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The “Hunger Diaries” Kerfuffle October 10, 2010

I know I am chiming in VERY late to this conversation, but this is the first chance I’ve had to get my thoughts in order since the huge outburst following Marie Claire’s article was published last week: “The Hunger Diaries: Are Health Writers Putting You At Risk?”

Where do I even begin? Well, lots and lots of people have commented on this issue. Including the “Big Six” themselves: Carrots & Cake,  Healthy Tipping Point, (who started the amazing Operation Beautiful project), Meals and Miles, Cheeseburger in Paradise, I don’t want to be redundant.  And yet there are several things I feel I need to respond to.

  • Healthy-living bloggers (which I consider myself to be) are role models, and as such, bear a certain responsibility to their readers. Well, first of all, I have no idea who many of my readers are. Only a tiny percentage of my actual readers ever leave comments and so I don’t know who they are. I am not anywhere near the readership of “The Big Six,” some of whom have over 15,000 readers per day. (I wish! right?) I believe that my only responsibility is in telling what is true for me. That’s all I can do, really. I’m not here as an expert. I’m just living my life in the best way I can, with all its struggles and challenges, and whatever anybody else takes from it, I really cannot control.
  • One person’s healthy tool is another person’s trigger. We all have our methods. It’s a highly personal, unique and often charged journey, isn’t it? When I began photographing my food, several people commented that it pushed their buttons. It was too much. But for me, it was a comfort. A daily practice, almost a meditative act. I noticed that it made me much more mindful. (I’ve slacked off the pictures lately, and really want to get back to it because I do think it was immensely helpful. For ME.) I was amazed that in some of the responses to the Marie Claire article, MANY people made comments that keeping a food journal was a “dangerous practice” that teetered on disordered eating. That really made my eyes pop because this is one of the main tools of Weight Watchers. Studies have shown that people who journal their food lose more weight. I suppose if you are anorexic and should not BE losing weight, this can be a dangerous thing. Which leads me to…
  • There are eating disorders and then there are eating disorders. They run a huge spectrum, from anorexia/bulimia to compulsive and binge eating. What might be triggering and “dangerous” for anorexics might be just what a compulsive overeater NEEDS in order to be healthy.  Take the practice of “food destroying,” which I was startled to see, ranks as a possible sign of “disordered eating” in some arenas. Wow. Because this is something that I sometimes do, most often in restaurants, when I am given a portion that is way too big for me, and I know that is going to tempt me if I’m sitting there looking at it. I’m satisfied, and I don’t want to eat any more. I might put a napkin over it (I reallllllllllly don’t see anything wrong with that) or sometimes will oversalt it or put something else on it that will make it unappetizing. Case in point: the other night I was out at a restaurant. Server brought us an extra dish of amazing mashed potatoes with butter gravy. How I do love mashed potatoes! I was already full. I had a bite. It was delicious. I could feel the inner Gollum revving up inside me (“My precious… potatoes! Buttttttterrrrrr!”) How easy it would have been for me to just inhale the ENTIRE giant mound, even though I was already done eating. Because I WANTED it. But another voice inside me DIDN’T want it. I dumped some icky sweet sauce from my fish onto the potatoes, and that put an end to it. Now. Was that “disordered eating?” Or was it a tactic that saved me from overeating?   For my particular eating disorder, I think it was a healthy move. Others might disagree.
  • If people with eating disorders wanted to find unhealthy advice out there, it certainly is there for the seeking. People who are prone to anorexia will find instruction manuals in how to do that. People who want to kill themselves, ditto. And people who want to eat themselves into oblivion will find plenty of support as well. Whatever you want to find out there, it’s there.
  • Slanted journalism. I just think it was sensationalistic and wrong. That is all.
  • Back to the Triggers thing. Personally, I am sometimes triggered by reading raw food/vegan blogs because that’s not a choice I want to make, and the sheer idea of it makes me want to go eat a giant bacon cheeseburger. It’s a trigger for me, because of who I am. But if I HAPPEN to read one of those blogs, and then HAPPEN to go on an eating binge, I am going to put on my big-girl panties and not BLAME IT on the bloggers themselves. I mean, come on, people.

I think that’s it for now. But I was amazed at so many things I read this week. Maybe it’s because I’m such a small-potatoes blogger. I am not in any Big Six. Maybe I’m in the Big Six Million. Just one voice in the blogosphere. I write for me because it helps keep me on a path I want to stay on. If it’s at all helpful to others, fantastic. If anything I do or say triggers or is unhelpful to anyone, please avert your eyes. It seems like it should be that simple.

