Please Blog Responsibly: “The Hunger Diaries”

by Rachel on October 3, 2010 · 174 comments

If you’ve been on Twitter in the past two hours, you’ve most certainly seen the discussion (uh, outrage) about the article in the November Marie Claire, “The Hunger Diaries.” The article was scanned and linked to by Chelsea at Strawberry Sweat, and I highly recommend you read it. (Updated: Chelsea has removed the article for copyright reasons but it is now online here.)

I think I speak for everyone who has read it when I say, “Holy shit.”

Here are my thoughts…

First, I really feel for the women who were mentioned in the article. (Question: Can anyone own up to ever using the term “Big Six”? This was certainly my first time hearing it.) We’ve all read their blogs, commented, and Tweeted with them. I consider Meghann to be one of my favorite “imaginary friends” and my love for Jenna’s blog is borderline embarrassing. These are women I consider colleagues — perhaps if we weren’t in a virtual world, we’d all be in the same industry. Maybe we wouldn’t all work at the same company, but we’d see them at networking events and know who they are and what it is they do.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to get ripped to shreds like this on such a public level. Can. Not. Imagine. Suddenly, our quiet and happy little blogosphere is in the public eye, and the women we all know and love or just love to hate are subject to the criticism of people we can all basically consider outsiders. I’d be pissed too.

So. We need to talk about the article. Here are my initial thoughts…

1. The article was mean. It was. It hurt reading it, didn’t it? Like I said, this is a quiet and happy blogosphere. We’re expected to be nice. If we disagree with something a blogger posts, we are expected to move right along and not visit again. I think this article struck a nerve because it was written in a way that no blogger — not even us supposedly bitchy loose canon Hollaback girls — would dare write it.

2. Journalists don’t have an obligation to be nice. They just don’t. They do have an obligation to be fair, and whether or not the article was fair is debatable, but as a journalist who used to work at a fashion magazine, I’m going to go ahead and say that journalists cover their asses. No news organization is going to risk a lawsuit. The women in question are quoted in the article (admittedly, probably not in the best context) so we know they were given a chance to respond to these allegations. In that sense, it was fair, and again, that’s all journalists are required to be.

3. It’s really hard to take MC seriously when you flip three pages and see emaciated models. Just sayin’. I don’t think they are any less thinspo than the blogs in question are.

4. A blogger is a brand. We’ve talked about this before and it needs to be said again right now. If you don’t think a blogger is a brand, then you need to look at some of the figures being tossed around in the article. A book deal is no small chunk of change, and neither are Foodbuzz ad rates when you are pulling 10,000 hits a day. And even if you aren’t bringing in money, when you’re writing to people from the point of view of an expert, seeking out readers, and putting your life out there for public consumption, you aren’t much different from a reality TV star, even if you think no one is watching. You have to take responsibility for what you post.

5. Whether it was nice or whether it was fair it was something that needed to be said. It did. I know a lot of people will disagree with me here, but it did. We’ve started the discussion on eating disorders and “everything in moderation” on Hollaback, but I’ll be honest — we danced around it because we knew that we’d be crucified for making some of the same points that MC did. (And judging from how upset everyone is, we would have been.)

The thing was, it helped that Marie Claire didn’t have to be nice, because they could say things none of us could say, but most of us have thought, without the fear of being totally ostracized. This was a discussion that needed to be had. And I think the huge food companies that are choosing which women endorse their products are certainly going to walk away with some new information.

6. Are we a community of the blind leading the blind? One thing that I did appreciate is that this article was coming from an outsider. When you take away what we know about these women, and just look at them as a set of behaviors or “symptoms,” it’s a lot easier to see the problems. If you were presented with a list of behaviors and asked, “Does this sound like disordered eating to you?” you’d probably say yes. Pouring salt on food, eating really low calories, only indulging in treats when one has “earned” them through some very serious exercise, and experiencing amenorrhea…these are standard warning signs. But maybe we’re just too in it to see it when we read it, or if we do it ourselves.

7. I recognize that we don’t see the entire picture. As readers, we don’t know what you really eat or how hard you’re really working out. We don’t know if you’re going to bed hungry and starving yourself. But we do see what the MC writer saw, and what the dietitian they quoted saw, so we are potentially seeing some not-so-great stuff. But this is also a really good reason why just posting your food journal and race photos is risky business. Not only is it boring, but the potential for misinterpretation is huge. Maybe I’m misinterpreting, but when I see women eating vegetables all week just to binge on wine and chocolate on the weekends of a big race and call it “moderation,” yeah…I get a little concerned.

8. Blogging about your food and exercise does affect how you eat and exercise. Maybe it’s a good thing, maybe it keeps you motivated. But it can also lead to feelings of guilt and shame and “What will people think if I post this?”

9. This isn’t just about the “Big Six.” This is about all of us. It’s about the little blogger next door with ten readers. All of us. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if one of us struggles, we all do. And if the most well-known of us lose credibility, then we all do.

10. Just because you have loyal readers doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop and think. I know negative comments hurt. Believe me, I know. And I know that this article probably won’t hurt anyone’s readership…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

I think this whole article brings up what I consider to be two problems in our community.

First, we clearly don’t hold each other responsible. We operate in a community with no rules, no checks and balances. So much of it is a popularity contest, and shit that needs to be said can’t be said because feelings will get hurt or the person speaking up will just get torn a new one. And that is why I started Hollaback — I wanted a place where we could create standards, where we could talk about these things, and where we could come up with solutions. Maybe if we had done a better job of that, this article wouldn’t have been written in the first place.

Second, this is why it matters. When I started Hollaback, everyone got all, “Who cares how you blog?” Well, because apparently, major news organizations care how you blog. Your agent cares how you blog. The companies paying you through sweet swag, travel, and endorsements care how you blog. I care how you blog. You should care how you blog. Your blog just isn’t some thing you do for fun; it has real implications, especially when it’s a source of income. If you just post whatever you feel like with no sense of how it’s going to be perceived — and no regard for the people who take what you’re saying as the gospel truth, because, the sad fact is, some people do not have common sense — you’re going to be vulnerable to criticism at some point.

Now…where do we go from here?

Disregarding how much it hurts to have our friends attacked, let’s talk about what we can do, as bloggers, about the undeniable issues that this article has presented us with. Let’s not spend our energy on writing angry e-mails to Marie Claire; let’s spend that energy talking about how to be part of the solution.

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Brie @ Brie Fit October 4, 2010 at 12:00 am

My favorite was how I turned two pages after that article and saw an ad for cigarettes. Way to go, Marie Claire.
Brie @ Brie Fit´s last post ..Twitchy

Ashlyn October 4, 2010 at 12:05 am

I completely agree with you on number 5. While it is sad and cruel, it needed to be said. I lost a ton of weight from reading THESE GIRLS blogs. Yes, it was their blogs I read. I don’t read many others. I think that a lot of them run too much for the amount they eat, if that makes sense, and a lot of them do look way too skinny. I think it’s easy to generalize here, but i’m mainly talking about 2 of the bloggers mentioned.

I’m sorry if this isn’t nice, and I think there IS a lot of good in this community, but I also there there can be a lot of obsessiveness and disordered thoughts. When you run 20 miles, you can eat whatever the heck you want and not worry about “controlling yourself” or ordering pizza without cheese (unless you are vegan, which is a totally different story). I hate to see the 2 bloggers i’m talking about (names won’t be mentioned) train for marathons and barely eat enough for a sedentary person. On the flip side, there is a lot of good they blog about, too.

Thanks for writing this post. It needed to be discussed, and i’m glad you brought it up.

Megan (The Runner's Kitchen) October 4, 2010 at 12:05 am

Excellent response to the article! I agree that MC did not paint the bloggers in a flattering light, but that’s a risk people take when they put their lives on display. The job of a reporter is to ask hard questions and investigate what’s really going on. Readers who write questioning or negative comments often receive a backlash or worse yet, their words are deleted. This has bothered me for awhile. Sure, it sucks to receive mean or negative comments, but you know what? Sometimes we NEED to see them, to bring ourselves back to reality. I love being part of the healthy living blog community, but we can’t pretend that it’s a utopia. I think it’s important to hear opposing viewpoints, if only to strengthen our own.

