Posted by: Kennedy | October 19, 2010

Not exactly “Hunger Diaries”: My take on the Marie Claire article

Recently, the healthy living blogosphere was all a-twitter – literally – about an article published in this month’s Marie Claire entitled “The Hunger Diaries.” The story elicited many, many comments from bloggers and readers – some positive, but the large majority negative, a number even calling for an official apology from the magazine.

I encourage you to read the article yourself, but here’s a brief synopsis:

An MC writer interviewed a few of the most-followed bloggers (some of whom I read daily and are included in my blogroll) for a story she claimed was about “how women can make money through blogging/social media.” The end result turned out to be a seriously one-sided article on how these girls are allegedly promoting dangerous, unbalanced lifestyles that could encourage disordered eating.

You can read the bloggers’ responses to the article here, here, here, here, here, and here.

My initial reaction was shock and offense. It’s funny. I have never met, or even spoken to any of the women featured, but they inspire me daily to blog, eat well, cook awesome meals and lace up my running shoes. And when I read the article, I felt as upset as if someone had written it about my best friends. I felt as if my friendly, positive little blogging community had been violated.

I did try to keep an open mind – I can appreciate that just because I don’t agree with a journalist’s perspective doesn’t make it bad journalism. But to me, the article definitely had an accusatory tone. The writer took much out of context. And I know I don’t have to point out the irony of a beauty magazine accusing bloggers of promoting eating disorders when month after month it features images of skeleton-thin models and articles like this one: “Get Jennifer Aniston’s body.” Victoria Beckham on this month’s cover proves my point perfectly.

At first, I chalked her shoddy reporting up to a lack of awareness. She was an ‘outsider’ after all – maybe she hadn’t done her homework? But according to the bloggers in the article, she had researched/read the blogs for almost as long as I had… I couldn’t understand how we could be taking away such polarly opposite messages from the same content.

Then I read a post by Hollaback Health that made me stop and think.

Everyone’s interpretation of a healthy lifestyle is his or her own. But when we talk about striving for balance, it can often appear that we are instead aiming for perfection. We ‘justify’ having an extra glass of wine or a decadent dessert or too many handfuls of chips by making ‘healthier choices’ at our next meal. Or maybe we mention feeling guilty for bailing on a workout in favour of parking our butts on the couch and watching Glee.

I took a quick scan of my recent posts to see if I too made these comments unconsciously – sure enough, there were a few. It’s become so ingrained in daily conversation (and not just among women) that we often don’t even notice anymore.

But is this disordered behaviour? Jury’s still out. I think it’s often just an awareness of one’s body and what it needs to feel good. If I eat a bunch of junk, I’m not going to feel very well. Not just mentally, but physically. Our bodies need nutrients. They also need exercise.

Now, my blog is quite different from the ones written by the “Big 6,” as the article refers to them…

#1. I do NOT post everything I eat on the blog. Not even close. I post photos of food when I’m making a recipe or when I’ve had a particularly great meal or when I just feel like sharing. Therefore, it would be pretty difficult for someone to model their daily meals after mine.

#2. I’m not making any money through blogging. There are no companies out there sending me free products to try (though I am in the market for a new long-sleeved running shirt… ahem Lululemon…)

#3. I’m lucky to get 40 hits in a day (which is precisely why Lululemon is not going to be sending me any free running shirts…)

I don’t feel as though I’m anyone’s “role model” for healthy living, and of course, I’m no expert. But at the same time, I do feel a sense of responsibility for the content I publish. If I’m putting something out into the blogosphere, I’m going to make sure it’s thoughtful and well-written. I don’t post just for the sake of posting. I like brainstorming topic ideas, even if they’re just for fun. I want to give my modest following a reason to keep coming back. And as a reader, I know why I go back to some blogs and not others. It’s different for everyone, so my blog isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay.

There are a lot of opinions out there – some in favour of the article, some ripping it to shreds, and others who are somewhere in between. If nothing else, I think several really positive things have come from it:

  • It gave our friendly little (well, clearly not so little) blogger community something difficult to talk about. It’s necessary to feel uncomfortable sometimes – it’s how we grow and ultimately become better bloggers.
  • It reaffirmed just how close-knit and loyal this community is – we clearly have each other’s backs. It amazes me how I feel such a strong connection to girls I’ve never met in person. When I read the article, I really felt as though the reporter was talking about friends of mine, as I know many others did. And what do you do when someone tries to tear down your friends? You get up in their face and you tell them where to go.
  • Despite my personal feelings about the article, many of the discussions amongst bloggers in the after-math are giving me a lot of food for thought (pardon the pun). There are lessons I can take away from this about blogging responsibly and writing – and living –mindfully.

What are your thoughts? And have you expressed them to the folks at Marie Claire?

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