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The “Big Six,” Marie Claire + My Struggle With Disordered Eating

I have been thinking about the article Marie Claire article, The Hunger Diaries, all day, wondering what I could possibly say and why it is that I find myself caring quite so much about the points the article made. As a body image and healthy living blogger, I find the claims made by Katie Drummond interesting, but not surprising. As a person, the debate makes me very anxious, paralyzed as if introducing an opinion in either direction will kill this little blog with an onslaught of negativity.

Instead of politicizing this issue or talking about the claims made in a broad “healthy living blogger” kind of way, the story I want to relate to you is the connection between the “big six” and my disordered eating.

This is not intended to be inflammatory, but it is honest.

When I was a kid, I was fat. I grew up hating my body from before I had adequate language to describe that hatred. And I was desperate to do anything that would save me, save me from myself, save me from my fat. I hung on every word that the thin girls said. I watched what they ate. I watched how the moved. I wrote things down. I studied their movements closely, comparing it to my own and devising plans to bridge the gap – all in the prayers that some day, some how, I would be skinny too.

I read books about people who lost weight. I immersed myself in before and after stories. I researched diets, thought about work out regimes. I took every diet pill that I could get my hands on.

It is not that I was a bad eater either; I was raised very healthy. I grew up knowing all of the advice that the nutritionists spout and healthy living blogger abide by. I ate avocados and spinach and hummus and brown rice. I was also very active – I played on every sport team and practiced every afternoon.

The problems were that I had lost touch with my body’s natural hunger cues somewhere along the way, and that I hated my body. My actions were spurned by desperation and fear, as well as an extreme longing to fit in.

The long story short is – I am predisposed to these emotions. I am a recovering compulsive eater. I am recovering from a life time of mistrust, abuse of control, and parental restriction and shame. I am recovering from sexual trauma, very closely connected with my life-long inability to seek positive attention instead of negative.

I am recovering. I am fragile. But I find my strength in these challenges. Now, they allow me to help others. Now, I am able to work through these issues, because I love myself and I know that I am worth it.

When I came to blogging, I loved all of the girls that this article talks about. I subscribed to their blogs, reading every one of their posts. I plunged head first into the healthy living blogger community, feeling at home in so many ways – but also at odds in many others. These blogs were very difficult for me to read objectively, because it wasn’t long before I found myself gazing on longingly the way that I used to gaze at the popular girls at school, wondering how it was possible that they were SO pretty, SO skinny, SO loved by everyone. Before long, my thought patterns mimicked old behavior, I wanted to emulate their blogs, their meals, their workouts. I judged my body against theirs. I felt badly when I found myself fat and awkward in comparison.

But remember – I am predisposed to these emotions. Do I think that these blogs create disordered eating? No. But I do believe that there are trap-doors surrounding them for girls like me to fall in. Girls like me that are predisposed to falling down and getting locked there, secured by their insecurity. However, I do not hold them responsible for my predispositions.  Do I think these bloggers have eating disorders themselves? I do not think that is something for us to say. While these six bloggers make their lives, their eating habits, their workouts public – I am very aware that your blog, your brand, and your public persona represent only a very small percentage of your life. As a reader of these blogs, I do not believe that an accurate depiction of them has been set forth by this article. They are not perfect, but none of us are. Instead the article seems to target them, tearing them down for their success, instead of discussing the ways in which we, as a community, helped these girls up onto pedestals or promoting fair and honest conversation on the topic.

Should they know better? I do believe that bloggers are role models, but that said, I expect honesty and little else. [I love this post from MizFit about bloggers as role models, as well as the amazing comments that it accumulated.]  I do not allow others to form my opinion, and thus, it matters very little what these girls say on their blogs. I find that the pleasure of reading blogs matters very little in actual information received. Instead, I tend to read the blogs of people that I grow to like as people, but I do not regard them as experts. As bloggers we do have a responsibility to our readers to present ourselves honestly, but as readers we have to pay attention too. Blogs are just like any other media outlet, to be enjoyed but not emulated or idolized.

We have to find a way to dig deep, and make decisions that honor our own personal trajectories, bodies, and lives. We have to be vigilant about the messages that we are receiving about our bodies and how they make us feel. We are not passive receivers of information, we have the ability to think for ourselves, and that is the position that I would like to endorse here.

Some other points of view and responses:

I would love to know what you think.