Mary (A Merry Life) October 4, 2010 at 12:07 am

Agreed on all points. As much as the article felt mean and like an attack, it did raise some good points abou food blogs and the community as a whole which are generally things that some bloggers occasionally bring up but get pushed out as “haters” or something. Maybe this will be a chance for real discussion?

Dori October 4, 2010 at 12:10 am

So well said and eloquent, Rach. I agree with every point you made and I think this article opened the door for discussion of the issues. It is hard not to compare ourselves to the blogs we read — I know my own idea of what a normal portion size is has become warped over the last couple of years. I hope this leads to a solution.
Dori´s last post ..What I’m Doing Wrong

Robin October 4, 2010 at 12:10 am

I actually agree with this article and feel that a couple of these bloggers DO have disordered eating and compulsive exercise problems. They are obviously in denial about it, but it’s pretty obvious by the amount they eat, or don’t eat!!! They also put a ton of restrictions on what they can and cannot eat, and run/work out SO much. It isn’t a healthy example to over-exercise and under eat. Just sayin….

Ashley October 4, 2010 at 12:12 am

As a reporter and a blogger, I think Katie Drummond did an excellent job. I think you summed it up perfectly, Rachel:

“The thing was, it helped that Marie Claire didn’t have to be nice, because they could say things none of us could say, but most of us have thought, without the fear of being totally ostracized. This was a discussion that needed to be had. And I think the huge food companies that are choosing which women endorse their products are certainly going to walk away with some new information.”

I used to read some of these blogs, and I stopped because they were just unreal, with what they claim to eat and the ridiculous mileage they rack up.

Of the whole story, what I found most unsetting was Caitlin Boyle’s quote that obese Americans could “learn something” from her blog. Give me a break. You’re going to give an obese person a plate full of roasted veggies and BBQ sauce for dinner and expected them to be satisfied? WHO would be satisfied with that?
Ashley´s last post ..Re-thinking running

Eunice October 4, 2010 at 12:14 am

When I started reading food/health blogs I honestly thought, “wtf!?”. It was strange to me that people would photograph their food and log their exercise on a public forum. To an outside person, hell yea it’s weird! However, I kept reading and found that the “big six” and other blogs that I was introduced to through them offered valuable information. Many of these women encouraged me to make goals for myself that I didn’t think were possible. Through them, I met people that I know consider friends even though we’ve never met. I think it’s horrible that they were attacked, but I agree with #5. This definitely needed to be said.

I honestly don’t know where to start in addressing the obvious issues that exist within in this community. When you see someone who seems to be exhibiting “obsessive” behaviors, how do you approach them? Do you even approach them at all? Like you said, we don’t see the whole picture. It’s a tough issue and I hope this article brings about discussion that will help to make us all more credible and that can help women who are using blogging to reinforce unhealthy habits.
Eunice´s last post ..Eunice Does Austin

heather October 4, 2010 at 12:23 am

i respect this.
and i agree with 90%.


thank you for posting.
heather´s last post ..Now What

Katie October 4, 2010 at 12:28 am

Great post Rachel. Wow this article has me seriously considering the true impact of these blogs and the fact that while I like reading them, there are some issues. In fact my husband and I were just talking and he knew I read these blogs but didn’t know much about them. As I was explaining the article and the blogs, etc. he asked me one of those questions that really resonated. “Aren’t they presenting themselves as experts?” Hmm… thinking about it from this perspective I have to wonder if I’m truly doing myself a disservice focusing in on how someone else eats and exercise, particularly in the three a day style. Are there some assumptions I make that this way is “best”? Many blogs, Rachel’s comes to mind, aren’t focused on I ate this, and then this, and then this but not that so I think there’s a middle ground. Lots to think about for sure and I think self reflection and awareness is never a bad thing.

Midgetkeeper October 4, 2010 at 12:29 am

Excellent points Rachel. I hate how mean this article was but like you said this is something that does need to be discussed. I know I stopped reading several of these blogs because of some things expressed in t his article and it just wasn’t something I could support.

I love the community and I hope this brings awareness and discussion of blogging responsibly like you said.
Midgetkeeper´s last post ..The Difference Between Boys and Girls

Caitlin Boyle October 4, 2010 at 12:29 am

I would like to say that I am disgusted with the article because nearly every quote in it was taken out of context. It was not well-reported at all.

Jenny October 4, 2010 at 12:31 am

Thank you for posting this.

I honestly agree with the points made, especially about bloggers’ responsibility. I think it’s very easy to get self-focused when you’re writing about your own life (duh!), so maybe it’s good to have a reason to step back and take a look at things.

Plain and simple: the MC article was mean, but from the perspective of an outsider, I think it clearly made some points that should be addressed.
Jenny´s last post ..The Joy of Giving

Heather October 4, 2010 at 12:37 am

You summarized the article well. I stopped reading some of these blogs a while back because I felt like they weren’t realistic for my lifestyle. I’m glad there are bloggers like you who indulge in white chocolate cupcakes while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Kristine October 4, 2010 at 12:38 am

I know that there is definitely a social comparison trap that it’s hard not to get stuck in when reading these blogs. It’s hard to see girls eat way less than you eat and run way more. For me, I was considered underweight and needed to gain weight, and I was eating more than some of these bloggers and running less. It was hard for me to read their blogs. I also think that they are SO cautious about what they eat to the point of disordered eating and compulsive exercising. I think that this article is actually going to be good for this community. I think a more realistic approach should be administered in this blogging world. I think we should start a TRULY healthy blogging community, where full-fat ice cream isn’t a bad guy and exercise isn’t mandatory!

Morgan @ Life After Bagels October 4, 2010 at 12:39 am

Well said … let’s be part of the solution!

Jennifer@knackfornutrition October 4, 2010 at 12:39 am

I honestly don’t know what I think anymore. You definitely make several valid points in this post, but I can’t imagine why someone would hold something that is meant to be personal as their own. Admittedly, we can and have all learned a lot from each other in this community. But if you are not listening to your own body and what works for you then I think that is your own problem and should not be the responsibility of a blogger who you have most likely never met.
I’m really curious to hear from the “Big Six.” (who the eff uses that expression?!) Clearly, they were contacted about this article. I’m sure what they were quoted as saying was taken out of context, but they were notified that this was going to be published.
Enough of my rambling for now. I think you did a thorough enough analysis for both of us. :)
Jennifer@knackfornutrition´s last post ..Learning from the Long Run

Marci October 4, 2010 at 12:44 am

I responded on my blog too. I think it wasn’t researched well, was one-sided, and had no good takeaway. Interesting to see what an outsider thinks, but the quoted weren’t in context so it’s not accurate.

Kristen October 4, 2010 at 12:45 am

Well done, Rachel! As I said when this issue “broke” on Twitter, there are two sides to every story, and this article doesn’t give adequate weight to the positive impact that health blogs can have on their faithful readers.

With that said, as someone who has battled EDs in the past, there are both troubling and triggering posts that have popped-up among members of “The Big Six.” Would I call them “thinspiration?” Absolutely not, because “true” thinspo blogs don’t have any qualms about being in-your-face about their purpose. Regardless, it’s hard for me not to cringe when someone posts about dousing their extra treats in salt or rubber-banding their cookie tin to prevent “over-indulging.” That? Is not a healthy relationship with food. And when I have to stop reading your blog because I feel like it is going to push me into the throes of disordered eating? Something is wrong.

Maybe this is the wake-up call our community needs to stop being such a bunch of ass-kissers and to get realistic about what is being posted. But how do we go about doing that without seeming insensitive, or without essentially becoming the eating disorder police? That? I’m not so sure about.
Kristen´s last post ..Sunday Funday- I Might Actually be “a Runner”

Kitty October 4, 2010 at 12:55 am

Thank you, Rachel, for being rational and prompting people to see the situation from both sides. This speaks the most to me:

“[…]maybe we’re just too in it to see it when we read it, or if we do it ourselves.”

