do healthy living blogs promote eating disorders?

by Jacquie on October 5, 2010

Just when I was thinking of writing again (since as you can see I’ve been in a blogging rut since moving. Ok, maybe since this summer…), this article from Marie Claire was both posted online and printed in their November issue.

“The Hunger Diaries” by Katie Drummond is about the healthy living blogging community and the negatives of what these blogs can talk about. It also goes into the six bloggers who have put together a conference for the past two years called the Healthy Living Summit as a way to meet and connect with “friends” in the community. While I did not go to the conference this summer because of moving and finances, I personally know a few of the “big six” bloggers and have a few thoughts about blogging, the article and these girls. I’m writing not only as a friend, but a girl who has recovered from an eating disorder and who has studied the beauty industry and the media and their effects on women’s body image. I feel like this article was wrong on so many levels so let’s go through them, shall we?

1. I know these girls as friends.

I met Caitlin personally at FitBloggin’ last March after emailing with her for months prior based on the work I was doing at American University’s Wellness Center and her work on Operation Beautiful. She was happy to speak with me and when I met her in person, it was only evidenced that she just wants to live a healthy and happy life while helping other girls do the same. She’s honest about her struggles in the past with depression and fat talk, but through her own experiences has turned them around for the better.

I’ve also met Meghann. In fact, she and Ashley stayed with me after they participated in the North Face Endurance Challenge in June. We laughed. We walked ourselves around DC. Oh, and did I mentioned we ate? We talked into the morning before waking early ready to seize the day. These girls tackle life and strive to have a smile on their face every morning.

Do they have an eating disorder? No! If I seriously thought they did, as a friend, I would have already gotten them the help they would have needed. Am I qualified to diagnosis an eating disorder? Not exactly, but I do have a lot of experience with them which leads me to the next level…

2. This article marginalizes the disease of an eating disorder.

I’ve had an eating disorder. I’ve recovered from an eating disorder and I’ve helped many people I care about get help for their eating disorders as well. I’ve been very open with my story on this my blog and while I was doing my study not to get attention, but to connect with others and show them that I understand.

I think for Ms. Drummond to point out these girls specifically was wrong for two reasons. One, eating disorders are sensationalized and mythicized to begin with and unless you know all the facts, all you’re doing is adding to the myths. Do the research and understand what you are saying and how to present such information! Secondly, if these girls truly did have an eating disorder, you just bullied them so much that you could have potentially hurt them to use their disordered behavior even more- physically, emotionally and mentally. We have seen what bullying can do from the recent suicides that have stemmed out of bullying because of sexual preference, but bullying someone who has a mental disorder such as an eating disorder, well you just made them worse and who knows what could happen. That’s very irresponsible.

As a side note too, no, I’m not going to go run a marathon this weekend for my knees will not even hold me to run a mile after years of dancing; however, if you really think that they could do all of these fabulous races and hit the times they do without fueling properly, you are sorely mistaken. When you’re sick, heavy amounts of exercise just are not physically possible, trust me! At my lowest, swimming for an hour 5 days a week was so taxing for me that I wouldn’t do anything else but that, go to class and do homework. These girls have much fuller lives than that!

3. On top of having and recovering from the disease, I studied the media and the beauty industry’s effect on women’s perception on body image.

From this past January to May, I wrote about 50 posts about the topic which finished with over 350 women participating in a survey. From this survey, I made suggestions to magazines about how their readers felt and what they could do with this information which can be seen here, here, here and here.

Yes, if you have an eating disorder or even disordered eating patterns, reading about someone’s breakfast, lunch and dinner might not be the best decision if it triggers you. At the same time, everyone gets triggered by different things so to blame these six girls was wrong. To even blame the community as a whole was wrong. If you have concerns, voice them, but open it up for a discussion showing both the positives and negatives which then can be talked about in a context about how evolving media is affecting women. Do NOT attack and do NOT put blame! Really, what does that accomplish?

4. I’m very sorry this is called journalism.

As someone who recently graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree from American University in Public Communication (but who had many teachers who were former journalists) and as someone who is trying to find a job with a magazine, I am appalled that a magazine would accept a piece of writing which could get them 6 court cases next week. Journalism is to get the truth, to get a story that can better its community and raise important questions. This story did not. I love writing and I love my degree, but if this is where communications is going, I will be finding another passion.

As I said before, this is a valid topic and something for discussion, but this article was written completely  wrong way which could have provoked more bad than good. I hope Marie Claire and Katie Drummond learn from their mistake as the consequences of their action will be evident in the coming months.

To Caitlin and Meghann who I’ve met and are my friends and to Tina, Heather, Jenna and Kath who I hope to meet, continue being you for you have thousands of friends who love you just the way you are :)

…and on that note, I hope you’re ready to talk about cannolis, toffee blondies, figs and apples in the next week because that’s what I’m going to talk about… yummm!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan @ A Very Meg Girl October 5, 2010 at 12:27 am

Excellent post! I have also met both Caitlin and Meghann and agree with you completely.. Both are inspirational, wonderful, kind-hearted people. Thanks for your input on the article.

Becca@ Starting Over From Scratch October 5, 2010 at 12:38 am

Great Post! The article was garbage! I would love to hear what Katie has to say for herself…she should be ashamed. Thank you so much for all your kind tweets recently! I love the blog community for being so supportive! Can’t wait for your upcoming posts!

Erin October 5, 2010 at 1:01 am

I’m happy to read your well-thought-out thoughts, especially addressing the eating disorder aspect. The number one thing I take away from your post is that there are potential triggers everywhere and you can’t pinpoint that one just one (or six) bloggers.

Brynne October 5, 2010 at 1:25 am

So well written Jacquie! Great points – I completely agree that the article is FAR from anything that can be called ethical journalism.

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