 

13 Responses to “The “Hunger Diaries” Kerfuffle”

  1. Elaine Says:

    What a thoughtful post! I agree with all the points you make.

  2. ChristineZ Says:

    honestly, sometimes i visit your blog here because it inspires me. at other times, the 100% focus on eating/fitness is a trigger in that it reminds me of how my weight was all i ever thought about when i had an eating disorder. i’m at a point in my life where i can moderate myself and mostly be inspired by your successes and challenges and thoughts…but i can see how someone on the precipice can be triggered. we all have a responsibility to our audience, but at the same time, we cannot control who our audience is.

    the reality is that you advocate a healthy life. that can’t be bad. it’s better than no fitness/health blogger speaking up. i think the blogs do far more good than bad, for the record.

  3. Melanie Says:

    Great post, Foodie. I didn’t follow or see the original article, but I sure can imagine the responses. Thanks for this thoughtful response. Your blog is awesome and inspiring. I agree that people find what they want to find in cyberspace. We all have to wear our “big-girl panties” (ha!!) and move forward living as responsibility and honestly as we can.

  4. Pubsgal Says:

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, Foodie! (Love that word, “kerfuffle” – it’s the word that spring immediately to my mind, too!) So many excellent points.

    Your second and third points are so true. What is helping me to be a healthier person would probably *not* be helpful for someone dealing with anorexia. I’m confident that my chosen path is right *for me*, though, because it was reviewed by my health care team and has led to good results.

    And the point about triggers and discernment is good. Sometimes it is hard to filter advice that you know wouldn’t work for you, especially when given by a blogger you respect wholeheartedly. For example, some bloggers encourage others to give up the scale, and while I no longer weigh compulsively every day, I still feel it’s a useful tool for me. Or sure, going even lower carb than I do now might make my diabetes numbers even better, but unless I absolutely had to adjust, there’s only so low I’m willing to go. I like my fruit! (And we must have similar triggers; I’d probably want to run straight to the In&Out Burger after eating at Cafe Gratitude. ;-)

  5. terrepruitt Says:

    I started to read something regarding the Marie Claire article, but then I stopped because people are going to take what they want from the information they see. I am sure someone will take what people say and warp it. That is what happens with everything . . . .

    As you state in your post you do what works for you and then you share it. Doesn’t mean it will work for everyone that reads your blog, you are just sharing what works for you. You are not telling anyone to do the same thing.

    I was totally at a loss when I recently discovered that there ARE sites out there that are “pro-ana” and teach people how to BE anorexic, claiming that it is NOT a disorder but a lifestyle. But if you look at the site . . . it is awesome. I was tempted to tell people to go there. It has so much great information, it states all the information that you would find in a health article or on a wellness site, but then a few pages talk about laxatives and only eating 800 calories a day. Scary.

    I would imagine that the blogs of the women that Marie Claire wrote about got more popular after the article. And I think if people are going to criticize others for sending bad message we should concentrate more on TV, movies, and the fashion industry. Those people that we see every day, the ones we are “conditioned” to think are “normal” are not.

    You are awesome. You keep doing what your are doing and ppfffttttthhh! On them!

    • Pubsgal Says:

      Excellent point, terrepruitt: TV, movies, and magazines (especially the photo advertisements) do a lot more to shape our society’s perception of “normal” than 6 bloggers.

      • terrepruitt Says:

        Pupsgal – Oh my! Don’t get me started on the magazines. I don’t read magazines so I forgot about them, but they are really deceptive with all the photo shop going on. Not good. I believe that all of that stuff—without us even realizing it—conditions us to think that people need to look “perfect” all the time and be uber-tiny.

  6. tj Says:

    I still have not read…and probably wont be reading “the Article” lol I agrees with all of your points. Well said! :)

  7. Michelle Says:

    Nicely put!! As a WW returning lifetime member, food journalling keeps me in check. I still can’t believe they think it’s dangerous. And you can’t flip open a fitness magazine without finding something telling you the value of tracking your calories and exercise. I agree, very slanted!!

  8. Well, hmm. I hear a lot of your points loud and clear, but I guess I just have my own opinions too. I actually DO find destroying food to be disordered eating. I understand why it works, but it seems awfully twisted to me. And I’m joining in on the conversation even later than you, but I’m enjoying it. We’re talking about it. That’s a good thing.

