My Thoughts on Marie Claire’s "The Hunger Diaries" & Generally On Blogging about Food and Life and Health and Lifestyle

by Valerie on October 5, 2010 · 7 comments

{this post got tremendously long – if you want to read just my reaction to Marie Claire’s article “The Hunger Diaries” please scroll to the second section of this post, after the introduction. I also encourage you to leave comments should you want to join into the conversation}

Introduction: In recent months, several of you have kindly asked me if I would submit my blog to the Healthy Living Blogs database.  I remember at the time being surprised because I rarely identify with blog niches.  Back in 2007, I started blogging about green beauty because there were few blogs on this topic, and also because it was a blog topic where I could keep my own identity pretty anonymous (my employer at the time had strict anti-social-media policies).  Then in 2008 I was very sick of writing about beauty products, and I wanted my blog to be lighter and fluffier – like a proverbial cupcake. So it was blog makeover time. In fact, I really wanted to write more about lifestyle in general – fashion, beauty, food, creativity and cupcakes.   

Around that time, however, I switched jobs (still within the legal field) and left New York (basically kicking and screaming I should add, though I was really happy to finally live in the same city as my husband since our jobs had not always managed to keep us in the same city. I just wish that city had been New York, but that’s for another day).  So all my fun blog ideas had to be shelved for a while. By the time I was ready to blog more, I discovered that unless I found a gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, vegan cupcake (preferably corn-free too), my life no longer matched the blog concept I had in mind.  Dreams of reading fashion magazines and shopping for new clothes now that I had shed a bunch of weight – well, not so much when you need to cook everything from scratch and have a bunch of doctor’s appointments to examine and reexamine various things.  Learning to live a life where I don’t feel at best mildly eh (and at worst a whole lot worse, as years of various health issues attest to) has really become a job in addition to my job, which is already pretty intense in terms of hours.

Through all of this,  my blog has changed to continue to reflect my life.  And I love to blog – I do it because I enjoy the community it brings, the exchange of ideas, the thoughtful dialogues, the delicious recipes, the yoga poses, the photography, the beautiful collages and journals I see (and which remind me that I really need to pull out my collage supplies).  As for food blogging? I first started reading food blogs when there were only a handful – when Orangette and Chocolate and Zucchini were in their infancy, many years ago.  And when overhauling my diet and learning to live with food intolerances, finding more blogs, whether gluten-free, vegan, or raw, were all super helpful for recipe ideas and for information.  And generally, finding blogs about healthy living was nice from the perspective of having a sense of community.    

My reaction to Marie Claire’s article “The Hunger DiariesThis article, and and its perspective on the Healthy Living Summit and the popular bloggers who put it together: Caitlin, Heather, Meghann, Tina, Jenna and Kath is actually what led me to think about all the things I touched on in my introduction.  I saw a link to the Marie Claire article on twitter yesterday, and read it first, before reading the blogger responses.  I read Kath‘s blog regularly because I like how she incorporates flexitarian meals and talk about her life and beautiful photography.  I don’t read the other blogs mentioned in the article as often, but I loved reading about the Healthy Living Summit on Gena‘s blog (you know how much I love Gena’s Choosing Raw blog) and on Angela‘s blog (I find Oh She Glows tremendously inspiring in how she talks about her recovery from an eating disorder and getting one’s glow back, inside and out).  I read several other bloggers in this space as well.  I was pretty appalled by the article.  I found it tremendously biased and actually cruel to the bloggers the author contacted.

Even before I sought out the responses from the bloggers mentioned in the article, I felt like something was not right – for one I have never ever heard these bloggers refer to themselves or be referred to as the “Big Six” and secondly, the quotes felt out of context.  As for the claim that blogs and events like the Healthy Living Summit promote an unhealthy obsession with food, exercise and weight, my immediate response was “what about magazines, and reality TV, and media around us?”  And then I thought about my own experiences with weight gain, weight loss, exercise and health in general.

I turned 32 yesterday.  My first memory of feeling like my weight was a problem was at age 7, right around my birthday in fact.  But it was not just about weight (which at times was completely normal) – it was about the fact I always felt like everyone else had more energy than I did.  And my relationship with my weight and health and my energy (or lack therefore) has been rocky over the years.  I went from being a very restrictive eater as a teenager to attempting to not let food dictate my life by eating intuitively and really believing in self-acceptance.  Eating intuitively (using an 80% healthy 20% indulgent approach) + various health problems led to me putting on 50 pounds in 5 years, on top of being on the heavy side to begin with.  I remember stepping on the scale and realizing that I had put on the last 20 pounds of those 50 pounds (at least partially as a result of being put on steroids for my sinus problems) and thinking “I am all for self-acceptance, but I am not ok with accepting that much extra weight when I keep having all these health issues.”  And I remember the nurse at my sinus specialist’s office saying “you really don’t look like you weigh what you do – you carry your weight so well” and me staring at her and thinking “it is great she wants me to feel good about myself, but I don’t feel good physically, at all.  What is the point of accepting myself and the extra weight if I have no energy.”  Accepting a weight I don’t love I could do, but accepting that I am “just one of those people who has less energy” (as another doctor put it to me) – no. That I could not do.  I am not talking the energy to run a marathon and my own business – I just wanted enough energy to go to the gym and/or yoga 4 to 5 times a week while having a job and a life. 

