Clean Living – What it is and How to do it


Ever hear people talking about clean living and wonder what the heck that means? This post is your beginner's guide to what exactly clean living is and how to do it. Clean living! It’s not just for health nuts. And it doesn’t mean eating boring health food. If you take it slowly, it’s actually incredibly easy to transition, and it can improve every area of your life from your health to your mood. But let me back up and explain what clean living means.

What Does Clean Living Mean?

Clean living means living a lifestyle that seeks to live free of toxins, both physical and mental. It includes eating clean (unprocessed foods, balanced diet), removing toxins in the home (such as cleaners), and just generally keeping yourself healthy naturally. On the mental side, it can include meditation, but more broadly it is a way to keep your spirit clean by maintaining harmony between mind and body. You can take clean living to whatever level you’re comfortable with. Many people stick to the physical aspects of it, and that’s going to be what I focus on as well because I prefer to leave spirituality to the individual.

Why Bother with Clean Living?

These days it seems there is a quick fix for everything. Pop a pill to stop the pain, throw a frozen dinner in the oven, lather on a cream for instant youth. While these things are convenient, they’re not doing you any favors in the long run. Yes that pill will stop the pain, for a few hours. That dinner may fill you up, but it won’t keep you healthy. That cream probably does make you look younger… at the expense of filling your body with carcinogens.

Things that permeate our everyday life are harming us in ways we don’t ever notice. EVERY pharmaceutical has a side effect (and usually several, to the point where the side effects are worse than whatever that drug is treating). Processed foods contain so many chemicals they’re barely even food anymore. Beauty products and cleaners contain even more synthetic chemicals. A smart woman once told me she would never put anything on her skin that she wouldn’t eat. While our skin is our first line of defense against the outside world, beauty products are meant to soak into our skin aren’t they? They get into our bodies just as easily as the food we eat.

“But I feel fine,” you say. “All of this can’t be that bad for us or else we’d all be sick.” But we ARE all sick. Our healthcare system has just become really good at treating the symptoms of what our lifestyle is doing to us. According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), the death rate due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) saw a sharp increase from 1900 to 1970, and has since declined. Being a bioengineering student, I can tell you why that is. We are much better at treating CVD, and keeping people from dying. There are pacemakers and stents and many other ways to treat various forms of CVD. But notice the reason isn’t that we are better at preventing it, we’re better at treating it. The NIH also has data showing the number of people living with hypertension (high blood pressure) has increased substantially since 1976. You can find loads of these statistics on this website.

It’s already looking pretty bad, and I haven’t even mentioned cancer yet. As we have all been told, cancers are generally caused by outside factors, called carcinogens. Many beauty products and cleaners contain these carcinogens, because they aren’t regulated by the FDA (or any other organized body). As I mentioned above, anything you put on your skin (or breathe in from the air) will enter your body and benefit you or harm you the same way anything you eat will.

So aside from eliminating carcinogens and toxins from your life and therefore reducing your risk of disease, living clean improves how you feel from day to day. Once you start eating naturally, you’ll have more energy, less of those daily aches and pains, healthier skin and hair, and more. The food you put into your body really does make a difference.

And if you don’t want to do it for the health benefits, consider the financial benefit. First, fresh fruits and vegetables are so much cheaper than packaged foods. And the healthier your body is, the less you’ll get sick, meaning less money spent at the doctor. And when you nourish your skin from the inside out, you won’t need to drop hundreds of dollars on skincare products every year.

How to Start Living Clean Today

After realizing the sheer volume of toxins that have infiltrated your daily life, you probably feel a bit overwhelmed. But don’t worry! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this transition doesn’t have to happen in a day, a week, or even a month. Transitioning to a completely clean lifestyle may take years (I’m definitely not there yet and I’ve been working on this for about 2.5 years now).

Making the transition is as easy as changing just one thing at a time. They say if you do something 21 days in a row it becomes a habit, so all this involves is slowly changing your habits.

So today, choose just one thing, and change it:

  • Add an apple to your lunch rather than a sugary granola bar (a lot of these are marketed to look healthy, but are actually rather bad for you).
  • Drink water instead of soda.
  • Choose real sugar for your coffee over a synthetic sweetener (aspartame is a known carcinogen in almost all synthetic sweeteners). If you really need an alternative to sugar, try Stevia, which is a healthy, plant-derived sweetener.
  • Use coconut oil or clarified butter to cook (these are the only oils known to not break down into cancer-causing free radicals at cooking temperatures). (1)
  • Use coconut oil (virgin, unrefined) as lotion. This was the first change I made, and I’ve always been happy with how well it works.

And for those of you ready to take it to level two:

  • Use essential oils as air freshener (tips on this coming soon)
  • Use essential oils as cleaners. So far, my research shows both peppermint oil and lavender oil are effective antibacterial agents. Try about 10 drops in a large spray bottle of water and use to disinfect the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Substitute grass-fed beef in your diet. You don’t even want to know what they feed regular cattle (and whatever they eat affects their nutritional content for you). But maybe you do: click here (with caution) to find out.
  • Check out AlmostExactly for tons of all natural beauty alternatives. I’ve tried a lot of these and been very satisfied with the results. (as a note, this is actually the blog that introduced me to clean living and got me excited about it)

So like I said above, choose one or maybe two things to change. Work on those until they become habit and then worry about adding something else. And stay tuned for way more articles about clean living from me! I’ll be bringing you a wealth of information about how to transition and the chemicals you’ll be excluding from your life, as well as tips for making the transition easier.

To make sure you don’t miss a thing, like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or subscribe to The Essential News to your left in the sidebar.

So do you guys have any tips for me? Specific topics you want covered? Let me know in the comments below.

Note: While I am not a nutritionist, my sources are. However, always consult a doctor before beginning a new diet or consuming any supplements. Advice offered is never meant to replace medical advice from a certified physician. 

  1. Rudolph, Catherine, CNC. “Foods that Heal.” Third Edition. Complete Rapha Nutrition, 2015. Print.


About Rachel

Rachel is a blogger and Biophysics Lab Manager who lives in Clemson, SC (go tigers!). After studying conventional pharmaceuticals and how they target specific ailments, she applied that knowledge to figuring out how essential oils can work to treat the same ailments, and ended up creating the blog The Essential Girl.

When she’s not blogging or sciencing the shit out of something in the lab, she likes to swing dance and teach group fitness classes.