Lindsey @ SoundEats October 4, 2010 at 1:22 am

Well said, Rachel. I respect what you had to say here. I do think the MC article was rather unfortunate, and felt terrible for the “Big Six” (note: I can’t stand this term!). I do think a lot of quotes MC pulled were taken out of context, and just to note, I felt especially bad for Jenna, as she wasn’t at HLS and doesn’t even blog in that style anymore and still got ripped to shreds. Ridiculous.

Truthfully, some of the points the author brought up, I’ve wondered myself and think there is some truth there. But, the two biggest things I took out of it are this: 1. everyone has bad days. No one is perfect. We all have days where we do more exercise or we just aren’t hungry. Wouldn’t the “unhealthy” thing to do be to cram food down our throats if we’re just not hungry? Diets are such a personal thing, which is what makes diary style food blogs so captivating and so controversial. 2. I do think my eyes were opened a bit. I think what started as innocent, fun blogs for some have turned into professional careers. While that’s commendable, and heck – something I think many of us would love, I thought it an interesting point that only one of these bloggers has a solid foundation in nutrition education (and to my knowledge, none are personal trainers, sports therapists, physical therapists, etc.). I think with popularity comes power, and while they all have personal experience, I think readers have pressured some bloggers into giving more “professional” type advice. Does that make sense? Anyway, that was a bit of an interesting wake up call for me. Nothing separates them from me education-wise besides the fact they get a lot more hits on their blog. Interesting!

Maggie October 4, 2010 at 1:22 am

Being a long-time reader of all of the “big six” (what a ridiculous term!) blogs I was pretty disgusted by the Marie Claire article.

To me this boils down to the basic American value of no one wanting to take responsibility for their own actions. The only thing that causes you to lose weight or make unhealthy decisions is YOU. Reading blogs doesn’t cause you to lose weight (I think most of us would be emaciated if that were true!).

If you read healthy living blogs and then make your eating and exercising choices photocopies of the bloggers’ choices that’s your decision; the bloggers shouldn’t be blamed for your stupidity and lack of appropriate decision-making ability.

Are there unhealthy “healthy living” blogs? Of course there are, but they’re blogs, they’re not medical studies or the word of god that people should look to for how to live their lives.

sarah October 4, 2010 at 1:31 am

It wasn’t a very nice article. It also wasn’t entirely untrue. But my biggest takeaway, after reading it? No one’s…gonna…care. If I weren’t already semi-entrenched in the blogging community, I would pass right over the article, or read it and completely misunderstand/be confused by it. The story drums up conflict in this niche sector of the Internet, but I wonder how much the average Marie Claire reader really cares? Unless you are the stereotypical 18-to-28, upper-middle-class, college-educated, fitness-oriented reader that flocks to blogs in the first place, I don’t know that you would give the story much thought.

That said, there is a lot of mutual masturbation (said in the nicest possible way) in the blog world. Throwing in some not-nice content might mix it up. But, hoooo billy, am I glad my name wasn’t mentioned.

Morgan October 4, 2010 at 1:41 am

Well said!
I do think MC is targeted towards a different group of women, but your points are all valid. This really is a community without any rules, and I don’t believe that we see all that is going on behind the scenes of these “Big Six” (how ridiculous is that) blogs, and all of the other thousands of blogs out there. To blast these women for sharing their lives, based solely on what is posted on the internet is ridiculous and cruel.
However, I do think there may be some validity to the article. Several things were said that I have thought myself, but again you can’t know the whole story just based on what’s written online.

Meredith @ An Epic Change October 4, 2010 at 1:43 am

I agree with Rach. I think the article was mean and spiteful and hurtful, but these are all things some of us have thought for a long time. I hate that the bloggers were called out so publicly, but I think it certainly needed to be addressed. I was just having a conversation with a fellow blogger last night about how people try to mimic the lifestyles of the big bloggers (I admit I did when I first started out!) and it is unrealistic. They show lifestyles that aren’t practical. Who really runs a 15 mile training run at 4:30am while on a business trip?

I think the things said needed to be said, but I feel bad about the bloggers being called out like this. Especially Jenna, who isn’t even really part of that realm anymore… she has changed her style and differentiated herself and certainly shouldn’t be lumped in with the bloggers showing impossible and unrealistic exercise and food routines.

So I agree with Rach and support her writing this response 100%. Rock on fellow Hollaback girls :)
Meredith @ An Epic Change´s last post ..mental health day

Rachel October 4, 2010 at 2:03 am

Well said Rachel! Thanks for writing an honest, open-minded analysis and speaking your mind. I agree with all your points, and agree that there are two sides to this article. While it may not have been “nice” it was a magazine feature…and it stated the facts. I’m sure some things were a tad exaggerated, but this is something that needed to be brought up.

When I was in college, I was unhealthy mentally regarding my weight and diet. I’d write down every damn thing I ate in a journal, and think about food all day. Now that I don’t I feel so much happier, healthier and at ease. Obsession over food can be unhealthy and exhausting.

Now I write about holistic health and living a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising for your mind and body and being happy. A lot of women forget that being healthy is more than just the food you put in your mouth and the amount of miles you run per day. It’s a whole array of things!
Rachel´s last post ..More Protein- Please- Keep These Nifty 9 in Your House!

Triz October 4, 2010 at 2:07 am

First of all, MC needs to read YOUR blog. I come away from some of your posts wanting to eat delicious food, and other times inspired to take up something new (like core fusion).

Second, I thought they were weirdly conflating two different things: running to lose weight and running because you are training for a race, especially something like a marathon that requires long-term commitment and discipline. OF COURSE you are going to be devastated if an injury throws off your training schedule in that situation! And wrapping your feet etc is the kind of thing every serious runner does at some point. Is MC now going to take on, say, the Runner’s World site? They watch their calories and nutrition pretty carefully there as well. I wonder how much of that article was based on the assumption that, for young women, working out hard and carefully watching what they eat HAS to be related to how they want to look, not what they want to achieve in sport.

Colleen October 4, 2010 at 2:20 am

I felt like this was a very fair post and I’m glad you didn’t just side with the health bloggers for convenience’s sake.

I think it’s interesting, because the reason I stopped reading the blogs mentioned was because I thought, “That’s too extreme for what I’m interested in; I don’t know if I’ll ever even come close to where they’re at.” And it kind of made me feel bad, like I want to be healthy but not THAT healthy.

It didn’t even occur to me that it might be because some of the ideas they were touting were disordered and I wasn’t comfortable with them. I wonder if that’s part of the community, as you were saying — instead of seeing the “Big Six” as fringe areas of the healthy eating community, we see them as “super healthy.” Something to aspire to.

I don’t know how accurate the article is, and I kind of wish it had been online so they could have directly linked to some of the examples they were using, but it did open my eyes to be more cautious about the information I’m taking in as a blog reader.
Colleen´s last post ..4 Ways to be More Happy

highonhealthy October 4, 2010 at 2:24 am

I’ve never bothered reading those blogs as they’ve never interested me but I have definitely visited other popular “healthy living” blogs that I had to stop reading because they triggered my ED. Yes, the article was mean but I’m glad it was written because it’s forcing bloggers to open their eyes. There are so many bloggers out there that come off as being healthy when their eating and exercising habits are anything but that.

I won’t name names but there was one blog in particular that I couldn’t read because everything about her screamed ED but no one seemed to notice. When you’re losing weight and your CHEST bones are starting to show through, something’s wrong. But like I said, no one seemed to notice and she even got compliments about how great she looked.

