Posted by: Hil | September 12, 2008

Food Blogging and Eating Disorders

There has been much buzz in the blogosphere about “orthorexia”, healthy eating gone crazy, and whether food blogs encourage disordered eating.  [This post, in particular, has gotten a lot of attention.]  Some have argued that it is obsessive and unhealthy to think about food and nutrition all day long.  For the sake of full disclosure, let me say that I feel very, very strongly about the subject of eating disorders.  Eating disorders are real, they are common, and they have affected a number of people who I deeply care about.  Unhealthy, destructive beliefs about food and body image affect even more women.  I get angry about this subject.  I am angry about the time that I wasted as a teenager thinking that I was never thin enough.  I am angry about the suffering that eating disorders have caused to people I care for.  And the sight of young girls reaching the age where they learn to loathe their bodies makes me so angry that I want to punch a wall. 

Obviously the suggestion that a phenomenon I am a part of is contributing to this problem is going to get a rise out of me.  But here is my best attempt at rational analysis.  I have stumbled upon many, many food blogs and I have only ever seen one that seemed to glorify disordered eating.  (For what it’s worth, that blog was flooded with comments begging the writer to seek help.)  Some food bloggers eat in a manner that seems overly rigid and not very fun, while many others seem genuinely joyful and balanced in their approach to food.  To my eye, it all falls within a range of normal.  I don’t (and can’t) know whether food blogging causes any particular blogger to obsess about food.  It doesn’t have that effect on me, but every person is different. 

I am more concerned about those who read food blogs than those who write them.  Some bloggers (whether they admit it or not) present themselves as role models for how to achieve thinness: “Eat like me, and you too can be skinny!”  While reading food blogs is generally a positive thing for me, I have sometimes have to take breaks even from my favorites if I find that their focus on weight, calories,  or attaining an ideal body is messing with my head.  I can only imagine what reading some of these numbers-focused blogs might do to someone who had a history of disordered eating.

I try my absolute best to keep this blog a food-positive, safe, non-judgmental place.  The focus, for me, has always been on balance and moderation and taking the time to cook something tasty.  I consciously keep talk about numbers to a minimum around here, and while I have posted pictures of myself, I try to avoid presenting myself as some kind of aspirational figure.  How I look isn’t really the point.  We all have different genes, schedules, appetites, cultures, medical histories, etc.  Where my body settles with reasonably healthy eating has absolutely nothing to do with where someone else’s body will settle.

My plea to my readers:  I want this to be safe, positive, place for you.  I am trying to keep it that way.  But if this blog ever for any reason whatsoever makes you feel obsessive, inadequate or distressed please stop reading.  If a short break will do, I hope to see you back.  If you need to stop reading completely, please do what you need to do.  And please consider emailing me and letting me know how my posts are affecting you.  I appreciate the feedback.

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Responses

  1. Incredible post!! I love your blog, so I’ll keep reading, of course 🙂

  2. I was a little taken aback when reading the recent comments about food blogging and it being an obsessive and potentially disorder contributing phenomenon. I write and read about food because I love food, because it interests me, because it is a hobby. Of course there are emotional aspects that are brought into it that can be attributed to certain food consumption (I do sometimes get down on myself if I don’t feel I’ve eaten as well as I could have on a certain day for example, and I often voice that in my entries), but that’s what journaling is to me, a place to occasionally vent my emotions and let those things go. My relationship with food and my eating habits in general have greatly improved since I’ve discovered the food blogging world and it’s been a huge eye opener in terms of eating right as well as exercising, as WELL as working towards having the most positive relationship with eating as I can possibly get. Food blogging has worked in the complete opposite fashion to what many seem to believe it as when it is thought to be some kind of unhealthy food obsession.

    Your blog is great, informative, and positive. I will definitely still be reading it, as well as all of the others that have only opened my eyes wider to the joys of eating.

  3. Great post!

    I find that having my own food blog has made me more aware of incorporating the food groups into my daily meals. I never count calories because I think that food is something to be enjoyed, and focusing on the calorie count of a snack/meal would take away the enjoyment for me.

    I like to read food blogs because of the new meals, recipes, and products I find.

    However, I do understand that reading food blogs can become an unhealthy obsession, especially if you start comparing or modeling your eating patterns after someone else. I don’t do this. I do what is best for my body. I try to make sure I eat healthy foods, and eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m not.

    Anyway, I enjoy having my own food blog and reading other food blogs. So far, it has been nothing but positive for me. But if it ever started to have a negative impact on my thoughts about food, I would surely stop.

  4. Aw Hil, you are so kind and thoughtful to give us your thoughts on this topic in light of all the recent hype. I for one find your blog to be completely refreshing because you are not bogged down with worry over what you eat, and instead take the time to step back and appreciate how wonderful food can be for us, showing what being a “foodie” is all about!

  5. Great post, Hil. I think your insight is great as is your blog, you have a great view of food and I really enjoy readng about it. The link you posted got me into an uproar because it was very one sided. They never mentioned how the food blogging community is so supportive of one another. They only focused on a few “bad apples”. So thanks for being a breath of fresh air.

  6. Very well said.

    The purpose of your blog comes through in your writing. You generally create beautiful food and seem to savor the experience of eating. I’ve learned a lot about new foods and recipes and hope you keep on blogging for quite some time!

    Heather


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