21 Comments to The “Big Six,” Marie Claire + My Struggle With Disordered Eating

  1. October 4, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Very well written post.. Great point of view.

  2. October 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s important that we read blogs for INSPIRATION and INTEREST and not IMITATION. It’s easy to think that you have to be like ‘them’ . . . I almost fell in that trap. But, I feel much better using my own voice and posting my own life and I think that everyone should do the same :)
    Val @ Balancing Val recently posted..Gloomy Day- Interesting ThoughtsMy Profile

  3. October 4, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking along the same lines as you. I keep wondering when does some of the responsibility cross over to the blogger? Does a blogger with an audience of 100 have to be as careful as a blogger with an audience of 100,000?

    I wonder how many comments are on these girls posts that raise a red flag, where you wonder if the commenter is ok? But with someone without a psychology degree be able to see that?

    I don’t know … I too feel compelled to talk about this. This is a great post, thanks for sharing your thoughts,

    Lisa Johnson recently posted..Marie-Claire Controversy- Fitness Bloggers and Body ImageMy Profile

  4. October 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think I can really add anything to the discussion because you eloquently said exactly what I’ve been feeling since this happened.

    I am also a recovering compulsive over-eater. I rarely discuss it on my blog because it’s not who I am anymore and honestly? I felt like it was obvious. You don’t get to weigh 250 pounds eating in a healthy way. I still struggle years later with those demons but I feel like for the most part I have them under control. I’ve lost the weight, I’ve kept it off, I feel like I have a much better grasp on what healthy is.
    Lisa recently posted..Is It Working YetMy Profile

  5. sui's Gravatar sui
    October 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t read those blogs (blogs just about food + exercise kind of bore me!), but I do read ‘healthy living’ blogs… usually of like-minded (vegan runners who LOVE food!) women whose food creations lead me to spend hours in the kitchen doing what I enjoy– baking/cooking– and women whose running records inspire me to keep on going when I lose belief in myself (and I don’t care if I’m far from running at their pace!).

    When I first read the article, I felt as if I was “supposed” to be angry on the account of these health bloggers, just because I myself have a blog… but I felt inauthentic doing that. The truth is that even though I don’t read those blogs, I do agree with exactly what you’re saying. To someone who is recovering from disordered eating, it is TOO easy to want to emulate these bloggers, since they bare so much of their lives to the world. One could try to eat exactly what they eat, exercise exactly how they exercise… just in the hopes of becoming that person! And that most of these bloggers may not be as self-aware or realize how many people hang on to their every post, how big their influence is on an impressionable, insecure person with an eating disorder.

    The tone of the article, the factual inaccuracies– those are unforgivable, and I think Marie Claire is kind of trying to find ways to criticize the competition (the new media, social media!) as a magazine… and they made very stupid, broad assumptions because they simply did not understand the intentions behind the blogs. It did serve one good purpose, though– bringing this discussion out to light :)

    Love you Mara. ♥
    sui recently posted..happy monday snippets- discover the 1 way to burn fat &amp more!My Profile

  6. October 4, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Awesome, awesome, awesome!
    Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul recently posted..Body Image Revolution – Interview with Sandra Kumskov- Part IIMy Profile

  7. October 4, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Permalink
  8. October 4, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    I <3 you and your honesty. As ViR I can attest to your wonderful ability to share how you know you are predisposed to certain thoughts, behaviors, triggers. I think it is really important to know who you are, in order to seek a healthy recovery at all. So woot on that! I think the responsibility angle is a HUGE talking point. I think it is a really good discussion to have, and think the drama of this Marie Claire thing is overlooking it from the big picture angle. I hope we dont get lost in the words of the article and can see through the clouds that we as bloggers are voices, and it is challenging, and we do our best and in the end we too are always learning.

  9. October 5, 2010 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this post, mara.
    Christie {Honoring Health} recently posted..Poll- Honoring Health EventsMy Profile

  10. October 5, 2010 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read the article. I probably won’t. It’s not because I’m not interested in understanding the source of the controversy, but because it’s an all-too-familiar tactic these days. Tear down under the guise of protecting others. I wish there were better ways for us to have these conversations than to start with “well, so and so is bad”, even if that’s not where we end up.

    More directly to your point, I do think that fitblogs, fashionblogs, and a handful of other types ARE full of trapdoors for the hurt and recovering to fall through. But the authors are (for the most part) not responsible if you do fall. Yes, they have a duty to their readers to not intentionally exploit their pain, but without being conscious of that pain, they can’t know where the pitfalls are. We as an audience in the general sense must make those calls for ourselves. It’s certainly not an easy call to make, especially if we’re not aware of our triggers. But we can’t go around blaming other people for what we choose to read. The internet is full of questionable, hurtful, and manipulative material, but that doesn’t mean that ALL of the blogs we consume are that way.

