Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Healthy Living Blogs? Good or Evil?

Before I go into this particular blog post, I just want to mention that I have decided to post less frequently.  At least for a while.  Some of it has to do with the fact that too much is too much in general, then there is the reason that I am trying new and exciting things as it pertains to fitness and food, that I will focus on that instead of just everyday hum-drum types of posts.  So expect more of that.

Then there is the reason that because I just want to be more private and limit what I write and what I don't write.

There are my readers out there that read for inspiration and information and those are the ones I want to focus on.  The people that are just downright nosy?   Guess old habits die hard for some. 
And actually some people, could benefit from some information on how to be healthy and drop a few lbs.  Or 50.
So I hope you stay around, and read when I write, because I do love it, and think that I have something to offer for those who look for direction.  If there is anything in particular you are interested in, please drop me an email or a comment, and I will fashion a blog post around that!  Products?  Training?  Food?  You name it!

Now on to today's post!

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Are blogs about healthy living just a disguised form of thinspo?

I am going to go out on a (personal) limb and say 'yes'.  As someone with a somewhat disordered past as it pertains to body image and food, I was exactly the kind of person these writers were looking to cash in on (they receive $$$ by companies for every click to their site, and they are good at embedding links upon links to get you to click to past posts for more $$$).  I would go to their sites MANY times a day hoping for an update post from any of them...more money in their pocket and thats exactly why they post several times a day.

I cannot remember when I first found 'healthy living' blogs...but if I had to guess it I would say a year, maybe just bit more, ago.  And I read all that are listed in the article (now old) that Marie Claire published some time back.  In addition to those, there were others, all of which I no longer read unless its to snark on them over at GOMI.  (oops, their site is being revamped right now, so most of the forum topics are gone for right now).

I quit reading them because honestly, they made me question every thing I ate, how far I ran, if I didn't run, if I didn't only shop at Whole Foods, if I ate my food on a regular size plate and not take pictures of a lot of food, and only eat maybe 1/12th of it.  Or how to photograph a plate of food which is actually on a salad plate but the angle makes it look like a whole lot of food or regular sized food.  Look closely next time. When I began to notice this, this is when I started figuring things out.  And then also things like: Why can't I run the day after a marathon?  SR does it and she's fine; why can't I?  What's wrong with me?  Am I not skinny enough?  Am I not trying hard enough?  What? Why? Where? How come?

The majority of them don't know their ass from a hole in the ground, make up reasons every other month or so as to why they can't eat dairy, or why they can't eat gluten, etc., but then if you read long enough, they are eating dairy, or gluten, and they let it slip ... they are restricting.  And using excuses for something being wrong on the inside because of something they are eating.  Bottom line.  And as someone with past issues, I know about restricting.

In an article for Marie Claire, a writer profiled a group of bloggers she calls the Big Six — women who blog about their eating and exercise routines and their effort to lead lives they consider healthy.  But she says their blogs display "an arguably unhealthy obsession with exercise, food, and weight." She writes,
A typical morning post documents breakfast with a photo and description-say, a smoothie of raw spinach and rice milk-followed by an afternoon report on the day's herculean exercise and an evening update on perfectly portioned snacks and dinner. [Blogger Heather] Pare once chased a 10-mile run with a flourless, low-fat, black-bean "brownie." Boyle ran 22 miles and, after a day of light eating, signed off with, "I am so hungry!"
Drummond also mentions that "the sites feature weight-control tips and even cover 'food sabotage'" and implies that some of the Big Six undereat, overexercise, and may encourage readers to do the same.  She also includes a rather nasty quote by Caitlin Boyle of Healthy Tipping Point: "The vast majority of Americans aren't anorexic or bulimic. They're overweight and have no idea how to eat healthy.  If they read blogs like mine, maybe they'd learn something."

However, the Big Six themselves dispute pretty much every aspect of Drummond's story.  Boyle says "Every single quote attributed to me was taken seriously out of context to fit into the story's slant.  I consider it to be libel."  Heather Pare of Hangry Pants says "as stated in the article I ran 10 miles and made Black Bean Brownies in the same day.  While these statements are atomically correct, I ate 3 full meals as well." She also notes that her post on "food sabotage" in fact comes out against the practice.

Meghann of Meals and Miles says the bloggers have never even heard the term "Big Six" before.

Katie of Sweet Taters makes the good point that a mainstream women's magazine full of "pictures of photoshopped models" is hardly the best place for a critique like Drummond's.

The Health &Fitness section of Marie Claire's website includes, somewhat incongruously, both Drummond's article and a piece titled "7 Best Websites for Weight Loss."  And in at least some cases, Drummond seems to have misrepresented her subjects.

