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Clean and Lean Diet: James Duigan’s clean eating diet plan

by Maria Bell ,
Clean and Lean Diet: James Duigan’s clean eating diet plan© Google Images

Forget the fad diets, forget the cycles of gut wrenching hunger, major binges and subsequent shame spirals – this diet concept is about to change your relationship with food forever. “Everything in moderation” isn’t what you’d usually hear from the latest celebrity diet trend, but with the Clean and Lean diet, it comes pretty close. When something sounds this good, we had to know more…

  1. · How it works:
  2. · What does Clean and Lean actually mean?
  3. · What you eat:
  4. · Why should you try it?
  5. · Expert opinion

James Duigan, founder of the Clean and Lean diet and full time fitness trainer to the stars at Bodyism, says the trick to the diet is the fact there is no magic formula. Instead of depriving yourself of all carbs, juicing yourself into a liquid coma or counting calories to the brink of sanity, the Clean and Lean diet advocates the miracle of eating in moderation. It may not be groundbreaking to most of us, but in the world of diet plans, this one stands out.

“Becoming Clean and Lean is achievable for everyone and is more like an education on how to be healthy on our own rather than always following a strict regime. This is about changing habits and understanding what you eat and how it affects your body – soon this will become second nature,” says James.

Sounds pretty damn good doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Rather than just another crazy fad diet creeping into the already crammed world of diet plans, this is a lifestyle change that focuses on the key principles of healthy eating and weight loss.

How it works:

The main way that the Clean and Lean diet works is by removing what it calls ‘toxins’ from your diet, i.e. processed foods and sugars, and focusing on eating the right foods to keep your body in tip top condition. Despite discouraging eating these things (which is just good sense) the great thing about this diet is there’s no major feeling of restriction.

James says: “Clean and Lean doesn't eliminate anything from your life like most diets do. We just want you eating well so your body can manage the times when you need to eat something bad. Because Clean and Lean is about long-term lifestyle change, you don’t have to follow every rule religiously but instead, stick wholeheartedly to the ones you can manage and you’ll be blown away by the results.”

The thing is, once you start changing your diet and replacing the sugary things you used to crave with substantial, healthy and most importantly, delicious snacks, your whole attitude towards 'needing' them will start to change.

​Originally released in 2012, the Clean and Lean diet franchise has gone from strength to strength with an e-book and app released within the last year. Celebrity followers include Elle Macpherson, Hugh Grant, Lara Stone and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and you'll barely go a day without seeing #cleanandlean on some form of social media. So why so successful?

We want just about everything in this picture. © Instagram/rosiehw
We want just about everything in this picture.
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What does Clean and Lean actually mean?

James says: ‘Clean’ means a body that can deal effectively with toxins and flush them out successfully, and also refers to the foods that we eat; fresh and in their natural state, not processed. ‘Lean’ means healthy! Not a body that is gym-honed to within an inch of its life, or scarily skinny…a body that is just the right side of athletic – the perfect mix of curvy, slim and healthy. But in order to be lean, you have to be clean,” says James.

He believes that processed foods all hold toxins that prevent the body from working in the way that it is naturally intended and, as a result, becomes prone to storing fat.

“Toxins cause our bodies to store fat, slows down our metabolism and generally makes us feel tired and depressed. A toxic body will find it difficult to digest or retain nutrients properly – to get to the point – you need to clear out your excretory system (skin, liver and kidneys) and get it working as efficiently as possible.”

This also isn’t just about eating, this is about getting the body that you want inside and out and part of that is about exercising too. If the bodies of his celeb devotees are examples, then count us in right now.

What you eat:

If you went into a restaurant and ordered 'clean' food then no-one would have a clue what you were talking about, so it does need some clarification. Clean food means food that is as close as possible to its natural state. Things that have sugar such as glucose listed in their top three ingredients; contain artificial preservatives or flavours; or have a series of unrecognisable ingredients are all out.

Eat: ​
Meals should include 3 key elements of protein, fats and vegetables. So things like chicken, fish, dark and light meats and eggs should be eaten with avocados, seeds, nuts, spinach, sweet potato, and broccoli.

Main point – no toxins allowed. That means sugar is out completely. Alcohol, caffeine and bad carbs like pasta and bread are also not recommended. But as James says, you can moderate this to your needs too and if you really can’t survive without your glass or two of wine at the weekend, then just make up for it in another way throughout the week.

You’re also allowed one ‘cheat’ day per week to relax your regime a little. All in all it’s pretty reasonable.

Why should you try it?

The most sensible thing about this diet is that it's not really a diet at all. As James says, it's just about switching your diet radar from unhealthy to healthy for the rest of your life. So if you've struggled with losing weight in the past, or want a more healthy relationship with food then yes, you should definitely go for Clean and Lean.

“There's no point in making a change for a few weeks then undoing all your good work after your 'diet' is over. Clean and Lean teaches you how to make smarter choices in every aspect of your life until they become new habits that last,” he says.

Unlike other plans which set unrealistic long-term ​goals, this diet plan allows you a fair amount of freedom so it's way less likely that you'll be tempted to stray. A lot of the success of dieting comes from training your mind to think differently about good and bad food and this diet really helps with that.

“Any transformation that happens in your body happens in your mind first – you need to feel that you are making long-term change rather than short-term amendments whose effects only last as long as the diet itself,” James says.

Now we get to the important part - your body. As with most long-lasting diets the results won't be instantaneous but within two weeks you should be able to see and feel a difference in your body.

James states: “Increased energy, a healthier, leaner body, better sleep, usually within a few weeks of sticking to the plan. You should wake up feeling rested and energised, ready to take on the day. You won’t need sugar to help you function in the morning and you won’t get that crashing tiredness in the afternoon that more coffee/a chocolate bar can (briefly) keep at bay. Your concentration will improve, along with your sex drive and your mood.”

Expert opinion

But what do the experts say about it all? Well the Clean and Lean diet has received a pretty positive reception from the medical and health worlds. Lucy Jones, nutritionist for Californian Almonds and Channel 4's The Food Hospital's expert dietitian, says:

"There is a lot of media coverage about the lack of evidence for detox products and following a healthy eating plan like the clean and lean diet is more likely to be effective in improving health. That being said, the clean and lean diet omits wholegrain foods and is fairly low in carbohydrates, which could affect fibre and B vitamin intake. The omission of processed foods, however, is positive for health and will likely result in weight loss and improved energy levels."

Think you might try it or are you already a fan of the Clean and Lean diet? Tweet us at @sofeminineUK and let us know!

Maria Bell
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