On health blogging, disordered eating, and @marieclaire

For those of you who know me offline, you definitely know that I’m smart, ambitious, organized, driven and riotously funny. You might know that I’m neurotic, grouchy, and a militant feminist. You probably don’t know that when I say I’m fat, I’m not using it as a derogatory word. You definitely don’t know that I’m in no way shape or form ashamed of the way I look, nor that I am desperately trying to work through the hang-ups that the patriarchy has given me in regards to fat women talking about being fat. And I’ve only told two people in the world that I’m freaked out about how easy it is to slide into disordered eating while trying to lose weight and live healthier.

I haven’t been blogging lately. Not because I haven’t been off plan, but because I can’t find my voice. For every post that goes up here, three or four are written, but languish indefinitely before I send them to “DO NOT POST” EverNote hell.

I’m conflicted.

And it’s not just the writing I’m conflicted about. I’m conflicted about how to lose weight without disordered eating.

  • How can I always forgive myself for overeating, but put mechanisms into place that make overeating unpleasant, without obsessing over food?
  • How can I rigorously limit calories and track everything that goes into my mouth, without obsessing over food?
  • How can I force myself to stick to my meal plan, without obsessing over food?
  • How can I reward myself for a job well done, without rewarding myself for disordered eating?
  • How can I severely cut calories after a binge to balance my intake, without sliding into disordered eating?
  • How can I balance integration into Beninese and Expat society here in Cotonou with this lifestyle change, without making a big public stinkin’ deal of my choices? Oh wait, I’m a blogger.

Here’s the thing: I know that I can’t write about losing weight without occasionally sounding like my eating is disordered. Here’s another thing: I don’t give a fuck. There are three ways to get thin and stay thin once you’ve become obese: fanatically pay attention to what you’re eating (whether you’re counting calories, carbs, going paleo, or something else), become a fitness nut, or both.

Guess which method’s the most successful?

Guess which method the “Big 6” used?

Guess which method I’m using?

In this month’s Marie Claire, there’s an article that trashes the “Big 6” of healthy living blogging for promoting and encouraging eating disorders. Even worse, Marie Claire tears these women apart without a trace of irony. Readers can read about the horrors of food blogging eating disorders before flipping three pages to models that represent the extreme of the patriarchy’s idea of what the ideal woman looks like. Ouch.

The interesting conversation here isn’t about responsibility. It isn’t about being a role model. It isn’t even about what people choose to share in public spaces. It’s about a socieity that expects women to be thin and fit and beautiful, but doesn’t want to hear abut the ugly details of getting there. There’s a lot of blame, defensiveness, and anger going around, and rightfully so. Mairie Claire just told those strong and beautiful woman that all the sweat, blood, and tears that they’ve put into meeting an impossible ideal still isn’t good enough, because they didn’t do it the way Marie Claire wants them to.


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