However, Rachel at Hollaback Health argues that her criticisms also expose key problems with healthy living blogs,  She writes, "We've started the discussion on eating disorders and 'everything in moderation' on Hollaback, but I'll be honest - we danced around it because we knew that we'd be crucified for making some of the same points that MC did." Drummond's points, she says, could only be made by an "outsider:"
When you take away what we know about these women, and just look at them as a set of behaviors or "symptoms," it's a lot easier to see the problems. If you were presented with a list of behaviors and asked, "Does this sound like disordered eating to you?" you'd probably say yes. Pouring salt on food, eating really low calories, only indulging in treats when one has "earned" them through some very serious exercise, and experiencing amenorrhea…these are standard warning signs. But maybe we're just too in it to see it when we read it, or if we do it ourselves.
The bloggers Drummond interviewed argue that they're not promoting the behaviors Wilkerson lists, and many mention instead how much they eat ("I ate nearly a loaf of French bread on the hood of my car after the run! And then I had an entire box of pasta…. and that was just for lunch!"). But Wilkerson's comments reveal a difficulty with which healthy living bloggers seem to struggle — how to discuss food and exercise without veering into disordered territory. Another post at Sweet Tater (not one of the "Big Six" blogs) illustrates this difficulty:
A 1/4 cup serving of peanut flour is just 110 calories, which means a 1 Tbsp serving like what I made (it was pretty substantial) is about 50 calories. Whaaaat? It's not like I'm calorie counting or anything… or like I'd skimp on peanut butter if I were.  But this, my friends, is some damn news.
Katie may not be calorie-counting, but this really isn't "news" unless someone is.

In millennial America, it's become almost impossible to write about health without some dieting or weight-loss tips creeping in — and while women once got the message that they should be skinny by any means necessary, we're now getting the even more contradictory command to be thin but not use any deprivation or unhealthy methods to get there (which is why actresses, models, and now bloggers are forced to brag about eating loaves of bread).  Which honestly I don't believe to be true.

Bloggers aren't going to single-handedly free us from this bind, but they can help with one pretty simple change — just stop blogging about weight.  Stop posting before and after pictures.  Stop equating weight loss with health.  Don't post weight loss tips or calorie counts.  Just take weight out of the equation.   I don't consider myself a HLB, and I sure don't do any of these items either.

I eat as healthy as I can on any given day.  I run.  I go to the gym.  I don't think that I would ever fall into any idea by a reader that I was even remotely someone to look at as 'thinspo'.  And that is awesome.

Many entries on healthy living blogs already accomplish this, but not all do — and while Drummond may have twisted her subjects' words, she also shed a light on something we need to be talking more about.

The specter of skinny is still lurking around the edges of most conversations about women, food, exercise, and health.  In a way it's more dangerous now that it's hidden, because women are expected to both be skinny and not care about being skinny.

And we need to get rid of that specter — not disguise it under a bunch of euphemisms — if we want to reach true well-being.  Which honestly is what I am seeking.

I've removed the links of blogs that use to line the right side of my blog.  I don't read them anymore because of one reason or another (see above), and I am not going to promote what I feel is unnecessary, is false information, boring and/or could either be triggering to some or even cause unnecessary traffic to this blog.  I know of my own issues and I am successfully dealing with those as it pertains to food and body dysmorphia.  I still do read a lot of what is considered 'healthy' blogs but I stay away from those that I feel are false advertisement and just an avenue to promote triggering posts to a lot of people.  I tend to stay on blogs that feature running, races, training, and enjoying food but not as a primary focus on any of those things since it becomes a bit excessive and sends signals to me that a lot of them have issues, whether its ED or exercise type of addiction.

Not only have I read but I have seen restricting first hand, and the control that some people take to the extremes sends me into a land of 'if I could I would shake you into reality'.  But to each his own.  We all have our demons I suppose. 

Just like the person(s) who can't seem to put down the fork, there are those that will do (or say) anything to not pick it up.

1 comment:

Hillary said...

Check, check, check, and agreed.
I get SO irritated by these big-name bloggers that are not really healthy at all. We all do have our own demons but yeah... a lot of posts would be triggers for some people. Some of these HLB's post stuff that is a. not even remotely healthy or b. not enough food, not balanced, etc. We can't all be perfect all the time but when you know you're influencing thousands of readers each day, I think it's necessary to step back every once in a while and evaluate the message you're sending. If you're going to take on the responsibility of being an influential member of a community, then you need to educate yourself on certain issues like thinspo and pro-ed.