So—Who Is Tosca Reno, and Just What Is the Eat-Clean Diet, Anyway?
A former ‘overweight housewife, Tosca Reno woke up one day and decided to transform her life. After realizing that she and her family were eating terribly, and her various up-and-down diet plans were doing her no good at all, she decided to change everything and began, as she calls it, eating clean.
What makes her success story different is this: she hasn’t always been in such incredible shape. Unlike many of the fitness gurus of today, she knows what it’s like to be 200+ pounds overweight and eating heavy, processed foods continuously, because that was her, and not so long ago.
She’s also different because she doesn’t shy away from circuit/weight training: she knows that it’s essential when it comes to losing weight and maintaining a healthy body.
The Revolution of Eating-Clean and Real Food Movements
Her theory about clean eating is that it’s more of a lifestyle change: rather than simply a series of recipes that you must follow,to the letter, in order to see physical results, it’s a new way to approach eating in general, both when it comes to the practical side (when to eat and how to prepare it), and to the larger, more philosophical side: the Eat-Clean Diet is an attempt to change the way you think about food in general, a realistic and achievable way of changing your actual relationship with food—for the rest of your life.
While diet books—more than just about any other kind of book—are famous for making promises like these, the time is definitely right: in the last few years we’ve seen Michael Pollan’s seminal texts The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and Mark Bittman’s excellent Food Matters. All of these books are greatly concerned with getting the North American or ‘Western’ diet back to real, actual food.
TheEat-Clean Diet, while not adhering exactly to those philosophies, is one of the first contemporary diet books to embrace many of the same ideas. In fact, Reno does suggest a rejection of processed and refined foods, and a return to real food as the centerpiece of what we eat.
She also rejects the policy of dietary exclusion, where temporarily avoiding an entire food group is made essential to the proper workings of a diet. The great Atkins craze of 2003 is just one of many examples of such, and you won’t find any of that stuff here.
As she said in a recent interview: “Avoiding a whole food group is not sustainable. The metabolism slows and weight is gained back. Eat-Clean embraces all food groups and is manageable.” Any good, useable diet needs to break free of the traditional, North American idea of a ‘diet’ in the first place, and Eat-Clean does so unequivocally, by rejecting exclusionary methods for something much more inclusionary—and ultimately, more realistic.
Why You Should Eat 5-6 Small Meals a Day, Not Only 3.
Instead of three large meals a day, Eat-Clean embraces the concept of five to six small(er) meals per day. Not only does this help control portion sizes, but the variety ends up being a very positive thing: with so many small meal opportunities, anyone following the diet can get in a wide range of healthy, good foods in a huge spread of configurations.
But the apparent complexity of preparing 5-6 meals a day hasn’t been lost on Reno, either: not all of these meals (none of them, really) require heavy preparation. As long as you stick to her basic formula of combining lean protein and complex carbs (and there are hundreds of ways to combine these things, none of which skimp on taste or take hours, either), you’re set.
And Here’s What Not to Eat (It’s Not as Bad as You Think).
The good thing about Eat-Clean is that Reno hasn’t really restricted too many foods from the diet, in keeping with her no-exclusions philosophy. And what she has suggested we not eat is the same kind of advice you’ll find in Pollan’s In Defense of Food, or the amazing new documentary Food, Inc., or the kind of advice you can pick up at just about any farmer’s market around the world.
Rather than suggesting you drink ‘diet’ drinks in place of regular ones, or seek out low-calorie options at the supermarket, she sticks with these rules:
Avoid over-processed, refined foods (so most so-called ‘health’ foods are out of the question here)
Avoid trans and saturated fats
Avoid calorie-dense foods with no nutritional value
Eat enough healthy fat every day
There’s much more in her book, but these are the most important ones, because an acceptance of even these four rules could radically change the way a huge percentage of people approach food, and already has for thousands of her readers.
She hits on a fundamental difference between hers and dozens of other diet books: by concentrating only on calories, or on the various combinations of carbs/fat/protein, or isolating specific ingredients and exaggerating their importance, eating-by-diet becomes a complicated, numerical pursuit, and the excess of rules eventually leads to people ignoring most of them.
Reno claims that while developing Eat-Clean, she “no longer had an unhealthy relationship with food. I gained control over the food. It allowed me to put guidelines and structure around food intake. Life became simpler. I no longer had food worries. Mentally, that’s liberating.”
One of the biggest problems with diet books that offer dozens of complicated rules about nutrition science is that they are often too disconnected from actual food, and more concerned with statistics and ratios. Take a random, so-called ‘health’ food full of preservatives and processed, chemical ingredients. Most diet books view this food-like substance entirely through the lens of its official nutritional information, which leads to a kind of dietary myopia. You won’t find that in Eat-Clean.
Thus when Reno talks about rules, she could just as well be discussing ‘principles’ or ‘philosophies’, as they are intended to be flexible and useful enough that readers will want to adopt them, permanently, into their lives.
We’ll be talking much more about Eating-Clean and Tosca Reno here on Bodyrock.tv over the upcoming weeks, so keep checking back!