Thank you for the great post, Rachel! YOU are a true healthy living blogger.

hempOD October 4, 2010 at 2:27 am

Not a blogger, just an avid reader/ fan. I’ll tell you what…I really love your writing rachel. You’re great at seeing all sides, expressing your thoughts intelligently, and you’re funny. Great points!

zenlizzie October 4, 2010 at 3:08 am

I agree with a lot of what you have written, but I disagree that this is good journalism. As a former journalism professional (and still kind of a journalism nerd), sure she covered her bases by grabbing quotes and examples, but she really just perfected parachute journalism by dropping into a world she doesn’t really understand, grabbing a few quotes from some experts who aren’t directly related, making sweeping conclusions and then publishing. She didn’t have the be nice, but she does need to do her research before applying her opinion to a community of thousands of individuals.

There is a LOT of room for criticism and questioning in the HL blog community, but the writer showed that she doesn’t “get” it. I have a lot more respect for criticism from sites like HBH and other blogger-based outlets because there is more perspective.

It really seems clear that she had an agenda in mind before she started. It is lazy journalism, the “Fox News” style of shaping your sources to back up your initial opinion. By not being really informed, she missed an opportunity to address real issues.

It is easy to pick on the bigger bloggers, but I’ve read smaller bloggers and found more ED-related behaviors and triggers. They got up in arms when people questioned their behavior, and everyone defended them. Maybe it was because they haven’t written a book or been “the face of food blogging,” but popular bloggers aren’t the only ones who aren’t questioned in this community.
zenlizzie´s last post ..How my make up 5k turned into an almost 6k

Chelsea @ Strawberry Sweat October 4, 2010 at 3:08 am

Hey Rachel! Just an FYI, the article is in the November issue (weird that it was sent out already, but the spine of the issue says “November 2010” and it has Victoria Beckham on the front). Also, you can no longer find the article on my blog. I took it down for potential copyright reasons, although I have emailed both the Editor in Chief and the Web Editor asking them to allow readers to see it on the link they have in the article (apparently the site is not active yet). Great response–I agree that there are behaviors we should not endorse as a healthy living community, though I don’t think that the article’s way of trying to brand these girls with eating/exercise disorders was warranted.
Chelsea @ Strawberry Sweat´s last post ..Cat Nap

Hollaback October 4, 2010 at 3:11 am

Duly noted! Thanks!!

Bess October 4, 2010 at 3:11 am

As always, thank you Rachel, for taking a stance that is well thought out, considerate, yet urges us to think about a reasonable solution.

There’s no denying that this article was mean, likely taken out of contest and I wholeheartedly agree with others who mentioned that Jenna should not be lumped into this category.

However, that said, I couldn’t agree more with Rachel’s remark that “Whether it was nice or whether it was fair it was something that needed to be said. “…had I known of these blogs when I was in the throes of a crippling ED, they would have most definitely had a horrific impact on my physical health and emotional well being.

While I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like for the “Big Six” to see their exercise, meals and comments dissected (and potentially quoted out of context), because these women have so many followers and are given a great deal of perks/visibility from huge corporations, I think the whistle needed to be blown.

I am very curious to hear the rebuttals from each of the women featured. If they are smart, no matter how much they feel they may have been misrepresented, they will own up to some of their foibles and be incredibly cognizant of how the information they choose to share is perceived by others.
Bess´s last post ..Would You Like Chickpeas On Your Chickpeas

kate October 4, 2010 at 3:15 am

Amen. I think you are right about the standards we set. And I cant wait to read every single one of these comments!

Robyn October 4, 2010 at 3:17 am

I really felt for the young women blasted in this article. These are women who are really trying to be advocates for health and wellness. I feel that while many look up to these gals for their advice, there is something to be said for knowing that they aren’t doctors and they’re not going to get “healthy living” right 100% of the time. We are all prone to overdoing it, to getting distracted by our goals and not seeing some of the errors in our thinking and practice. Though some of the information about ‘snack sabotaging’ is very concerning, I really would like to believe that this article was angled and sensationalized to compound its message. I’m pretty new in the blogosphere, but I really hope that the dialogue will start flowing and we can encourage one another and express concern when fellow blog-friends maybe aren’t taking care of themselves as well as they could be. We’re all human, we’re all subject to the trip-ups that come along with that — and I’m very much in agreement with points 3 and 7. While bloggers should always be mindful of the message they’re sending and how the brief glimpses of their life that readers see may be interpreted, for MC to call these women unhealthy and promoting disordered behavior is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, I think.

Just my two cents . . . :) I look forward to the coming week and lots of healthy, happy posts to read and comment on.
Robyn´s last post ..Options

Bess October 4, 2010 at 3:17 am

I hit send too soon…wanted to add that the irony of this article being published in a magazine with Victoria Beckham on the cover and ads with emaciated models should NOT BE LOST on any of us…but in the words of the old adage, “don’t kill the messenger”.
Bess´s last post ..Would You Like Chickpeas On Your Chickpeas

Laura Georgina October 4, 2010 at 3:41 am

This is such a great response–and from the deluge of comments, it’s obviously something a lot of us out there feel strongly about!

I think it’s a shame that the article is written in such a snarky way and that the sources were manipulated and decontextualized as I’m sure they would have been. Had this been addressed in a different way, I think a general Marie Claire reader would be more likely to get a real pic of what actually goes on in some large blogs (and in all the rest of the blogs out there)…

Which is not in any way to say that these aren’t things that needed to be discussed, and ASAP. I know my perception of food and healthy living has been changed by what I read–and I’m older than a lot of other bloggers and stubborn and maybe not as impressionable (anymore!) as a lot of women I know, as far as weight and nutrition goes. Maybe it’s normal for A person to get amenorrhea while training for a marathon–but for most, I’d assume it ISN’T. These are the kinds of messages we all need to be very careful about transmitting to our readers. We need to keep our eyes open, and this article is certainly a call to pull back a bit and look at what we do, read, and condone.

(As for the writer… I’m not sure how impartial she can be. I ran across her a year or so ago because she writes (not sure if she does anymore!) a column on True/Slant about… extreme workouts and health! And she admits to having experienced eating disorders in the past, if I remember correctly.)
Laura Georgina´s last post ..Foodie Fix- Tropical Strawberry Smoothie

maria @ Chasing the Now October 4, 2010 at 4:02 am

As a former journalist, I agree with Zen Lizzie. Sure, she covered her ass, but she also told half of the story. I’m not sure what they are teaching in journalism courses across the country, but the last time I checked a good article was unbiased and didn’t strategically place quotes to make a point… let the quotes speak for themselves, in the correct context.
maria @ Chasing the Now´s last post ..Sunday grocery haul

Caroline October 4, 2010 at 4:20 am

I think it’s great that you are creating a space to discuss these topics – I’m glad Caitlin stopped by, but I hope that she adds more to the mix than simply that she’s disgusted. As a reader, I am also disgusted with the Marie Claire article. As soon as I read “Big Six” I was basically done. I also felt that they read/interpreted blog entries out of context and may have also used quotes out of context.

I was disappointed that all six were grouped together, as if all offenders. Like others have mentioned, Jenna has changed her format. MC seemed so accusatory in saying Jenna clearly knows readers with ED are at her site and therefore she must remind them she is not an expert – isn’t that the responsible move on Jenna’s part?!? Also, Caitlin does tag posts that could be potential triggers for people suffering.

There has to be some level of personal responsibility on the part of readers, and that was lacking in this article. I hope that that the slant of the article does not deter from the topics at hand, which I think you have done an excellent job of pointing out Rachel. I am aware of all six of these blogs, but read only 3. There are several “healthy living blogs” that I stopped reading after only a few days because it seemed as though they were trying to emulate these more popular bloggers and it was painfully obvious some of these girls had destructive tendencies. Do I think the “Big Six” are to blame? No. As readers we’ve allowed the success of these six bloggers and the unhealthy habits we see throughout out community should not come as a surprise.

