Tuesday, October 05, 2010

health blogging exposé!?

healthy living blogs under attack
all was abuzz around the blogosphere yesterday when marie claire published an article called "the hunger diaries", a sharp and one-sided critique of the healthy living summit and the popular bloggers who put it together.

i tried to read it objectively. but perhaps as someone who has attended two summits and feels like she has spent enough time with some of the 'big six' bloggers to truly like and respect them as people (not just media symbols), i had trouble. i found myself incredulous at claims that blogs such as kath's were showcases for disordered eating patterns and habits.

one might argue that there is a blurry line between "health-consciousness" and "disorder", and i suppose that is part of the problem. what is truly normal and what is not these days? is it even possible to remain healthy these days without some conscious thought to one's eating and exercise habits? in this skinny bitch-reading, reality-TV watching society, are there really any females under 40 left who eat 100% intuitively and without a thought (and is that even really ideal, from a health standpoint?).

is caring about what your body looks like -- to an extent that it might affect food choices, but within a completely healthy range -- disordered?
is itching to run after several days off disordered?
is wanting to be active most days disordered?
is long-distance running, in itself, disordered?
is wishing that you didn't eat yourself into mild GI distress at a restaurant disordered?

the article certainly suggested so. i realize that i am biased in my position regarding the answers to these questions, but i do not agree.

without going into details, i feel that i have a good idea of what an eating disorder truly looks like: utterly destructive of multiple aspects of health and life. in my opinion, the writers of blogs like these do not lie within this realm.

triggers, blogging, and responsibility

there is one aspect of the article that i do agree with, and that is regarding triggering and the influences that these sites may have on already disordered individuals. there is no question that women (and young girls) with eating disorders -- preoccupied with food and ready to dissect every aspect of eating, or lack thereof -- flock to these sites.

and i have no doubt that these sites add fuel to the fire for many of these readers. but i also am convinced that if they didn't exist, those same readers would find other places to be just as triggered (true pro-ana sites, forums, or within the pages of a magazine . . . you know, like marie claire, for example). and i may be against the majority in saying this, but i actually don't believe that these bloggers have a huge amount of personal responsibility to these individuals, or even to their readerships at large. they are writers -- and for several of them, posting daily is their job. people will vote with their web browsers. and as long as they are not publishing slanderous or untruthful content, i think that freedom of expression should apply.

here are a few of the 'rebuttal' posts written by several of the summit bloggers:


and a thought provoking counter to my 'freedom of expression' argument: hollaback health.

one up-side to the marie claire article is that i do think it brought up a lot of interesting and useful dialogue. if you have thoughts or opinions, feel free to share.

back to regularly scheduled programming (including my "work" post, requested by my one and only father) tomorrow!



workout: 45 minutes elliptical + 20 minutes weights

real simple cooking challenge: the steak edition i skipped ahead one recipe and made steak with roasted carrots & onions last night because i wanted to use the meat that i had bought during its peak freshness.

their version . . .

and mine:

josh raved about this meal, and i really enjoyed it as well -- a picture of simplicity made with quality ingredients. the tarragon-mustard sauce that i made was less photogenic, but still delicious, and i snuck a random eggplant into the roasted vegetables which worked very well.

the only thing this dinner was missing was CARBS! pre-dinner crackers and a post-dinner cookie remedied this. i think some roasted potatoes would have gone nicely.

board prep: i'm behind, but back at it! whew. i can't wait for the exam to be over . . .


Laura said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I agree with what you're saying but I just wanted to put forward my feelings and add to what you said. As someone who has recovered from an eating disorder I find these sites really positive, I think the message given by the majority of these blogs (I haven't read them all) is very positve and I've actually found them helpful in my recovery. Along with other factors of course!

aron said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I really like what you are saying here - the way that article was written it made it feel like everyone who exercises, trains, watches what they eat, etc has a disorder which is not the case. like you said we are just health consious which is a GOOD thing.

Susan said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

In such an unhealthy world, I thought it was a bit extreme to attempt to classify these healthy living blogs as dangerous. In my opinion, quotes were taken out of context to attempt to write an article from a certain viewpoint. Anyone who has read the blogs would know that this happened, and I don't think any of the "Big Six" have eating disorders. I do think that it makes a point in people looking to these bloggers as "experts," which (as I think Hollaback states) is kind of what people elevate themselves to when they get up on stage and present to people. (Such as: HLS) That being said, I knew that they were speaking from experience and the knowledge that they've gained through reading, but that if I really needed medical advice, I should turn to a trained person. You don't necessarily need a title to know what you're talking about. (I think I just contradicted myself...but it makes sense to me.)

Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I really like your thoughtful and balanced comment. Generally, I think that the bloggers mentioned have balanced and inspiring messages. I also agree that those with eating disorders likely flock to the blogs. However, I don't think that is unique to the blogging fora or to the healthy living blogs. I have observed some similar issues with some of the clothing blogs (with some commenters noting difficulties with uncontrolled spending) and some of the running blogs (with some commenters indicating unhealthy exercise practice). Blogging can inspire a comparative process and some of the comparisons may be unhealthy--but this is not inherent to blogs.

