A Critique of Certain Responses to the Marie Claire Article

Today’s Happy Note: For the first time ever, this afternoon, a reader recognized me — in public!  It was so strange.  It made me happy — not because I care about how many people read my blog but because I like meeting new friends!  Hi Jen!

Marathon Training: I basically had back-to-back rest days yesterday and today, although both were active rest days.  Well, sort of.  I did not leave my floor until 10:00 PM last night.  I literally stayed on my bed or in the kitchen the entire day. Then I walked three miles because I was getting antsy.

Today I had yoga class and 20 minutes of weights. I would have done a bit more (I enjoy strength training) but had to rush off to the doctor’s.  I finally got referred to an endocrinologist so let’s keep our fingers crossed that my health issues get sorted out soon!

I’m sure you’re all up to speed on the big controversy that hit blogland this morning — there was a libelous article in Marie Claire magazine about “The Big 6” healthy living bloggers (no one uses that term — I’m pretty sure the author made it up).

If you, by chance, have not read the article, read it: The Hunger Diaries.

Here are each of the “Big 6” blogger’s responses:

Kath

Heather (part II here)

Meghann

Caitlin

Tina

Jenna — I have not seen a response from Jenna and, FYI, I do not (and never have) read her blog, so I won’t comment on her blog or her posts.

I know that many people have already responded to the article, primarily in two ways: first, there have been the “Big 6” themselves and their supporters (of whom I definitely count myself as one) and second, there have been those who support the “Big 6” but tenuously, acknowledging that the article raises some legitimate points.  If you want a good synopsis of this perspective, read the post entitled “Please Blog Responsibly” from Hollaback Health.

I would like to respond to the responders; in other words, I am taking a third path. In so doing, I intend to engage with the article in a new way.  I like to think that, given my blog’s unique combination of honest musings on physical and mental health, I am situated to talk about some of the issues raised by the article in a new and, hopefully interesting and relevant way.

I would like, however, to make two points, before beginning:

1. I am not an expert on anything besides my own life. I do what works for me. I eat what works for me, move the way that works for me, and most importantly, take care of my emotional health in a way that works for me.  I am not a dietitian, a doctor (although my parents are!), a psychologist, or any sort of professional.  I am, however, applying to law school!  Note: This has nothing whatsoever to do with my credentials as a healthy living blogger, I just wanted to say it.

2. I think that we can all agree that the article was downright mean, poor journalism (if we can call it that), and should never, ever have been written. It was cruel and wrenched my heart; I can’t imagine how those who were mentioned are feeling.  Not to mention the fact that it was just plain old wrong about 99% of the things mentioned; the degree to which quotes and posts were taken out of context astounds me.

Okay.  Onto my thoughts.

My main problem with both the article and the second group of responders (those who say that the article makes valid points) is that both of them presume some degree of stupidity among readers.  They assume that healthy living bloggers (with the ladies mentioned above being the paradigmatic examples) are some sort of breed of obsessive, blind, health addicts who have an inherent inability to be introspective.

This is wrong and an insult to my intelligence.  Here is the thing about blogging: I can guarantee that no one has ever held a gun to your head and said “you must read this blog or I will kill you”.  I guarantee it.  Yes, there have been moments in my own journey where I thought “wow, she is so much thinner than me and eats less — I must suck”.  But guess what: I got over it.  Real fast. And this is coming from someone who clearly has had a lot of mental health struggles, disordered eating patterns, and severe body image/self-acceptance issues.

If you are unconvinced, you can read about my mental health struggles on my Mental Health page and in this recent post about therapy.

I consider myself a painfully honest blogger.  It is simply the way that my blog has always operated.  If something is happening in my life, you all know about it, usually not too long after my family and my therapist (L).  That is the premise of this blog and it always will be.  With that said, I understand that not every blogger can (or wants to) share as many details as I do.

Let’s say a blogger posts pictures of all of his or her meals from a day, with interesting commentary and recipes, and talks about their morning run, in a post.  Does the fact that this is the contentpresented in the post make me think that that blogger has no issues with eating or body image or perfection?