D October 4, 2010 at 4:37 am

I am SO glad you wrote about this, I think the whole issue of disordered habits (not necessarily just the article) needed to be discussed in the “healthy living blog world”…

I think every story has two sides, and I really hope that the accusations in the article are dealt with honestly and sincerely by the bloggers mentioned. I read all 6 of those blogs, and, generally, enjoy them all. I read daily, comment occasionally, and like following up on their stories. However, I don’t agree with everything I encounter in life, even regarding things I like, so I think it’s only normal that there’s things about each of those blogs that I dislike. I think you can’t really mention those things in the comments for getting torn apart (but that’s another topic…), but I believen you can enjoy a blog but not agree with every word or behavior.

I think the tone and style of the article was outrageous. The writing was poor, the quotes awkwardly placed, and the whole thing was so blatantly one-sided that I’m surprised they published it. Quite frankly, the article was a travesty.


Can we acknowledge that the people getting upset about it…are readers of healthy living blogs?!?!?! And many are writers of these blogs too! Hello, tunnel vision! I think everyone should step back and look at this as objectively as possible. Can they truly say that, to an outsider, these blogs wouldn’t appear disordered? Yes, maybe you read every day for years and can see that this individual leads a healthy life. But if you read for a day? Week? Month? Are there tell-tale signs occasionally? Suggestive comments? Yes, I think so.

But I also don’t think it’s fair to even put all 6 of those bloggers in the same category, because they don’t all exhibit the same tendencies. One of the bloggers mentioned has admitted to struggling with binge eating, physically seals dessert containers, and covers up suggestions of out of control eating episodes with cutesy blushing emoticons. To me, that is NOT a good example of healthy living. Why? Not because she does those things – but because she doesn’t own up to them. And I believe that is a characteristic of a lot of blogs – not just those 6. We all like to fit in our jeans, and we ALL have doubts when going for a second, third of fourth piece of cake. Or when a restaurant meal is drowning in butter. Or WHATEVER! And I think it’s totally ok. But I think it’s misleading and questionable when bloggers don’t admit to caring about their weight, size, etc. No, these numbers don’t mean you suck as a person. But to tell me that you photograph every morsel of food, yet you don’t think about your weight? I don’t believe it. I think you can have a healthy relationship with food, but still have some quirks or “issues”.

On the other hand, I think that a lot of criticism of healthy living blogs comes from a jealous place. I believe that the majority of criticism is well-founded and something that I usually agree with, but I think a lot of backlash is suspicious. For example, I’ve read a TON of people who say that someone who “runs 15 miles then goes to the farmers market then cooks a healthy dinner…etc” must be “crazy”. Why? Because that person doing the criticizing wouldn’t find that enjoyable? If that blogger said “Ugh, I FORCED myself to run 15 miles then burn off some more calories at the market”, then yes, that is crazy and disordered. But believe it or not, some people ENJOY those types of activities, and we don’t need to put them down for it. Some things are suspicous and possibly unhealthy, but I think that commenters and fellow bloggers need to be careful when distinguishing between unhealthy behaviors that they are witnessing, as opposed to just simply things that we wouldn’t do ourselves.

All in all, I think that it will be very, very interesting to read the fallout from this article on all the major blogs. Thanks for writing this!

Lish October 4, 2010 at 7:38 am

I first started reading “the big six” (um, never ever heard them referred to by that name, MC) after discovering Meghann’s blog. I wish I could remember how I discovered her blog, but I know it was in the fall of 2009 after I became unemployed and spent a LOT of time online. Anyway, there was something about her style of writing that made me feel like… I was right there, I guess you could say. Like, I was sitting in the chair opposite her at a meal.

Like I said, I found her blog while unemployed and in a general funk. Although I’ve been overweight my entire life, unemployment was a gateway for me to adopt even more very bad food and lifestyle habits. I’d stay up until 3 AM watching TV or surfing the net, sleep until around noon or 1 PM the next day, and then immediately wake up and scarf down whatever was most convenient since I was absolutely starving. Then I’d sit around all day watching TV and sending my resume out online, usually snacking the whole time. I’d eat dinner at around 6 and then since I was staying up so late, I’d usually eat another meal (usually a sandwich), around midnight or 1 AM because I was starving again. Until the interviews started rolling in, I never realized what a slippery slope I’d fallen down, because when I put my dress clothes on again for the first time in almost three months, my pants were tight and everything felt… constricted. That’s when I actually bought a scale and was horrified to find that I’d gained almost 20 lbs.

It was actually through reading Meghann’s blog that I actually realized how much more active and disciplined I had been when I had a job. I remember when the imaginary light bulb went off because in my head I thought, ‘I can’t believe she gets up that early and isn’t dead tired by 2 PM.’ Then I realized that I used to get up at 6 every morning and go to bed every evening at 9 PM and… never felt as tired as I did right then after sleeping almost 10 hours. I know this seems stupid not to realize before, but when you’re working, you’re always thinking, “man, if I didn’t have a job I could ____” and making so many plans in your head, but when it actually happens, it’s not like that at all. Why go to bed at 9 PM? I don’t have to be at work the next morning! I can stay up as late as I want.

By simply realizing how stupid I was being with my sleep pattern, I was able to easily lose 6lbs the first week because I was back to eating on a normal schedule. And also, another thing I realized while unemployed and through reading her blog, I drank a LOT more water while working. I’m not sure if it was the a/c system or dry air in our building, but I’d easily drink 4 or 5 of my aluminum bottles a day. I’d rarely have a soda during the working hours and realized I’d been neglecting my appropriate water intake in favor of soda.

Through reading blogs I’ve also started eating breakfast. I always skipped breakfast because eating anything before 9 AM make me nauseated for some reason and I usually don’t get hungry until around 10 AM. I discovered that I was able to drink half a smoothie early in the morning without feeling sick and then started eating a snack to hold me until lunch at around 10 AM. I never realized how important snacks were until I started reading the various blogs. Yes, you always hear about eating mini meals and healthy snacks, but I could only two people at my last job who actually did that. I started incorporating a fiber-rich snack into my afternoons and no longer felt the need to just eat whatever was quickest at dinnertime.

I’ve discovered many new foods and recipes through these blogs and adopted many new and healthy (I believe) lifestyle changes. With being overweight my whole life, I know one thing is absolutely true: dieting IS hard. What I’ve learned through reading these blogs: living a healthy lifestyle IS easy.

Am I still overweight? Yes. But by realizing my mistakes through these blogs, I saw how truly easy it would be to implement changes in my life to work towards living a healthier life.

With that said, do I always agree with their posts? No. I’ve often thought that many of them do eat too few calories for the amount of miles they run each week. I’ve tried some of their recipes and thought they were crazy to have raved about it in a blog post. I’ve sighed and thought about how annoying it is to go to lunch with a friend who orders a salad and then eats half the food off my plate and wondered if any of the people the blogger ate with thought the same. I’ve wondered if any have thought of possible negative side effects on their bodies in the future from distance running. I’ve thought that some were running in too many races. I’ve thought that some restrict themselves too much at restaurants and choose the healthier option to photograph for readers over what they really want. Have I ever voiced my opinions to them? No. Why? Because just as I read their blogs knowing that they (most of them, anyway) are not experts in either nutrition or fitness, I am no expert myself. All I have to offer are my opinions and I believe that just because bloggers put themselves out there in the public, commenting to say, “I think you need to eat more!” is just as bad as someone in a restaurant telling me, “you wouldn’t be so fat if you didn’t eat that.”

In the end, I believe that more good than harm is coming from their blogs. I believe that the author had her angle for the story in hear head all along and clearly only chose “facts” and snippets from the blogs that supported her theory. None of them have ever said that the way they live is best and they believe every reader should follow their plan, which is kind of what the article implied. I think it would be a shame for companies to stop supporting the HLS and the bloggers because of this article, but even if that did happen, I do not believe any of these bloggers or the various others would even consider not continuing to blog, which speaks volumes to their dedication to a healthy lifestyle, which is something the author of the article should have focused on a little more.

