Obsessing About Health

orthoexia_topSpecialK shared a post she wrote with me this weekend that I just had to share here because it hit home so well.

Her post, Health Obsession, offered great insight into the world of food blogging/healthy living blogging.

Having been borderline orthorexic (a form of disordered eating characterized by going to extremes in pursuit of a so-called healthy diet) for a while not too long ago, I see many of those tendencies on other blogs I read.

And it’s scary just how widespread it is … and how influential these blogs can be.

Truthfully, I have stopped reading a lot of them because although I know it’s not their intent at all to appear this way, to the wrong audience, they appear triggering or, worse, competitive.

(I’ve mentioned this before in relation to recovery.)

Though they don’t intend to come across this way, many of us see an obsession with being the healthiest eater, the cleanest eater … comparing who does the most exercise, comparing “them” to “us” …

The banning of food groups, eliminating pleasure from food, subsisting off just vegetables and juices … it goes on and on.

(Kath posted about this article today in SELF that I’d read also, called “The Dangers of Detox Diets”. I was going to devote a post to it this week, but since she called attention to it and it fits in here, I am just going to share it here — bottom line, people are using cleanses and detoxes to mask “health” when it reality they’re often (but not always) practicing unhealthy restriction).

Anyway, believe you me, I love my fruits and veggies.

But I also believe in balance, and a meal of green beans speaks volumes to me — someone who can see “restriction” and calls it like I see it (well, called it like I saw it in my head … until now).

I can call it because I’ve been there, done that. Anyone who knows me, knows I often order salads out myself — and I don’t see an inherent problem with salads. I know people assume it’s “diety” and I’m ok with that.

But I always get them with chicken, fish, steak, cheese — something else …

And I’ve been seeing a lot of lettuce and tomato “meals” in the blogosphere, and I fear it sends the wrong message to some readers who might be susceptible to engaging in unhealthy restrictive behaviors.

In fact, sometimes, what I see someone show their readers as a “meal” makes me feel downright uncomfortable because that’d be a snack or a side for me!!

I don’t want to feel that way; it’s not a competition and shouldn’t be.

But those triggering feelings do often arise, which has fueled my decision to engage less and less with some blogs.

Lately I’ve read about several bloggers bemoaning going out to eat, saying how it’s so hard for them, how they never go out and prefer to eat only at home.

Maybe they genuinely love their own cooking or are trying to save money … but in a “pot-meet-kettle” moment … I see the warning signs of “disordered eater” in the background driving that anti-dining-out mentality.

I see it because I’ve been there, and didn’t want to admit it.

In the past, I passed up social settings in favor of the gym or eating a “safe” meal at home, I skipped happy hours, I fretted over fancy office lunches out or dates. I “defensively ate” to avoid eating a lot in front of other people at parties (and subsequently would binge at home after feeling “deprived”).

So that’s how I know. Yeah, I was “that girl.” And I know I missed out on a lot, and would hate to see others living like I lived.

I truly hope this doesn’t sound like I think I’m better than them for this awareness I have now (because I absolutely don’t think I am better and we know it came at a high cost). And in no way am I perfect.

But I have really tried hard to reframe social situations and make them enjoyable, put the fun back into my life on this path to recovery, happiness and satisfaction.

So as a reader with a checkered history, a disordered eating background …. I can’t help but wonder, are some of these women masking an ED with their professed clean ways?

And most importantly, do they even realize it?!

I question this because I know I didn’t.

The truth is, dining out doesn’t give the average person heart palpitations; it shouldn’t. But I know at my worst … it could have certainly felt that huge.

I definitely could relate to some of the things I read on these healthy living/food blogger blogs, and while it makes me sad to read them, I also feel good being able to recognize the DE behaviors, too.

I personally don’t think the bloggers even realize what they’re doing and am sure they have only the best of intentions (it becomes addicting when if you have a captive audience) but I bet there are a lot of us out there who have had to take a step back when we see things that scream “eating disorder,” especially if we’re trying to get better ourselves.

And as SpecialK’s friend noted to her, she was “binging” on healthy living blogs/magazines; fueling the obsession even more. I’m absolutely guilty of this, and that’s why I appreciated her post so much.

As a society, we’re literally obsessed with health. The fact that we’re devoting posts to it is further proof of the widespread obsession … but it’s also an obsession that won’t die easily.

Especially not with the obesity epidemic all over the media coupled with unrealistic expectations and standards set for us by Hollywood. Even if you don’t subscribe to the standards and scoff at them, it’s simply not going away.