One of the overarching themes that I think is interesting is the attraction of women to the blogging world. Based on pictures from the HLS, I saw few male participants and the blogger gatherings also appear to be mostly female. I'm just making this observation to say that I think this appears to be an important venue for women to connect with others and yes, some of those connections may at times be less healthy. However, I don't think that is typically the case and I really don't see these blogging comparisons as any different from the ways some interactions unfold in everyday life or with other media.

Generally, my only concern with the proliferation of blogs is when bloggers share many personal details and pictures of their children as I feel that violates the privacy of another person who can't consent. However, I guess that is another topic. Sorry for the rambling response and thank you for your blog; it is a bright spot in my day.

sarah (SHU) said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

oh no - i just wrote responses to all 4 of you and the internet ate it! i have to get back to studying, but in summary, thank you for your thoughts.

laura: thank you for sharing your experiences -- i know there have been many positively touched by these sites and that is wonderful; i just think there is likely another less vocal side as well.

aron: i guess perhaps it's about the fine line between disorder and striving for health - but then again it doesn't seem all that fine to me most of the time. i don't know . . .

susan: regarding the bloggers as experts - interesting. i don't necessarily turn to blogs for 'expert' advice, but more for the community aspect and just a place to find fun ideas.

anon: thank you for the great comment - i've noticed that on shopping/running sites as well. zen type/organization sites also tend to attrack very scattered ad/hd types, which is interesting! and i never thought about the other subject you brought up before . . . hmm.

Jess said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I read that article and I read three of the Big Six blogs (KERF, HangryPants, ELR). I think those three blogs show a balanced and healthy eating style. True, people with eating disorders might read those blogs, but that is not the blogger's fault or their responsibility (at the risk of sounding harsh).

I have often wondered why I like food blogs. The only one I read that posts pictures of everything she eats is Kath's because she's creative, takes good pictures, writes about her personal life, etc. However, I kind of wonder why people care so much about what others eat. Maybe I need to write my own post about this instead of rambling in your comments section. :)

Chelsea said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I thought the article was pretty over the top based on my experience with "the big 6" (and veggie girl). I don't read any of those blogs with regularity, but that has to do with my taste rather than that I think they are unhealthy.

What I thought was interesting is that I recognized the Marie Claire author's name as someone who used to (or maybe still does) post in the nutrition forums on Runner's World who had a major struggle with disordered eating. Might not be the same person, but the name, location and health journalism match. In that case I think some serious projection might be going on.

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I really enjoyed reading your response to the article and just linked it from my own. Thank you for writing such thoughtful posts in general and for today's in particular :)

Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thanks for sharing the link to the Marie Clair article. I have followed you for a long time, and based on your praise, have casually followed katheats but not the other blogs. What I found interesting was, generally speaking:
1. How the corporate sponsors did NOT seem to show any support forthe bloggers or have knowledge of the blogs contents.
2. The slant of the article was over-the-top and exaggerated for effect, unfortunately, that makes more people seeking health-options to be leery of blogs...sad
3. Anything taken out of context can sound absurd (one of the best examples consistently is Bible verses or people's quotes)...who hasn't tried to exercise with minor injuries. That is NOT an example of unhealthy behavior. Exercising with a broken leg, yes. Common sense does not seem to prevail.
4. Your blog, if i may say so, is well-balanced and finds a good mix of OCD food-photo capturing (and Anthro.....) but also non-extremist advice.
5. It would be nice for the attendees of the blog summit to compose a consensus stance for a response to the article, and either request it be posted in the next month's letter to the editor, or some such thing.

Thanks again for all you do, and all your time sharing your thoughts/wisdom with us readers.

atilla said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

If people followed your diet and exercise regimen I'd have way less work to do. I am proud of you for defending your style and thoughts

Sava said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I have read the article and I have read the bloggers' responses to the article, and I truly believe that the author wrote that article to stir up drama.

Without a doubt, because of that absurdly one-sided article, confused and upset bloggers everywhere are checking out that article, to see what it says!

I think it was simply a publicity stunt and frankly I think it was underhanded and cheap.

Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

The article was written in a tone that wasn't very ...nice.

On the other hand, it did have good some points. People post lists and pictures of everything they eat in blogs and forums to "keep acountable", but I wonder how healthy that really is? To a certain extent I think that borders on a disordered relationship with food and exercise. Also, when it becomes a subculture it attracts more followers, and it makes it more socially acceptable to be that worried about eating clean all the time, never gaining a pound and not ever eating too much at restaurants and parties etc. I don't think the authors of those bogs have eating disorders per se, but I do think many of their readers are bordering on orthorexia and justify their very tight control over food by reading those blogs. The bloggers are on the other hand making quite a lot of money from selling their "perfect" lifestyle.

Being healthy is about exercising hard, eating well and also being relaxed enough to take rest days and to eat way too much cake sometimes just because you love it so much!

sarah (SHU) said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

again, thank you all for the thoughtful comments!

last anon: i agree, you have a point there. but the fashion bloggers with continually flawless outfits and home bloggers with absolutely gorgeous and cluter-free surroundings do the same thing. and i think it's human nature to enjoy seeing these images of perfection, unreal as they may be. i guess we all just need to take some of the images in with a healthy grain of salt . . .

Kristan said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

So, this isn't really MY response to the whole thing, but a friend's, and I thought it was a fair response (similar to yours): http://www.nourishing-the-soul.com/2010/10/response-to-marie-claire/

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