I know that this is long, but I really felt compelled to reply and share my little story.

elaine! October 4, 2010 at 7:40 am

I haven’t read the article so I can’t comment specifically. What I can say is that it wasn’t until I started reading healthy living blogs — including some of the above — that I started taking a more active interest in my overall wellness vs. simply trying to lose weight. I decided to train for a half and full marathon and read some books on sports nutrition. The chapters on eating disorders described my diet mentality 90% accurately, which was a shock, to say the least. I feel a lot more grounded now that I’m looking at food and exercise differently.

Also, it’s not news that “experts” like to tag distance runners as obsessive compulsive. Nor is it news that running, like dance, is an activity that has a higher than usual number of participants with eating disorders. Trying to crucify bloggers who don’t have obsessive compulsive disorders or eating disorders to make such a point, however, is yellow journalism.
elaine!´s last post ..Elite Runners in Slow Motion

elaine! October 4, 2010 at 7:45 am

Actually, I take that back about it being yellow journalism. For it to be yellow journalism, it first has to be journalism. Marie Claire is a freaking lifestyle magazine. If I want journalism, I read Time or the New York Times. If I want to be heavily marketed to, I read lifestyle magazines.
elaine!´s last post ..Elite Runners in Slow Motion

heather October 4, 2010 at 8:26 am

I thought that the article was too harsh, but I think it brought up some discussion points that really need to be talked about, and hardly ever have been until now, so I appreciate that the writer brought them up. For those who are a part of the healthy living blog community, it’s almost impossible to call someone else for what you might be perceived as unhealthy habits because you’re either worried that you’ll offend somebody (and their legions of fans) and thus lose page views for your own blog, or you’ll look like you’re attacking someone specifically TO get the attention (and thus the page views).

I think certain behaviors (and probably quotes as well) were presented in a misleading fashion–for example, she paints Boyle as an exercise fanatic because she’s attempted to do the Jillian Michaels video and decrease her 5K time simultaneously; she doesn’t mention that Boyle pretty much dropped the video half of the challenge and chose to focus exclusively on the latter because doing both would have taken too much time and energy. That’s just bad journalism, and there are several other instances of it in the article. That said, I have to admit that I read one of the Big Six blogs for several months and remember the exact “dessert-sabotage” comment that the author mentions, and it was a huge red flag to me. I ended up taking her blog off my Google reader not too long after that, because I consistently was presented with instances where her eating and exercise habits were way too rigid for me and thus ended up triggering my relatively dormant eating disorder. (That said, I do follow two of the other “Big Six” and am almost never triggered by anything they write . . .) I’ve also noticed several other food bloggers who have (what is to me) fairly obvious raging eating disorders, but it’s only commented upon occasionally. And there’s another blogger I read sometimes who mentions still struggling with an eating disorder during the early days of her blog, but I read her back then and there was no mention of it–which makes me wonder how truthful she’s being about her eating habits now. . . .

(I also think it’s telling that Weber, the only one of the bloggers mentioned that I truly believe runs/ran a moderation blog and not a healthy eating blog, has been called out by commenters for essentially being a slacker who eats too much, never follows through on her exercise goals and sits around reading all day–as if that were a bad thing!–more than once. And this was before her more recent format change to a recipe-based blog. In instances like that, she’s treated as if there’s some invisible quota she has to meet in the blogging community and that she’s somehow failing all of us by not living up.)

I feel bad for the women mentioned in this article, as I’m sure this is embarrassing and upsetting for them, but I hope it helps shine a lot on the things they say and do that perhaps they should avoid, be more honest about, or discuss in greater detail if they want to be more helpful and kind to readers who may still be struggling with food issues.
heather´s last post ..Cecily’s Carrot Cake Shot

MelissaNibbles October 4, 2010 at 8:34 am

I must be in the minority because I agree with a lot of points in the article. To make it short, a food blogger is someone who goes out to eat a lot, reviews the restaurant, and eats good food. A food blogger is NOT some one who uses their blog to track how many bowls of oatmeal they ate and how much they exercised and writes lengthy paragraphs about why they ate a cupcake.
MelissaNibbles´s last post ..Stella Blues

Marie @quarterlifequandary October 4, 2010 at 9:25 am

I really appreciate the honesty with which you wrote this hollaback. I am one of the people on the fence. As someone who started out reading all 6 of these girls blogs, I know only read 1 of them on a daily basis and that is because she’s revamped her style completely and no longer posts meal by meal analysis. For the majority, it has been too much endorsements, too many free trips, and diets that seem far too restricted compared to the exercise levels.

However, with that being said, I think that many of the girl’s quotes were taken out of context which is unfair to them. I also think it is a shame they didn’t bother to mention Operation Beautiful, which I do find to be a positive message for many young girls out there. I also think it’s hypocritical of the magazine when their models are so ridiculously thin. Our society in general as a problem, you are either too fat and unhealthy or too thin and have an eating disorder. Where is the normal? Where is the happy medium?

I’m glad you’ve opened this topic up to discussion and brought out so many of the things so many of us think.

Mandy October 4, 2010 at 9:37 am

This article makes some points that are definitely true of some blogs. However, I don’t see the issues in most of the blogs mentioned.

Healthy living blogs have taught me what no other mass media source ever could/wanted to. That I could be healthy by eating great food and exercising. Every health magazine out there is trying to get you on some 1200-1500 calorie diet and exercise mainly so you can have an calorie deficit. Health blogs have taught me otherwise. I see healthy, great looking girls eating normal amounts of REAL food, and exercising because they enjoy it. Without these blogs i’d still have the diet mentality, wishing there was some other way.

Of course, I have read blogs where the poster is not eating enough, over exercising and way too skinny. This triggers me to feel guilty about my eating habits. So you know what? I take them off my google reader. I’m responsible for me, no one else. If i’m taking inspiration from bad role models than I should do something about it. And bad role models are out there everywhere in every facet of media. And does the media take responsibility? Hardly.

So without healthy living blogs i don’t want to think about what my eating would be like. I’d probably still be thinking that 100 calorie snack packs are healthy, and that i should be conforming to what commonly the media (“health” magazines, weight loss tv) says is a healthy way to eat (ie 1200-1500 calorie diets).

I think the “big six” (sorry if that term makes me laugh…anyone else?) are doing it right. Not all the time, they do make mistakes (these are life blogs don’t forget!). I’m sure they probably under eat and over exercise sometimes as well…but it happens to all of us.

I don’t think it’s healthy to completely emulate ANYONE’S eating style. You need to find what’s best for you. But most healthy living blogs are giving me great examples of people that are eating properly and living healthy lives. I wouldn’t take that away for anything.

Mish@eatingjourney October 4, 2010 at 10:15 am

Thank you for writing this. I have gone after one of the blogs before for ‘rubber-banding’ their food..which is disordered eating. I used to get very angry with these types of blogs…BUT…we are ALL human beings. The one thing that I am beginning to realise is that we all have fragile spirits and perhaps instead of slamming, it would have been more productive to expose and provide examples of more balanced blogs (just an idea). I know that blogging is A LOT of work and it takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there. I do agree with everything you said, and it NEEDS to be talked about (however, calling out Jenna was a bit silly). At the end of the day, I do think (even for those who are salting and rubber-banding their food) that they are doing the best that they know/choose how.

Angela @ A Healthy Fit October 4, 2010 at 10:41 am

Thank you Rachel for posting this. I do believe that many of the point brought up in MC needed to be said. I know that I had to stop reading some of the blogs mentioned because it was reinforcing negative behaviors that I am trying to work through. I started blogging primarily about my food because that’s what “The Big 6” did, but I quickly found that I didn’t enjoy just logging my food/exercise. It is BORING and I still do have some issues. I don’t want people imitating me or judging me.

I do think there is a fine line between healthy & fit and disordered. A lot of us in this “healthy living community” have or have had issues related to food and fitness.

I hope that people will not keep writing sweet n’ low comments. That is doing nothing to help our community.

