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?