This all happened just over two years ago.  Since then I have lost this weight but, more importantly, I have more energy now than I have had in 25 years.  As for what I need to do in order to maintain this energy:

  • Avoid a whole long list of various foods
  • Emphasize a whole other list of foods 
  • Limit eating out 
  • Avoid most processed foods
  • Take supplements
  • Exercise (but not too much) and stay active generally
  • Sleep enough
  • Do yoga
  • Reduce stress
  • Continue to lose weight

This list comes straight out of the plan my doctor and ND put together for me.  And several people have commented “isn’t it sort of extreme?”  Maybe – but it is what I need to do for me.  My point? Health is completely individual.  And, maintaining a life that allows me to feel this much energy also means that I have to be incredibly regimented about it – which is a challenge in and of itself, as I do not want to become obsessive about it.  For example: I have gotten several requests to post pictures of my meals, and while I am loving the lunchbox series and how people keep commenting it is helpful, I would never post a whole day of meals and snacks because it would not work for me and would feel obsessive.  But, just because that’s the case for me does not mean that every food/healthy living blogger is obsessive or that readers who like this content are obsessive. 

What really bothers me about the Marie Claire article is that it fails in two respects:

1. It assumes an absolute definition of healthy.  What someone needs to be healthy is individual. As my story illustrates, the general approach to moderation in diet did not work. Staying healthy is a much more complicated equation for me and for many others and, I have noticed, seems to be that much more complicated for women. 
2. It fails to address legitimate issues (i.e. food guilt, food comparisons, over exercising, eating disorders) and instead writes this tabloid-like piece attempts to pin the cause on specific bloggers and paint them as uninformed/uneducated/bad role models.   

Being healthy can be hard work.  One thing I like about the healthy living blogs is that they acknowledge the challenges and that not everyone is perfect. While I may not be interested or even agree with some of the recommendations I see on these blogs, I also derive tremendous inspiration from seeing other women work hard to feel good physically and mentally.

As for bloggers and responsibility – that’s a whole other blog post.   And this one is too long already, so I invite you to check out the following:

Conclusion: I found the Marie Claire article biased and needlessly portraying certain bloggers to fit a theme they did not fit, but some of the underlying issues it failed to address effectively are indeed relevant and I hope they continue to be discussed.


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sarah (SHU) October 5, 2010 at 9:01 pm

wow – what a thoughtful and detailed response! thank you for taking the time to write it!


2 Apicius\' Apprentice October 5, 2010 at 9:09 pm

There have been so many angry posts about this article, and I must say that it is refreshing to read one that has such a level-headed tone to it.

I don't follow all of those blogs either, but I do understand their outrage. The article was undoubtedly biased and mean spirited.

I love this blog, I love its vibe, and the thing I love most about it is its sensibility. It doesn't seem as caught up in the silliness that I've found elsewhere.

Keep up the great work!


3 Carolyn October 6, 2010 at 12:10 am

Wowza – I am soo behind on this one! Thanks for writing this. I've been looking for healthy living blogs, and these are great!!


4 TheAnalyst October 6, 2010 at 1:07 am

While I have not read any of the blogs mention in Marie Claire, I did enjoy reading their article and your reaction. I have mixed feelings towards the Marie Claire article. First thought that comes to mind is that most fashion magazines, including Marie Claire, portray unhealthy body image through their graphics and selected advertisements. While I don't know if those authors have disordered beliefs when it comes to eating, I can understand the harm of reading food blogs if the reader has disorder beliefs. However, someone with an eating disorder can probably find articles, images, videos, etc. to support their beliefs in many places. So who's at fault? I'm not sure that can be answered in a clear cut fashion. What I would like to see is the fashion magazine industry promote healthy eating in their publications on their own, without attacking others.


5 Rebekah (clarity in creation.) October 6, 2010 at 10:42 am

thank you for your response! i blogged about this after the HLS and got blown up for it, but i think it was worth mentioning. i am dissapointed because the article could have been a useful teaching tool to help others question their true feelins/fears/motives and learn from this, but at least it was brought to our attention one way or the other.

ps – love your blog! i would love to learn more about your transition to allergy-free eating… did you post on this?


6 Tasty Eats At Home October 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Great post! I think your healthy living list and mine are a lot alike. I went down the path of gluten-free eating because of the same primary issue – I lacked energy. And I know, when we hit our 30s that we don't have quite as much energy as we used to, but I refused to believe that I couldn't keep up. I too have a similar list I have to follow, but it works for me! I have energy to work out, energy to do my job, energy to cook when I get home, and energy to enjoy my family and my life. It's unfortunate that a magazine that targets young women would be so narrow-minded in their approach. Of course, what am I saying – they're generally narrow-minded in their approach to more than just diet!


7 Rebekah (clarity in creation.) October 7, 2010 at 12:06 am

I actually did read that little snippet, and instantly commiserated! And I totally understand not wanting to dwell on it – I am still figuring out how to explain to people about being a low-nut, no refined sugar, gluten-free vegan! Eek! Hang in there lovely – at least in heaven we’ll have perfect digestion : )


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