week clean eating challenge, BBC Good Food has a whole section on it, and even Nigella’s criticism couldn’t sink it.
Turns out there’s an outrageous amount of money to be made from teaching people how to make ‘spaghetti’ out of courgettes. Even if it is a bit depressing that the latest diet advice really is ‘just close your eyes and pretend’.
Still, the problem is: no-one’s quite sure what ‘clean eating’ really means. Which is why doctors are increasingly worried about the link between this trend and orthorexia, a type of eating disorder that involves excessively restricting one’s diet.
In other words, the whole phenomenon is eye-rollingly stupid at best and downright damaging at worst. But did poor Amanda Bacon really deserve the tsunami of vitriol that rolled across Twitter the day after?
The problem is that when women aren’t being criticised for eating too few calories, they’re being chastised for taking up too much space. The amount of ‘yeah but’ thinkpieces that follow features about body acceptance is enough to send anyone up the wall. They’re almost as irritating as the smug ‘clean eating’ features themselves.
When it comes to healthy eating, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Think of the uninvited comments you get about your food when you’re NOT publishing articles about it on Elle.com. I can deal with colleagues who peer into my lunchbox, asking aloud, ‘What’s that?’, because yeah, to be honest, I don’t really know what these leftovers are either.
But strangers who hand out fat-shaming cards on the tube? Or voice the opinion that men ‘like having something to hang on to’? Not so much.
Remember when food was just this relaxing, pleasurable thing we were allowed to consume without a thousand other opinions crowding us off our dinner plates?
We fight messages like this every day. We fight like lionesses to protect our tiny, vulnerable vestiges of sanity. And I understand why everybody’s angry.
After Bacon's article came out, the battle-cries rose on Twitter and Facebook. People rallied against impossible demands on bodies and appetites. Every day I thank fuck that I'm surrounded by the kind of people who instinctively take the piss out of 'wellbeing' wonks like Bacon.
But in spite of the hilarity of a diet 'spiked' with moon dust, there is nothing funny about the fact that ‘naughty’ cheesecakes and ‘clean eating’ has divided – and threatened to conquer – us. Let’s leave Amanda Bacon alone and turn back to our curry leftovers without self-flagellation. Because nobody wins when it’s a woman-on-woman war over food.
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