While I get lots of awesome meal, snack and workout ideas from my fellow bloggers and love the writing of some of these bloggers, I know that sometimes, I just have to take a step back from the madness.

Sometimes, it’s truly the healthiest move I can personally make.

How about you? Do you think you are orthorexic, or are health-obsessed to the point where it’s unhealthy? What are your thoughts on healthy living/food blogs? Friend or foe, or does it depend on your background?

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11 thoughts on “Obsessing About Health

  1. It takes courage to talk about your weaknesses, to admit that health and balance isn’t always so easy. That’s why being in supportive relationships, both online in blogs, long distance fam and friends, and in our day to day lives, is crucial. You go girl!

  2. Great post! I have really trimmed down the food blogs I read because of this. Some of them are very triggering for me and feeling like what I am doing for my body is not the right thing. I have been working on eating intuitively for over two years now and have strayed to the dieting lifestyle a few times in the process and it has finally clicked for me that I can’t continue to “hang out” in the same online communities anymore because of what some of the girls eat and write. Some of the things they eat are down right scary and I wonder how they get through the days without gnawing their own arms off. I feel much more stable and sane when I only read the blogs/message boards that have the same approach to food that I want to have one day.

  3. I read a lot of those blogs and I really just take them as meal suggestions and not much more. There are always going to be people that, in my mind, eat “better” than I do. It really doesn’t bother me to see it. Truthfully, I’d much rather read about what a particular blogger did or felt on any given day than see another picture of oatmeal.

    I do take pictures of some of my food, usually when I’ve made a recipe. I do sometimes wonder how healthy it is to document every single thing that goes into your mouth. I had to write down everything that I ate for a week and it drove me batty!

  4. Wonderful post and I 100% agree with what you wrote. People often do not realize they are engaging in DE or on the verge of ED. Any of us who have been there KNOW the denial that comes with it. It makes me so sad to read of people who are anxious about eating out, especially those who are already thin or even underweight to begin with. I have had to stop reading some blogs myself, due to some triggering feelings that come up or comparisons.

    What also frightens me is the bloggers with no real health/nutrtition credentials who give out advice (on the blog and in emails to people) about what to eat. And the ridiculous claims they make about how you need to combine certain foods or whatnot. Anyone with a basic biology background knows this just isn’t true.

  5. Thanks SpecialK for getting the proverbial ball rolling.

    Lara, loved your email!! 🙂

    Thanks, Christie. Good for you, with IE. Awesomeness. I think it’s all about what we hope to get from these blogs; I for one didn’t ever read food blogs until about 6 mths ago — long into my own blogging experience and wayyyyyyyyyy past my weight loss/DE history began.

    Inmyutmmy–meal suggestions are something I like to find from them too. Like you, I’m more interested in the feelings than the actual meal. I love when I read those kinds of posts. I love journaling and probably will always do it, but I can’t understand food blogging. I actually felt embarassed this weekend on a date with hubby taking a photo of a Korean dish for my little bro — who is living in S Korea — so we could email him. Hubby suggested taking the pic, and I did but felt funny like everyone was staring. I cannot imagine doing that for EVERYTHING. Mara has it right: DINNER and that’s it!! 🙂 (http://imadedinner.net)

    Thanks, Lara! I see the denial too — so glad I’m not alone. I’m sure if I’d begun blogging when I was at my worst, people would have called me out on it. I won’t publicly call anyone out … but I do find some behaviors suspect. But it’s a fine line to cross.

  6. I think this is an interesting subject. Personally, I am struggling with my own attempt to eat cleaner this month because I required myself to not eat sugar, white flour, etc. and it really goes against who I believe in to cut things out completely. 😀

  7. Thanks, Heather! I love how you come right out, though, and say how tough it is for you to do. Not everyone is so forthright. Your honesty means a lot.

  8. I love this post! I’ve really been struggling with this lately. I go back and forth in telling myself certain blogs are great and wonderful, then the very next day they’ll post something triggering (not intentionally, I know I’m pretty sensitive and compare myself to others far too much). 🙂

    Kind of like binging or binging/purging, I know that my obsessive blog reading can be destructive for me – but it’s very hard for me to stop!

  9. Exactly! I don’t think these food bloggers know or realize the influence they can have, but as bloggers, we do need to know our audience and sometimes that means thinking before posting something or deliberately choosing to post something controversial.

    It’s def. addicting. My Google reader is a lot smaller these days — and I think it’s for the best.

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