What I think about food blogs.

23 06 2009

Kelly from Every Gym’s Nightmare asked an interesting question today, in reference to food blogs:

Do you think its healthy to spend so much time consumed with food?”

This is one of my favorite discussions, and a topic I think about a lot. Before I can get started, I have to differentiate between food blogs that photograph/track everything someone eats and one that is for recipes, cooking, restaurant reviews, etc.  Although there is some overlap between the two categories, the track-food blogs tend to have themes of health and fitness, feature low-calorie/sugar/fat products, and are often written by raw/vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free/soy-free bloggers.

As anyone with an eating disorder can attest, being overly occupied with food — especially healthy food — is a result of restriction. When I was going through an eating disorder, it was soothing to read menus, read recipes, analyze and sum up nutritional information for recipes. Reading about food/looking at photos of food was a fascinating activity when I was really, really hungry. What would prompt someone to start a food blog? What would prompt someone to read a food blog? When I asked my friends (no ED), most of them thought such track-food-person-eats blogs would be boring to read, because for them, they just eat until they’re done and aren’t concerned with what others are eating. This doesn’t mean they don’t eat healthily — they do, but moreover, they treat eating like sleeping or drinking (water) or breathing: something that doesn’t require much forethought or reflection, and something that would be pointless to document. I admit that if it weren’t for my ED, I probably would never have started reading food blogs.

Speaking as someone who is fully recovered, I love reading blogs that track food (I mostly lurk, though!). In my opinion, some bloggers seem to eat fairly restrictively. On the whole, I see the same foods circle around the healthy food blogosphere. Barney butter, coconut milk, green monsters, light laughing cow, crack wraps. Flat out wraps, ezekiel english muffins, apples with PB. Oatmeal for breakfast. Salads with the dressing on the side for lunch. Workout summaries, heart rate monitor summaries. month-long challenges. It’s predictable. Nevertheless, great recipe ideas, new product news, and friendships have been borne out of the healthy food blogosphere so there is still innovation and value amidst the photos of daily eats.

Another thing that always strikes me is that the majority of food bloggers are of a certain demographic: teens to late 20s, female, white, middle-class (or so I assume). This is probably also the group with the highest rate of Eating disorders, body dissatisfaction, etc. My theory is that people with food, exercise, and body insecurities, or people trying to lose weight find food blogs particularly appealing. It could be coincidence, but it always raises some flags for me.

I’ve also noticed that food blogging has become a marketing vehicle for companies with healthy foods. There are contests going on all the time, for products that were given to food bloggers with the hope that bloggers will post positive reviews of the free samples. It’s a certainly great idea on the marketing end. I suppose it’s a classic example of a mutualistic relationship: food bloggers get free products and contests enlarge the circle of readership, while product companies get some advertising to an audience who are primed to purchase healthy food. There’s nothing wrong with the system when both sides find gain.

Finally, I do sense a hypocrisy in the food blogging world. Most food bloggers seem pretty positive about eating and body image, but they often eat a lot of low-calories, low-fat substitutes, and most exercise moderately to A LOT. They claim to enjoy sweets and desserts, but often use recipes that are then “healthified” and doesn’t resemble something I would consider a treat. Last, lots of bloggers claim to enjoy going out to eat, but I see so many salads (with dressing on the side) when they do restaurant reviews. I think that it’s hip to promote self-acceptance, body love, splurging and treating oneself (bloggers frequently encourage others), but I’m not sure some food bloggers fully accept that message for themselves.

I know some lot of food bloggers will be reading this and I hope I don’t offend them, because my intention was simply to make some observations of TRENDS and this blogosphere as a whole. I enjoy reading many food blogs, am friends with people who write said food blogs, and I would be really sad if they stopped blogging. It’s up to each blogger to be honest with themselves and decide why they blog and come to terms with their relationship with the blogosphere. It’s not up to me — or anyone else — to judge.

What think you?

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14 responses

24 06 2009
Gemma

I agree with you on the topic that some blogs are set up for the purpose of getting FREE products from food company. I guess there’s really nothing wrong with that, but I question whether they are truly doing it for review purposes OR is it for personal gain.

24 06 2009
CurlyTop

Rosalie,

AMEN! I cannot agree more. I ‘ve personally been trying to feautre less and less of a disordered obsession with food alone on my blog. I’m trying to incorporate other aspects of my life as wel and balance it with recipes and honest product reviews.

Great post!

With Love,

Emily

24 06 2009
gymratfoodie

Emily, And I love your blog for that reason! :]

Plus your writing is just so smooth and you have cute pics!

24 06 2009
broccolihut

Very accurate assessment, Rosalie. I see a lot of disordered eating patterns on food blogs, along with a lot of repetition in food choices across blogs. I personally try to steer away from “following the crowd” in this respect, but occasionally I do give in and try something I’ve seen elsewhere in the food blogosphere. I think it’s best for people to just do their own thang:)

24 06 2009
gymratfoodie

I think it’s best for people to just do their own thang:)

That is an excellent mantra.

24 06 2009
Kelly Turner

Thanks for mentioning my blog!

