A Review of BBC’s Latest Documentary: ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets’

Image: BBC iPlayer

Having been vegan for just over a year, I was intrigued to hear what ‘vlogger and body-positive internet queen’, Grace Victory had to say after trying out clean eating. I am a huge supporter of documentaries that seek to expose ‘dirty secrets’ which bring to light the danger, corruption and truths inherent in many of the realities in our society to which we are oblivious to.

On Monday, the recently solely Internet based BBC Three released a documentary titled Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets. Since it’s release many advocates for a ‘clean eating’ lifestyle have expressed their distain for the narrow-minded nature of the documentary and specifically the lazy, poorly presented style of documentary maker, Grace Victory.

The documentary sets out to answer the question, ‘is this the lifestyle change we all need, or another fad diet in disguise – a fad diet with potentially dangerous consequences?’ This is an extremely interesting question, and one, which has a wealth of debate surrounding it. I was excited before watching it, to learn more of the positive and negative aspects of this lifestyle and of the many different forms of diet that come within the bracket of ‘clean eating’. My excitement was however, short-lived.

As an introduction, it is apt to start with the blurb of the documentary, which sets the scene by stating, “a team of glowing wellness bloggers,” are lighting the way for the clean eating movement and that the, “goddesses of green juices have come to deliver us from the evils of our dirty, processed and sugar-filled diets.” The blurb further goes onto ask, “is this new wave of health conscious poster girls really promoting the best way to eat?” This narrative portrays those who fall within the ‘clean eating’ bracket to be ‘above’ those who do not. Not only this, but the use of ‘goddesses’ and ‘poster girls’ creates another conceptualisation of the clean eater as being of a specific gender. Already there is a divide between the clean eating goddess and the ‘evil, dirty, possessed’ dieter and the viewer’s preconceptions of what is to come are established. I suppose what comes next is a nuanced, un-biased, balanced, documentary…

Before we explore the content, I would like to first slightly side-track to a follow up article, written by Journalist Eve Simmons, who was interviewed by Grace Victory in the documentary. I don’t wish to comment on the content of Eve’s article ‘How my obsession with clean eating landed me in hospital’, as that is not the focus of this piece, rather pick up on the point she makes. Eve states, “The secret to a sufficient amount of energy to fuel the world’s most talented – and arguably strongest – sportsman [referring to Andy Murray, a statement which warrants a whole separate article] is in actual fact, plain, old – available in your local supermarket – food.”

Andy Murray told BBC Sport, “I had a bagel with scrambled eggs; half a bagel with peanut butter. I had a smoothie, which had milk, bananas and berries in there. I had a whole melon for breakfast. Before my match, I had salmon with rice.” It is interesting to note that Novak Djokovic, who in May 2016 celebrated his 200th week at No.1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, recently told Wall Street Journal in an interview that he is ‘vegan, with a little fish here and there’. Despite the views of Dr Sarah Schenker, nutrition PHD interviewed in the documentary, on the negative impact of lack of Calcium from cows milk on your bones, it seems as though Djokovic’s bones are still doing just fine.

Grace Victory’s documentary is factually limited, incredibly one-sided, failing to offer a real analysis of the benefits of a vegan or clean eating diet, highly opinionated in its presentation and in areas, patronising and judgmental.

Victory comments that clean eating is a very expensive life style. She makes this comment whilst ironically visiting Planet Organic, just one hour into her lifestyle change. Victory states, “I kind of feel like this whole clean eating vegan thing is a class, like very middle class, and like I make money but I can’t afford to eat like this all the time, it is very expensive.”