No no no! Why?  Because I am an intelligent, cultured, educated, powerful young woman who makes her own damn decisions. While I recognize that not every reader is 3/4 of the way through an Ivy League degree and in the process of applying to elite law schools, I also understand that it would be naive and insulting to assume that a majority of bloggers and readers in this community cannot make their own decisions.  We are adults (if a 12 year old girl in the throes of anorexia is reading these blogs, I think that is a different issue; one that I will not get into).  We know our bodies and ourselves and our limits.

Guess what?  On Saturday I had at least five servings of peanut butter pretzels and three or four servings of chocolate covered ginger for dinner.  Followed by some cereal.

Do I hate myself for it or think I am a lesser blogger?  Absolutely not.  I think that Caitlin makes it especially clear on her blog that we each need to do what works for us.  She candidly eats salads for dinner sometimes and entire boxes of macaroni and cheese for dinner at other times.

Whether or not certain bloggers exhibit tendencies of disordered eating or “pseudo-anorexia” is simply not relevant: in a niche of the blogosphere where everyone goes out of their way to celebrate differences in lifestyle (including eating and workout patterns) , it’s time for us to recognize the fact that some women (and men — hey Evan!) need to eat differently than others.  As someone who has struggled with her weight being too high, I can sympathize with bloggers who eat less: it is my genuine belief that many of us need to eat more or less than others.  It is also my genuine belief  that, the vast majority of the time, the “Big 6” bloggers — and others — do not cross into disordered eating territory.  And if they do, I simply don’t read that blogger’s blog.  It’s that simple.  It’s painfully obvious.

Furthermore, the precise intricacies of a blogger’s body weight and menstrual cycle are nobody’s business but the blogger’s, her close friend’s/family’s, and her doctor’s.  If she chooses to share some of this information with readers, that does not give them free license to criticize. I can guarantee that she is doing it for one of two reasons: either to help or inform her readers in some way or to help herself in some way.

I am responding to the article and the responses to it because I believe, with all my heart, that the blogging community I consider myself a part of is about the little guys as much as it is about people like the “Big 6”. It’s about all of us — everyone from the celebrity bloggers to those getting 10 page views a day. Moment of honesty: I typically average 100-200 readers a day.  Not a lot.  By anyone’s standards.  I don’t have any ads.  I make no money through blogging.  I have, a few times, gotten free samples.  Probably totaling less than $20 worth in the last nine months of blogging.

I say all of this to illustrate the following point: blogging is meaningful to me — healthy living blogs are meaningful to me.  They have illustrated to me that I can eat normal, whole foods in normal portions and still eat healthfully — I can even eat dessert, every.  Single.  Day. (And I do).  They have given me the confidence to train for my first half-marathon and a marathon.  More importantly, I have become so much more accepting of my body exactly as it is, since starting to read healthy living blogs (and eventually starting my own).

That said, I recognize that this is not the case for every single reader.  And my response to that is simple: do the adult, mature thing and don’t read blogs that are upsetting or triggering for you.  Like Heather, I do believe that bloggers are responsible for their content, but I also believe that readers need to be more responsible.  I would never to tell you that your diet should consist of celery sticks and plain grilled chicken breasts.  I don’t know any bloggers who would.  BUT even if they did, I expect that it would be your responsibility to recognize that that was disordered and wrongheaded.

There, I said it: I expect educated readers. We are a smart, vibrant group of young people.  We are not stupid.  None of us is.  Those readers who are going through serious eating disorders and are seeking “thinspiration” on the web are going to find it somewhere, regardless of whether or not the “Big 6” blogs exist (or any other healthy living blogs that share daily eats).

I think it is careless to say that the article raised issues that needed to be raised — to say that it was “The Elephant in the Room”, as I have heard some bloggers refer to it. By no means do I think that we are perfect: but that is the entire point of healthy living blogging!  Acknowledging that we are not perfect — that every single one of us will eat differently, wokrout (or not workout) differently, and just generally take care of ourselves in different ways — is central to the healthy living blogosphere. I see bloggers who eat more than me and those who eat less than me.  Run more or run less. Some don’t run at all.  Some are way more in touch with the aspects of their spiritual health, and I really admire that.  

