Caitlin Cox, 25, is a full-time fashion buyer living in Islington, who also moonlights in her spare time as the woman behind The Clean Diary, a website crammed full of healthy inspirational recipes. Having been a pescetarian for several years and with an almost unhealthy love of sourdough we decided it was time to chat with her so we headed to Ethos, a vegetarian restaurant just off Oxford Circus. Caitlin and I had met about a year ago at a bloggers event when she was just starting out so it was time to catch up!
Caitlin! Your website is doing phenomenally well, especially considering you started it up, alongside your Instagram account, just over a year ago in March 2014. What was the inspiration for The Clean Diary?
I developed a passion for making healthy food for myself, which was a bit of a challenge as I’d recently graduated from university and was really busy. My friends were in the same position too and would enjoy what I was making so often asked for the recipes. Setting up The Clean Diary was a way of being able to continue all my creative interests – it was all about the design and look and a way for me to improve my photography too. I’ve never been someone who liked writing about myself – my friends didn’t even know I had a blog until I made the decision to finally tell my them. That was after I’d reached 2k followers on Instagram!
So how did the name for your blog come about?
I was at a point in my life when I had so much change. I’d come out of university and was looking for a job that I wanted. The name for me, had so many meanings e.g. a clean start, a clean page, and obviously clean eating too.
Were you always experimenting in the kitchen?
YES! When I was about seven, I made dad a cup of tea. But I thought I could make it more interesting. We had lots of stuff for cappuccinos in the kitchen, so I took some chocolate sprinkles and announced, ‘Here you go, I’ve made you a chocolate tea!’ My parents joke that over the years, chocolate tea has actually become a thing – they wish they’d patented my idea. Oh, and I’m pretty sure my dad secretly threw it down the sink, it can’t have tasted nice.
Have you experienced a change in how you feel by changing what you eat?
Definitely. Unlike a lot of people who I hear about nowadays, I didn’t change my eating habits because I was trying to cure something. My sister and I were both living at home so we experimented on each other – my sister’s experienced a lot of my disasters (I still can’t get socca (chickpea flour) pizza right. I noticed the difference in how I felt quite quickly – I feel so much more in tune with my body and I really feel it when I’ve drunk a lot or eaten a lot of gluten.
What’s the ethos behind The Clean Diary?
It’s about inspiring people to cook more healthy foods at home. However, there’s no rules and everyone should eat what’s right for them. If I did have one rule, however, it would be to eat as little processed food as possible, whether that’s a green salad or a chocolate cake.
A chocolate cake?!
Yes, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself. But instead of a pre-made cake you get from the supermarket, make it yourself so you can choose the good ingredients to go in it.
Who’s your top three health and fitness inspirations?
That’s a tricky one. I would have to say Hemsley & Hemsley have been a huge inspiration for me as it was the recipes that they used to write for Vogue online (one a week for a year) that encouraged me to read more into nutrition and the ways in which our body processes what we put into it. My good friend Malin from Good Eatings Blog (goodeatings.com) constantly inspires me with her delicious, creative vegan dishes and her stunning photography. In terms of fitness, currently Kayla Itsines seems to be revolutionizing the fitness world. I have known of her Bikini Body Guide for over a year but always been to scared to try it, thinking I would never be capable! I’ve finally decided to give it a go and am doing it with my friend, which is really nice as we are motivating each other! I think anything that encourages people to move more and find a sport or workout that they enjoy is a positive.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life and what have they taught you?
It’s my parents – they’ve always pushed me and taught me to work hard but also let me be myself. They’ve always supported me through my crazy ideas! My dad recently asked my sister to set him up on Instagram so he could like my pictures; he follows two people – me and Instagram!
Favourite recipe on your blog?
It would have to be my buckwheat pizza. It’s so tried and tested and it’s worked every time. I’ve tried it on my sisters and even served it up to twenty friends on my birthday. It’s a fool-proof recipe.
What’s your perfect breakfast?
I’d have to say it’s my homemade granola with Rude Health almond milk, topped with banana. I never get bored of it and it’s so easy to have whether you’re at home or on the go.
How do you manage to create and find time to cook all these healthy meals?
It sounds boring but organisation is key. Sunday tends to be prep day where I’ll cook batches of things like curry or dhal or a giant quinoa salad. Simplicity is also key, people forget that eggs and sourdough (or Biona millet bread!) is a perfectly good dinner.
If you had to recommend an inspirational book, what would it be?
One of the first health books I actually read cover to cover (and it’s more like a dictionary), was the Neal’s Yard Healing Foods book. I just found it really interesting and use it to refer back to every now and again.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Green & Blacks milk chocolate with sea salt. Or my mum’s leek and cheese pasta bake. Yum!
Tell us something no one knows about you
From the age of five, until I was sixteen, I was an Irish Dancer. Sometimes if I’m out with friends, we request C’est La Vie by B*Witched and do some dancing. Once the DJ stopped the music halfway through – he was so embarrassed for us!
Top places to go for food in London?
Franco Manca – just because it’s really good food, it’s cheap (you can get a meal for £7) and they use quality ingredients. Also Street Feast is a favourite for atmosphere – everyone gets together and enjoys the social side. If I had to choose a healthy place, it’d be Inspiral in Camden. One of my favourite things to do is get a raw dessert and maybe one of their dairy-free ice cream milkshakes and sit in Regent’s Park.
What’s your health and fitness goal for 2015?
To be able to do a full crow pose and generally become stronger. And to complete Kayla Itsines’ workout!
So what’s next for The Clean Diary?
I would like to add more variety to my website, with a lifestyle section as I’ve been getting more into fitness. I’d also like to release an eBook around how to eat well around a busy lifestyle.
Thanks Caitlin, it’s amazing to catch up. I’m going to go and make your buckwheat pizza now – you said it was foolproof, but is it Eliza-proof?!