Investopedia conducted a study, publishing their results in October 2015, in an article titled, ‘How Expensive is Whole Foods, Really?’ It states that a number of studies consistently show that consumers pay an average of at least 10 to 20% more for groceries at Whole Foods compared to major supermarket competitors. The study did confirm that bananas cost an average of 99 cents per pound at the whole Foods compared to about 70 to 80 cents a pound at competitors. Cheddar cheese however, a food product falling outside of the clean eating bracket, went for nearly twice the price at Whole Foods. This example highlights one of many occasions where Victory falls at the first hurdle, failing to conduct even a simple Google search before branding the clean eating lifestyle as ‘expensive’, rather basing her claim on one visit to Planet Organic, a shop where it is evidently more expensive to eat in general. It’s like going to a Ferrari outlet and claiming that all cars in existence are too expensive.

At the Be Fit London event, Victory asked 3 attendees if they eat clean. All three responded that they try to, with one further explaining that for them, clean eating is, “knowing what’s good for you, what works for you and what makes you feel good or what makes you not feel good… I think it’s all about balance.” This statement, is forgotten immediately and quickly followed with Dr Sarah Schenker from the British Dietetic Association claiming that milk is a ‘really good source of calcium’, in response to Deliciously Ella’s comments on the negative impact of consuming milk. Victory once again ignored the counter argument, so why don’t I offer it to you here: Dr. Michael Klaper, physician in general practice and acute care and Nutritionist, who grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, stated, “the purpose of cows milk is to turn a 65 pound calf into a 400 pound cow as rapidly as possible. Cows milk is baby calf growth fluid. Everything in that white liquid, the hormones, the lipids, the proteins, the sodium, the growth factors, the IGF, every one of those is meant to blow that calf up to a great big cow.” Now I am not here to say that this is 100% true, rather simply show how Victory failed to explore any of the benefits of clean eating and offer any hint of a balanced argument.

I appreciate Victory’s attempt of the potato cleanse, and of course it is not for everyone, however the potato cleanse is a 30 day challenge, therefore, not forever and could prove to be an interesting topic of conversation among friends, helping with the social awkwardness that Victory felt. You can eat other food products with the potatoes, as portrayed by Victory’s potato, garlic, onion and tomato dish. Whilst at the first UK Wellness Summit, Victory states, “it feels like people are looking at me, wondering what I am doing here. I don’t know, I’ve got my hair in plaits, plus I don’t know, I just feel like I am being judged because people are thinking that, oh, she doesn’t look healthy, she doesn’t look like she is into wellness.” It is interesting that no one is recorded showing any signs or judgement towards her. Victory expresses her inner feelings to invoke emotion from her viewers, despite manufacturing judgement being passed on her by a supposed ‘cult’, as Victory previously expressed her feelings towards the Vegan movement.

Before wholeheartedly believing the dietician’s definitive and all conclusive answer, ‘No’ to the question ‘am I going to benefit from the potato cleanse?’ followed by a joyous rendition of ‘halleluiah’ and yet another complete disregard for the other side of the argument, I urge you to actually explore the other side. Read into the benefits of clean eating, watch documentaries and try things out for yourself, finding your own balance and what works for you. Research some of the other benefits of clean eating, such as ethical factors and its contribution to our planet. When Victory tells you, “Wellness industry is all about making a business and making money,” remember that, not only is there obviously more to it than that, but on the other side of the argument perhaps it is an industry which can bring some good to the world.

According to science.time.com, “30% of the world’s total ice-free surface is used to support the chickens, pigs and cattle for human consumption.” Whilst a Food and Agricultural Organisation report in 2006 estimated that livestock were responsible for about 18% of human caused greenhouse gases, a figure that has been criticised by some environmentalists as too low. FullyRawKristina comments on her Instagram page, “each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water 45 pounds of grain, 30sq. ft. of forested land, 20lbs. CO2 equivalent and one animal’s life.” Explore these facts before taking Victory’s documentary for the whole truth.

This is a good article certainly worth reading, that I like to share when questioned on where I will get my nutrients from my Vegan diet, and which answers many myths and provides great information to build a more balanced understanding.

If you haven’t watched Grace Victory’s documentary yet, you can watch it here.

Comment below with your opinions on clean eating and some of the points raised by Grace Victory.


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