Lucinda October 4, 2010 at 10:59 am

Excuse me, but I am not a brand. I’m me. I’m not after readers, and blogging never has been or should be a popularity contest, that’s just deluded. Yes some bloggers market themselves, and that’s is their choice, and there are consequences that follow that. Nor are people with less comments, or readers small time bloggers. Each to their own, seriously. I follow some of the big 6, and I enjoy their blogs greatly. On the other hand I do not enjoy the merry go round of freebies that now go along with it. Your blog, is more about you, than a brand. It’s when you flip it around, that you should start to worry.

Cynthia October 4, 2010 at 11:09 am

Great post! I agree that the stuff in the article is stuff that needed to be said. I think people in the blogger community are so close to the people involved that they can’t necessarily see when someone is exhibiting disordered behavior. I’m not sure that this article is going to do anything but make people angry, unfortunately. But years ago I used to be the type of person who would eat way too little and exercise way too much. I lost weight, but it wasn’t healthy. At this point, there are certain blogs I can’t really read because I feel like they will trigger me. I just recently started a healthy living blog myself and I like to think that I achieve a healthy balance. I do have to think about what message I am sending to my readers.

Tina October 4, 2010 at 11:44 am

Thanks for writing this post, Rachel. I agree with a lot of what you wrote.

I’m very disappointed in the MC article because so much of it was taken out of context and doesn’t accurately represent those mentioned.
Tina´s last post ..Smells Like Home

Ashley October 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

I think a lot of readers are not realizing that the bloggers in question share their lives through words and images with THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE every day. Yes, you are a person, not a news organization, but when you are putting information out there, you are accountable for that information. Again, kudos to Katie Drummond for holding their feet to the fire.
Ashley´s last post ..Re-thinking running

Jenni October 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

I know Caitlin chimed in to say that it’s taken out of context, but from what I see, it really isn’t!! I’ve been reading these girls blogs forever and definitely think that some of them have disordered thoughts in terms of food and exercise. I was kind of chuckling through reading this whole article because they are SO right and I am proud of MC for saying the truth, because everyone in this community is too afraid to say it.

MelissaNibbles October 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I really hope this article doesn’t inspire young women who never heard of these blogs to seek them out for “thinspiration.” I fear this article could have an unintended affect.

D October 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm

MelissaNibbles, I totally agree about the “unintended effect” – I also thought the exact same thing. If I were in a disordered state of mind, the first thing I’d do after reading this article is go to those blogs…

Joslyn October 4, 2010 at 12:53 pm

It’s unfortunate that feelings were hurt, but I think it’s high time that the roof be blown off our healthy blogging utopia. Positivity and support is always a good thing, but I feel for the faceless voiceless readers of these blogs who are inspired to make fanatical choices.

Yes, we are all responsible for our own decisions, but it’s too easy for the uninformed and desperate to be inspired when you post every detail of what you eat every day, along with race times, weight, and height.
Joslyn´s last post ..Reflections on an Unpopular Opinion

Christie {Honoring Health} October 4, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I just wrote my own post but I really agree with you. I am thankful that the article opened of a doorway of discussion that really needs to be had.

Nina October 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I appreciate your thoughts on this, and I understand where many of the points were coming from, however I feel that the article took such an extreme stance and was so clearly one-sided that whatever valid points were there will be skimmed over in favor of talking about how crappy the reporting was. I read all of the blogs mentioned, as well as many others in the Healthy Living Community, and I’ll admit that when I started reading them I was caught up in emulating their lifestyles (i.e. buying Barney Butter and Larabars, wondering how I could possibly exercise that much and hold down a job and have a social life), but then I wised up and realized that it’s not the ideal way for me to be healthy. I still read them because I like seeing their recipes, reading about updates on their lives, seeing new products that I wouldn’t have known about before, reading their comments to find more bloggers to read, etc. People who have eating disorders and other mental diseases will likely still have them, whether they are reading KathEats or not. Don’t blame the bloggers.

Heather October 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm


I don’t know if “everyone in this community is too afraid to say it” is accurate if not everyone in this community actually believes the opinion that Marie Claire is representing is truth.

gina (fitnessista) October 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm

thank you so much for this post- i agree with a lot of what you wrote. it’s so important to remember that when you blog, whether you intend to or not, you’re influencing others and should really be careful of what and how you say things. this is the #1 reason why i won’t post all of my meals- that info would never help anyone and i don’t want to influence others to eat exactly the way i do.

MelissaNibbles October 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I commented this on Christie’s blog and will comment it here as well because I do think this needs to be discussed:

As someone who read these blogs, compared her exercise and eating habits to fellow bloggers and felt like she didn’t measure up and lost 20 pounds…I think there needs to be a discussion. I don’t hold the bloggers responsible for my own behavior, but I’m living proof that this does happen. I see a lot of exercise bulimia in the blogworld and barely read any “healthy living” blogs anymore because it just makes me sad and it’s unhealthy for me at this point. I hope that people will take this seriously, talk about it with respect and not just attack people who have differing points of view.

Angela October 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I agree that a lot of the things needed to be said. And you’re right, as bloggers, we MUST blog responsibly. I know that not everyone thinks that bloggers are part of the media at larger, but we are. What we say and do can influence others. That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about your life – but people should definitely do what you have written about before – but a disclaimer on their website.

Let’s face facts:
– Newspapers are written at a 6th grade level for a reason.
– If the general public was brilliant, we wouldn’t have warnings like: Don’t us this while sleeping on products such as hair dryers.
– These women do present themselves as the end-all, be-all of healthy living.
– And when they are rewarded with tons of sponsors, their credibility score goes up

Personally, I didn’t read the article as scientific fact – I read it more as a commentary. BUT, the author did back herself up by consulting with dietitians, etc. And if the Big Six want to respond, perhaps they should do the same.

On my own personal blog, I talk about how we are all different and no one size fits all diet, exercise regime, etc, will fit anyone. I make sure that I emphasize that I do what works for ME, not what works for everyone.

Rachel, as usual, you did a great job on breaking down the issues.

Missy October 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Great points Rachel. I think this article was mean but also needed to be said. I think plenty of bloggers and readers felt this way already but had a fear of putting it out there. I know I’ve stopped reading several blogs because their way of eating just is not realistic to me. I also don’t like that they are so restrictive about what they eat but they will never admit that they have fat days or want to lose 5 pounds. I’m glad you opened this discussion because people are finally saying their true feelings!
Missy´s last post ..Sushi Date and College Memories

katie October 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm

wonderful response to the article, actually showing both sides of the argument.

Angela October 4, 2010 at 1:53 pm

That should be “put a disclaimer” not “but a disclaimer” on my comment.

And a friend reminded me that at one time, I did read these blogs and was inspired by the idea of eating in a healthy way and learning to love exercise. But as I have written before, these blogs changed and became much more commercial – all about advertising – and I stopped reading them. I am still amazed at the amount of readers they continue to have, as the content has really gone down the tubes.

rosemary October 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm

A few points:
1–this article really was snarky and overly negative. it’s a shame to pollute salient points with that kind of bias because it makes it much easier for people to dismiss the issues without consideration.
2–this really highlights a lot of the issues that Rachel and this website have been getting at, namely the difference between “confessional” blogging and “expert” blogging. on one hand, i appreciate when Tina from carrots’n’cake admits to eating 10 cookies. Not because i want her to be an unhealthy binge eater, but because that happens to me too, and it’s nice to know it’s not the end of the world. despite our best intentions, sometimes we all break Rachel’s first rule. but when a blogger is earning a living, and holding summits, they should step up and take on the responsibility of their expanded readership and influence, and “people should know better” is not a good enough excuse.
3–part of the reason i stopped reading a lot of these blogs was because of the phenomenon of social contagion. this NYT article is a good start:

reading blogs, especially several blogs on the same topic, has a way of worming into your head and redefining your norms. in some ways, this can be a great thing, especially when the norms you see in your own life center around fast food and television. it can be heartening to know that there are people out there who ARE satisfied to eat roasted veggies with bbq sauce for dinner. but the principles of social contagion discuss the ways in which these peripheral influences subconsciously take root. it’s not always the person in front of you, your family or significant other, defining your norms. more influential are the 5 people you see “in the background,” those making up the landscape of your life. the people you encounter briefly at work, the friends of friends, or the blogs you half-mindlessly scan daily. these are the influences that cause you to wonder why your mileage wasn’t higher this week, or how come nobody else eats cheez-its? are you the only one who knows how delicious they are? does everyone besides me make homemade waffles?

reading this blog really made me wake up and realize how complacent i had become in assuming that this was the way “healthy” females my age were supposed to be, how much my norms had been defined by the “big six” and a few others. i’m not an idiot, i just wasn’t aware of how homogeneous my internet landscape was becoming. other people don’t like running either? wait wait, other people think fat is healthy too?

if these healthy living blogs are going to continue to gain in popularity, and hit the mainstream media more, these are conversations we all need to have with ourselves and with the bloggers whom we follow. healthy living is awesome, and it’s so nice to find people on the internet who share similar values. but seriously, the days of photographing oatmeal are over. find something new to talk about.