    I didn’t think the article was mean, it didn’t hurt to read it and I don’t think bloggers have lost credibility — hello, book deal! If anything this is drawing more attention to us little people because, let’s face, it, on one hand we’re “just” bloggers while at the same time now we’re shining a light on people who possibly read this stuff and could come away affected in a NEGATIVE light. (However, I’d like to hear if the blogs HAVE actually affected anyone negatively, because honestly it seems like everyone’s just making a mountain out of a molehill.)

    The bottom line is, of course all the bloggers featured think it’s a one-sided article. And maybe it is. But we’re talking about it! And isn’t that what matters? Talking about healthy eating, body image, being responsible to our readers. We can ALL use a dose of that every once in a while.

    I do NOT think it’s OK to lump the bullying issue into this, however (Healthy Tipping Point). That’s another issue entirely and if she thinks she’s in the public eye, she should be able to handle this! She probably has more readers now than ever. (All press is good press, right?)

    The article obviously took a turn in theme when the journalist started investigating more. Let’s face it: These girls ARE extreme in how healthy they eat and how much they run, for example! Are trained marathoners, authors and bloggers who pull off conferences from start to finish really “normal” girls? I thought blogs like yours and mine were “normal”! (Is that even a fair word to use? What’s normal for you is not normal for me, and vice versa.) It’s not like MC thinks these are the only blogs out there. Heck, she may have read yours and mine and thought nothing out of the ordinary.

    She took on the “Big Six,” not all bloggers. Some of those responses sounded even more inflated to me than before.

    That’s my hard two cents on it for now. Maybe I can just be this forthright because this is the internet, but that’s how I feel right now and I don’t want to feel bad for having an opinion!

    • It’s great to voice your opinion! I think this is a great conversation and I am glad you commented.
      Re the Food Destroying = Disordered Eating thing: this is what fascinates me the most. I had never even HEARD of that term before (“food destroying”) and I find it so interesting. So, hypothetical situation:
      1. Just say your tendency is toward compulsive overeating, and NOT anorexia or bulemia.
      2. Say you go out to dinner and you are served a portion that is much bigger than what you consider a healthy portion.
      3. Say you forget to ask for a to-go box BEFORE you eat; OR say that you are traveling, and have no opportunity to either store or eat leftovers.
      4. Say you eat until you are satisfied. But the meal isn’t over.
      5. Say that you really, really want to practice good portion control. But the thing you were eating was realllllllllly delicious and your mouth would like to eat more even though you are not hungry anymore.
      6. Say that your ability to resist the leftover food is a work in progress.
      7. Say that you decide to shake some extra salt or sugar onto your food, just to throw up a little barrier to overeating.
      8. Is that Disordered Eating?? I’m really asking!

      Because I see it as a really useful tool for curbing compulsive overeating. In a different CONTEXT, perhaps it could be an unhealthy behavior, but in THIS context, I see it as a lifesaver.

      • I think that is disordered eating, but I’m not an expert. I would say the following: #1, One can often learn by doing (or, practice makes perfect). Instead of destroying the food, there are other options: #2, Make it a point when eating out to only eat half. I always do this. If you’re still hungry, try eating half of what’s left. Still truly hungry? Eat half of that. Et cetera, until either you feel satisfied or you’ve finished what’s in front of you. #3, If you just can’t stand sitting in front of the food, get up. Go to the restroom, powder your nose and if you happen to spot the waiter, let him know you’ve finished or ask him to pack up what’s left. #4, Chew a piece of gum or pop a mint. That can often signal the end of a meal.

        To me, destroying perfectly good food just because one is too tempted to eat it is a sign that one needs to work on self-control, and destroying the food won’t work that muscle, per se. It needs exercise in this insane-sized portion world.

        I do acknowledge, however, that what’s right for some is not right for others and vice versa. I think as long as you’re in touch with that inner voice of yours at the end of the day that either thinks Hmm, maybe this isn’t right, or You know what, I’m fine, this works for me and it’s healthy and I don’t feel bad about it, that’s probably OK too. Of course others would disagree, particularly from the camp that claims there are no “good” or “bad” foods, for example, or we’re not “good” or “bad” for eating X or not doing Y. It’s a fine line. Self-reflection and checking in with oneself like that often should help to stay on track.

  9. Excellent post. Such a kerfuffle over this article wasn’t there?????


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