I dont read food blogs anymore unless they are a follower of my blog. I just dont get the appeal. I spent way too many years of my life obsessed with my own food- I dont have time to worry about anyone elses food. Seems like a waste of time and energy to me- reading them, i mean- but i think to people without food issues, perhaps they can be healpful. But reading and blogging about food all day- i think that can be a “food issue” in and of itself.

24 06 2009
gymratfoodie

Kelly, you’re welcome! You started a great discussion 🙂

I agree with a lot of your points.

24 06 2009
insideiamdancing

I have thought about this a lot too Rosalie. There are a LOT of food blogs out there and some, NOT ALL, to me do not represent a healthy relationship with food/body. I notice a lot of the trends you mentioned, as well as a lot of talk about body acceptance whilst simultaneously going through arduous workouts, restricting food, etc. I love reading a lot of blogs but I veer far more towards ones that either promote what in my mind is ‘normal’ eating (as in, the kind of eating behaviour I am striving for and I think would fit in in ‘the real world’) nd I stay away from ones that scream out ‘disordered’ to me. That is NOT to say that I think these people have a disorder- that’s not for me to pass judgement on, but some seem to resonate with the unhealthy side of me and that’s not something I want to read about.

I guess though that if you do start a blog where you photograph everything, and capture an audience, you have a lot of pressure on you to be some sort of ‘role model;. I am not a role model (lol) but my blog style has change tone a lot since people started reading because I am painfully aware that people are reading and I feel an element of pressure to justify what I do/don’t do. I’m trying to do that less and keep the blog about ME but it’s hard not to fall into comparison traps when most of the blogs out there are either following pretty strict routines around food/exercise, or feeling guilty and apologising for not being so strict. I am perhaps being a little judgemental- I talk a lot on my blog about finding what works for you…if that means running 20 miles a day, that’s fine. It’s not for me, it’s not something I can relate to or am striving for so although I might read out of interest, I don’t comment because I have nothing to contribute.

I’d say more but am aware that things get lost in translation, but great post Rosalie (and so glad to hear you say you are doing well).

24 06 2009
gymratfoodie

Ellie,

Thanks for this incredibly thoughtful response. I like how you do not pass judgment on other people and what they blog about — sometimes I myself rush too quickly to judge. Sometimes, I see something that doesn’t seem like it would work for me (ie. eating raw, hehe) and I’ll immediately make assumptions about the behavior, but I’ll try to be more aware of it.

There must be so much pressure when your blog gets the # of readers that yours does! Just remember that your readers want the best for you as well, and only you know what that is 🙂

24 06 2009
Trish (girlatgym)

Very interesing post. And I would have to totally agree with you.

Personally, I could not do the food blog thing. I would really feel pressure to adjust my eats since the world is watching me. I can’t say that others are or are not doing that – but I would feel there is that push there.

Also, I don’t have the time or energy to devote so much of my life to photographing and documenting everything I put in my mouth. That’s too much for me.

And I was actually thinking about this topic earlier today – some blogs, well the execise and food and everything just seems so always spot on perfect. They say you should be balanced but then they are living a life that seems so hard to duplicate.

24 06 2009
specialkphd

I think sometimes I blog because I crave validation, which can be connected to unhealthy habits. I think other people sometimes blog do a competitive spirit (what’s SHE eating? What’s she burning). I don’t read magazines, and when I find myself comparing (she has 20 comments, i have three today) and thus negating my OWN value, the more I have to stop blogging and rely on better coping. More importantly, blogs can be a great tool to garner resources. I LOVE original recipes! (See my brownies? http://thespecialktreatment.wordpress.com/)

25 06 2009
Tyler

I think you are right on. I don’t think I would blog about food or read food blogs all the time if I didn’t have some sort of preoccupation and anxiety around eating. I really try not to show disordered eating on my blog (I never show everything I eat in a day!). I also try to use my blog write positive thoughts about food, which helps distract me from thinking I’ve too much or not healthy enough. I have also noticed the irony of promoting a healthy body image while being almost obsessed with diet and exercise. I have been tempted to talk about this on my blog, but my mom reads it, and it would make her too sad if I admitted that I have had a less than healthy relationship with food and I’m afraid of offending my readers by implying they have food issues (ED and DE are VERY sensitive subjects…especially to those who do have issues!), so I try to keep my posts light and positive. Thanks for your insight!

26 06 2009
MizFit

VERY INTERESTING POST.

I have to say that Ive simply never “gotten” the concept.
In that Im not a foodie (to my husbands major chagrin some days Im certain) and photos of MY EATING would result in a major drop in readers.

as a result Im drawn to read peoples posts about recipes theyve made but pics of the foods theyve eaten isnt all that alluring to me.

28 08 2010
Sonia

I do see your point in addressing that having food be the focal point of your life can be detrimental, especially if it seems to be revolving around an unyielding lust for food. I just feel that there is a sect of people (maybe I am in the minority though) who genuinely want to share what they have learned and perhaps help others on their own weight loss journey. I also agree that I find the bite for bite blogs quite monotonous, and tend to glaze over the “i exercised thiiiiiiiiis much today!” parts.

I like reading, and writing about different foods, for more than just a proverbial pissing contest some of them tend to get into though. Finding different ideas for new healthy meals is a never ending task, even more so when you are cooking for a family and more of the same ole tofu stir fry just isn’t going to cut it. ❤

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