    I’m not sure if this comment is helpful or if it’s getting my idea across at all. I’m for sure not trying to be a doucherocket; I’m trying to say that individual readers need to take up their end of the stick and be conscious of their own reading habits. It’s not for Marie Claire (or anyone) to point out blogs and say, “They’re bad!” so that we don’t hurt ourselves. It’s up to us to be vigilant about what we are and are not okay with and to act on those preferences.
    Ellie Di recently posted..Saturday Morning IntentionsMy Profile

  11. October 5, 2010 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Argh. “the article” refers to the Marie Claire piece, not your post. I totally read your post and all the comments!
    Ellie Di recently posted..Saturday Morning IntentionsMy Profile

  12. October 5, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Mara, just wanted to chime in and say, WOW, what an amazing post. I think the responsibility falls on both sides for sure (i.e., blogger and reader).

    I also understand where you’re coming from, because I, too, watched the popular, thin girls in school, always wondering how I could measure up, and to an extent, I do the same at times with the healthy living blogs, wondering if I’m working out enough, wondering why my life isn’t as interesting. But, I, too, am predisposed to that.

    Still, as a blogger, it’s so crucial to dig deep and think about the type of message you’re sending, especially when your readership is so large. I hope this article leads to thoughtful self-reflection for the bloggers mentioned, too.

    Thank you for a fantastic, fantastic post!
    Margarita Tartakovsky recently posted..Body Image &amp Weight Loss- What Are You Waiting ForMy Profile

  13. October 5, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Very well said…I read this twice to make sure it all sank in. I think the immediate reaction from the community was to the mean-spirited nature of the article, and I think that reaction is valid.

    But now that some time has passed, I think it’s a good idea to try and start a positive and constructive discussion about the issues raised. Take the bloggers and their personal websites out. What are we *all* doing to be responsible members of the community? I appreciate your honest feedback in this post.
    Katy recently posted..Fitblog- Special AnnoucementMy Profile

  14. October 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    this post said so many of the things that i was thinking about that article & the community’s response too it. thank you for sharing your thoughts!
    steff (steffsays) recently posted..Recipe Time- Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal!My Profile

  15. October 6, 2010 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    I have not read the article and honestly I am curious about it but I do not intend to read it. What I LOVE is the honest and passionate responses it has stirred up! I have read some of the BEST heartfelt posts being generated from this article.

    What stuck out the most for me here is that “I am predisposed to these emotions” YES! I am a member of that club! Most often trying to “fit” in because of those emotions. The catch 22…staying true and honest to recovering from that predisposed notion of myself and letting go of the fitting in and being well liked while learning about who I am. It leaves you raw and stripped, vulnerable…and leaves you naked to the “actions” of others.

    Thank you! thank you! thank you! for this post that grabbed me to my core and REMINDED me of who I am.
    Jules – Big Girl Bombshell recently posted..Baby Steps Only one firstMy Profile

  16. October 8, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I too think your post is thoughtful and informative. I also don’t think there’s one right answer to your question. Bloggers, newspaper reporters, writers at some level have to know they influence people – something to keep in mind in my opinion. That being said, when we are in a state of dark thoughts we can always find something or someone to compare ourselves to that is “better” or “makes us wrong”, so in that way I don’t think a blogger etc. is responsible. In the end, I have to choose what I’m going to read or not.

    Thanks for a wonderful, personal post. Cherry
    Cherry Woodburn recently posted..Are Bro’ Hugs A Sign Of WeaknessPolitics- Masculinity and FemininityMy Profile

  17. October 8, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Here’s my two cents! It would be too much for me to type out ;)
    Dana recently posted..SmorgasbordMy Profile

  18. October 8, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    I just found your blog, and have to say that I absolutely love this post. More than most of the “big issue” responses that I’ve read, I really relate to what you said here, about falling through one of those “trap doors”. I find myself on the verge of this sometimes, and it’s why I’m pretty picky about the blogs that I follow on a regular basis. It can be really hard to give yourself a reality check when it starts! Thank you, and I look forward to reading more.
    Aby @ always.aby recently posted..Hair Junkie Gets Her FixMy Profile

  19. October 9, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Very well said especially on the trapdoors. As some have stated, this might be a way for marie claire to malign the up and coming competition, but on one can’t discount the point that is being made. Bottom line they make a point that is worth bringing forward. Thanks for how this affects you personally!!!
    Ejiro O. recently posted..Scandinavian GymnasticsMy Profile

  20. October 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I meant thanks for sharing how this affects you personally!!! I got a little carried away :)
    Ejiro O. recently posted..Scandinavian GymnasticsMy Profile

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Welcome! I’m Mara.

I’m Mara Glatzel. I’m an intuitive coach and writer. I guide women home to themselves and teach them to create lives brimming with supreme self-care. read more
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