I would argue that non-perfection is the premise of the community, and saying that the article made a valid point by reminding us that we shouldn’t all be perfect and certain bloggers try to influence us to be perfect like them is like saying “(y=(x+10)/0)”.  Okay, so maybe all of us aren’t geeks like me.  If you didn’t know, that is an equation that does not exist.  It is impossible.  You cannot divide anything by zero.

It just doesn’t make sense.

The End.

Obviously, I would be thrilled if you shared your thoughts with me!  Agree or disagree, I don’t care — if you articulate yourself well and aren’t mean about it, I would be happy to listen to you!

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jenn
    Oct 04, 2010 @ 22:28:13

    Hi! Thanks for the shoutout! It was wonderful meeting you in person. I wholeheartedly agree about the magazine article. Nonsence!! In no way EVER did the “big 6” or other bloggers state that they are perfect human beings. In fact, I read it because it captures the reality of life. In real life, we can’t always eat perfectly or exercise the perfect amount in a given day. Those bloggers strive to work hard for it (make the commitment to cook meals, make it balanced, prepare in advance, etc) and set goals, but sure they are imperfect, like we all are. And it should be this way! The article states that they are too obsessive, but in fact, I think it captures the beauty of real life with real food and real bodies being able to do amazing things. The article took things out of context and was totally one-sided. Anyway, I hope you had a great day amidst the rain and wind. I hope you are doing well as you are closer to reaching your individual health daily. It was a blessing to meet you. I’d love to sit down and have a chat with you sometime. 🙂 Or maybe we can go for a jog or strength train together at the gym. I live on 120th & Amsterdam. Ok, have a wonderful week!!

    Reply

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  3. Caitlin Boyle
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 08:24:45

    I really liked hearing your thoughts. Thank you for sharing them and supporting the rest of the community in general.

    Reply

  4. Kelly
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 19:54:20

    Caronea, thank you so much for offering such a thoughtful and poignant post about the article and the responses that have risen from the controversy around it. I feel the exact same way, even though I chose to approach it from a different angle. I’m also so glad you had a negative reaction to other’s view that “the article brought out good points”. I honestly have trouble wrapping my head around how these blogs could be a “trigger” with someone with an eating disorder if they actually read the blogs and know what they’re about. I feel like I’ve been missing something when I keep reading those words on other’s blogs. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’ve very much enjoyed reading them.

    Reply

  5. Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 20:20:42

    Okay, amazing post, and I think you hit the nail on the head. If a blogger goes out and gets drunk on a Friday night, no one is chastising her for triggering the alcoholic that might be reading. We’re all big people. We can make our own decisions. I know I’ve stopped reading some blogs whose message I don’t agree with, and though I hope I’m not triggering to anyone, I’d completely understand if I lost readers because they didn’t identify with my message. You’ve written such a great response because it doesn’t focus on the author, but more the readers- we ARE smart! I read a post by someone who shut down their blog after the article because they found it to be so true, and while I respect her decision, I feel as though she isn’t cut out to be reading/writing healthy living blogs. It’s definitely a different kind of community, but it’s a powerful and positive one.

    Reply

  6. Bec
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 13:45:55

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog!!!! I am definitely taking a relaxed approach to my marathon training and when I need a break I take one. Hope you are having an awesome week and that your new doctor get things on the right track for you 🙂

    Reply

  7. Ellie
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 20:53:51

    Hi Caronae- I just read this post linked from your comment on HangryPants. What a fantastic post that I agree with 100%- and I’m now reading your blog! I’m peeved I never came across it before now because I, too, went to an Ivy League-ish school and am applying to law school in the near future. So glad to have found it now!

    Reply

    • caronae
      Oct 10, 2010 @ 21:14:15

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you appreciated my thoughts. Sounds like we have a lot in common! Can’t wait to hear more from you!

      Reply

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