Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Are Health Bloggers Putting Women at Risk?

Who has read the Marie Claire article about healthy living bloggers?  Titled, "The Hunger Diaries: How Health Writers Can Be Putting You At Risk", it sounds quite scary.  Marie Claire took a look at six bloggers, which have been named the “big six” by their fans, and found that they are more disordered in their eating and exercising habits than they are healthy. The article suggests that these food-obsessed, exercise-addicted women are sending unhealthy messages to their readers though they claim to be healthy-living bloggers.



The article gives several examples of alarming posts and what appears to be disordered eating. Destroying food such as brownies and cookies so they are no longer appetizing, showing regret over eating too much, posting photos of every morsel of food all exemplify obsession, according to this article. These women also post their “hurculeic” workouts which are believed to be extreme by many (i.e. running 22 miles and ending a post with “I’m starving!”). I think we can all relate to that one.


Of course after reading this article I had to visit each of these 6 blogs to see what all the fuss is about.  I expected to see rail thin women and photos of lettuce and carrots on a plate.  Funny thing, they all appeared harmless and true to their healthy blogging credo. They reminded me a lot of our blogs, actually.  They don’t have Masters Degrees or PhDs in exercise science or nutrition and neither do most of us, but we write about our experiences. I don’t claim to be an expert and neither do any of these women. Granted, we sometimes offer up advice (and you all know I push my vegan agenda) but we are just bloggers. Readers need to use their best judgment with anything they find on the web. 
The blogs appear "pro-healthy eating” but the compulsiveness and lack of self-care they exhibit are worrying.


The only part of this whole healthy blogging community I find troubling is the constant posting of food photos. For a foodie blog I suppose it makes sense. For a healthy living blog I find it unnecessary. This is the part of the article I agreed with:


Then there's the effect on readers. "The sheer number of food images and intense exercise descriptions can be particularly triggering to eating-disorder-prone followers," says Dr. Robyn Silverman, a developmental psychologist in Mount Freedom, New Jersey, whose book, Good Girls Don't Get Fat (published in October), addresses influences on female body image.

As someone that has been food and calorie obsessed in the past, these blogs remind me of my old self. Documenting every thing I ate and then talking incessantly about it. In fact, it was all I talked about. I had a problem. As a woman I worry about other women and hope that isn’t the case for them. On the other hand, we are the owners of our blogs. If we feel like posting pictures of our food, we shall post pictures of our food.  I hope if there is an issue it is confronted.

If women are reading these blogs and going to extremes it is because of larger societal pressures and personal issues, in my opinion. There are messages and images, outside of the blogosphere, that I feel we should be more concerned about. I understand these blogs are reaching thousands of women each month but from what I have seen there is much worse to be seen in magazines and on television. These women all appear to be healthy. While eating disorders can’t be seen in a picture or even through a blog, I find images on TV to be more alarming than any photos that appear on these blogs.

These women are blogging about their lives, their health, their woes and their accomplishments. I say BRAVO to them for sharing and receiving hundreds of thousands of hits a month. They have been well received until now, getting sponsored by huge corporations and even receiving book deals. One of these women is also the creator of Project Beautiful, which encourages women to write positive affirmations on post-its leaving them for other women to find. 

It may seem nice that Marie Claire was concerned enough to write this piece but then you take a look at the Marie Claire publication itself and quickly see pages of unrealistic crap.  And seriously, "The Hunger Diaries"?  What kind of title is that?  These women are not starving.  As long as bloggers aren’t claiming to be experts and aren't giving unsound advice I say, leave them alone. Blog ‘til the cows come home.

How do you feel about this article?  
 
Do you think healthy living bloggers are often exercise and diet obsessed?

23 comments:

  1. i'm a regular reader of 4 of the 6 blogs they talk about in that article and i think the author took a lot of things out of context to create the perspective she wanted to take. i think all of these women share what works for them and certainly don't claim to be experts- i enjoy the peek into their lives and often get great new recipes to try or encouraged to try a new workout.
    i told my hubby about the marie claire article and his initial reaction was "wow - the magazines are really scared of the popularity of those bloggers. they feel threatened by them and so chose to publish that article to stir things up a bit." i thought that was interesting food for thought.
    Lastly, I agree that I find the images in magazines like marie clare far more disturbing than anything posted on these blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is another proof that the Internet is a very powerful thing. Just type in "health" in any search engine and you'll see countless of websites and blogs listed. A lot of people claim that they are health experts and they give out a lot of information that claims to be helpful but the truth is it's not. It's just sad that their are a lot people, especially women, who'll try practically any weight loss or diet tip that they'll get from the Internet. It also doesn't help if that particular tip comes from blog written by someone who sends out false health messages.
    There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to losing weight. People must know how their bodies work first before they can find a weight loss method that will work for them. A successful diet and exercise regimen of one person doesn't mean that it will also work for another. If you find someone who claimed she lost weight from eating only fruits and vegetables for a long period of time, don't readily believe it will work for you too.
    If you chose to lose weight and keep it off for life, make sure you seek help from qualified individuals such as registered dietitians, nutritionists, qualified fitness trainers, and the like. Don't leave it to chance. You might end up hurting your body more instead.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree that some of the obsession with food is a bit much at time, but I definitely think the MC article took things way out of proportion and was really one-sided.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I worried about women with body image issues too, but being healthy is not a body image issue. Do articles about making the perfect martini spark a relapse to an alcoholic? Are their articles bashing male body building magazines and blogs? I think that all the blogs seem to emphasize health and happiness, not obsessiveness. As mature individuals we must be responsible for our own actions, including what we put into our bodies and how we support our health. Addiction is an issue that can not be ignored, but should we all be denied valued information because some have an addication. I had an addication and have never expected anyone to change (but me). Get a grip!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a topic that has gotten a lot of coverage recently out the internet. I don't really follow any of the "Big 6" so I have little to add. I do think that as bloggers we have some responsibility to our readers in the information we put out there. A 22 mile run is typical when training for a marathon (with proper nutrition for fuel!), it's not typical for just regular run for exercise. I know many bloggers that will caveat with "this works for me, but I'm not an expert." Perhaps the "Big 6" have more of that responsibility. Many of them earn money from their blogs and some of them earning livings from their blogs. When someone gets money for their opinion, it is hard for the consumer to distinuigh from the opinion of an expert. The reader is also responsibile for understanding the context of the content. We can read scientific journal articles and still take pieces of information out of context and misinterpret conclusions that can be drawn. There is a really good discussion of this on Hollaback Health right now http://www.hollabackhealth.com/2010/10/blogging-and-responsibility/

    ReplyDelete
  6. @AJ - I don't follow any of these blogs either. I did take a look at each of them and didn't find anything startling or alarming. Like you said, running 22 miles simply for exercise would be extreme. This woman runs marathons. One of the women went to Le Cordon Bleu so she shares photos of her beautiful food. Makes sense.

    I agree with you that when a blogger is endorsed or receiving money for their writing it's hard for readers to distinguish fact from crap. They also have that additional responsibility. Even with only a few thousand hits a month I feel responsible for the things I put out there. I am sure these women feel that too. At least I hope so...

    Thanks for your thoughts. You often make me go, "hmmm. good point." There aren't a ton of people that make me do that. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can't believe I posted such a long comment and still have something to add...whether or not the "Big ^" are guilty or innocent of what they have been accused, I think this is a good opportunity to explore the role of blogging in healthy lifestyles. If anything the conversation this article has sparked is more important than the actual article itself!

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