4–oh, one last point. i read men’s journal (long story, had an amazon coupon, really awesome magazine though!) and they have stories every month about male athletes, and their strict and vigorous training regiments. i find it really sexists that female endurance athletes are treated like clueless anorexics, while male athletes are heralded as tough and persistent.

5–jk this is the last point: poor Meghann for having her menses discussed. this is a real danger of “confessional” style blogging. irregular periods is something every single women has struggled with at one time or another, and literally none of us is qualified to determine what another lady’s “normal” should be. not cool.

Heather October 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm

a) i have been and would be satisfied with roasted veggies in barbeque sauce. i don’t think everyone would, but i don’t think no one in the world would either. I think this is all a part of our being different people with different minds. [hooray! we are not robots! Let the celebration continue!]

b) i am a little confused why we all keep pointing out (me included) the lack of training/expertise in the writing of blogs. Women who aren’t trained/degreed in an area yet speak on it anyway – this makes me question “what makes someone an expert?” and also “do you need to have a degree to be able to know something?”
Has my experience of going through a broken engagement granted me the understanding to be able to write about it? If not, where can I take a class in broken engagements so that I may be respected in my writing about what I went through and am still going through?
And we are quick to celebrate Rachel Wilkerson Life Coach (again, me included), but doesn’t Rachel have the same level of experience in, say, moving cross country, than Meghann Anderson does in packing lunch for work each day? Or Caitlin Boyle does in recovering from injury? Why is one okay and not the other? And furthermore, wouldn’t it be easy for us to find varying opinions on EVERY point of view on EVERY subject? [He’s Just Not That Into You vs The Rules; Avoid credit all together vs build good credit, tax hikes vs tax cuts, legalizing weed vs drug free America – i mean, we could go on and on and on.]

c) Also, we are constantly in debate about what defines a healthy meal, a normal workout routine and good blogger. (among many other things) I love the discussion and getting to know other people’s points of view (though , I admit, i personally prefer the times it doesn’t feel harsh and attacking – call me a wimp) and being challenged to question my own opinions – but I am questioning why we are so quick to define what a food blogger/ healthy living blogger/ breakfast should be when we are criticizing others for doing the same thing. Who is giving the power to define and who is taking it away?

d) and i believe it is possible to be honest, and concerned, and upfront, and disagree with the popular opinion but still do so with kindness and gentleness and harmony. Maybe that makes me a bit of an idealist, a lot of an optimist, and a touch of a hippy, but so be it.

e) That being said, you have a right to your opinions. and your own way of responding. You have a right to be as nice or as mean as you’d like. Truthfully, you have a right to lie or tell the truth. You have the right to be gentle with other people’s feelings or to be cunning and hurtful with your words .

f) See, now I’ve gone and confused myself again.

Hangry Pants October 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm


I appreciate a level-headed response to the article. Blindly defending the bloggers (me) in the article isn’t any better than bashing them.

If anyone is interested I posted my response to the article and included things I said to Katie about the negative parts of blogging that I wished had been included. Several things about the article disappointed me, and the fact that it was mean is not one of them.

Specifically, I am disappointed that I was cast as clueless about the possible negatives of healthy living blogging as if I am a moron. Additionally, I do not post everything I eat and that was not mentioned in the article once. I say that not because I think it makes me a hero, but rather because it shows that there is room for other styles of blog in this community.

And finally, Sarah above said that no one is gonna care about this article. Well, I disagree. Given the financial statistics tossed around in the article I believe lots of companies will care.


Elisabeth October 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm

It is a fact that we can become motivated towards negative behaviors just by reading about another person’s negative behaviors. I became “better” at my eating disorder many years ago by reading about how other women managed their own eating disorders. I specifically sought this information out online, but in my opinion, there is no difference between that and the information that **some** blogs portray about their version of “healthy living”. People tend to seek out information (blogs) that validate the things that they’re trying to accomplish in their own lives. If I read a blog now, and it does not validate the way that I live or intend to live my life, I stop reading.

Along the same vein, I do have the “sense” to stop reading something if it triggers disordered feelings in myself. However, I spent 3 years in intensive therapy and treatment in order to recognize those feelings. Other people don’t necessarily know the difference–their reality is already disordered, so these things seem “normal”.

Nobody is perfect, and I don’t think that anyone expects any blogger to be perfect, or even to always be an expert at everything that they’re writing about. This is essentially why the “this is what I ate today” method of blogging just doesn’t work. You set yourself up for scrutiny, and not only is it damaging to yourself, but also to your readers. Since you’re not necessarily an expert at healthy eating, you’re not really qualified to tell people what to eat each and every day…but people who follow your blog accept your word as if it is from an expert.

“She eats that, and she’s skinny…that’s what I’ll eat too…”

I agree, Rachel. Blaming and writing angry letters will not help. The point that should be gleaned from this MC debacle is that we need to find a solution. We need to stop making excuses for why we’re right, why everyone else is wrong, and actually own that some behaviors posted on some blogs are damaging. Take a look at he things that we’ve written in the past, and think a little more before we type that synopsis of the things that we ate for the day (but “forget” to mention the 12 mini Reeses Cups because they’ll make us look “bad”).

Don’t get me wrong…although I don’t post the things that I eat on a daily basis, I’m sure that I’ve said or done something damaging too! We all just need to be responsible enough to realize that our words matter, and they are strong enough to change another person’s life–for better or for worse.
Elisabeth´s last post ..The First Piece!

Elisabeth October 4, 2010 at 2:47 pm

And another thing…

Why is there not an article titled “The Fat Diaries”? Are there no food bloggers who are doing far more cooking and eating than exercising? Heart disease (which is caused sometimes by obesity) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. these days…
Elisabeth´s last post ..The First Piece!

Erin October 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I just wanted to say: Hollaback! Totally terrific post dissecting the article, blogger responses and responsibilities, and more. I hope this leads to more discussions about what it means to be healthy and how that is totally different than being skinny.
Erin´s last post ..A weekend of good eats

Kaytee October 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I haven’t talked about this a lot, and actually not at all in a public setting, but about five months ago I was diagnosed with body dysmoprhia. I was fortunate enough to catch it before it became a serious eating disorder. One of the parts of treating it was cutting out the majority of the healthy living blogs I read, as I needed to stop comparing myself to others. The feelings I had of guilt or inadequacy were, well, unhealthy. But here’s the thing… the blogs I read didn’t cause my body dysmorphia. They didn’t help it, but the problem wasn’t with what the people were writing, it was a problem with me. A problem that I would have whether healthy living blogs existed or not. (Note: I also had to cut out weight loss tv & health magazines… and literally cut the size tags out of my clothes. Blogs were not the only trigger.)

Reading these kind of blogs isn’t right for everyone, but the bloggers shouldn’t be blamed for that. It’s my responsibility to make smart decisions about what I consume mentally, just as it is with what I consume physically.

Heather @ Side of Sneakers October 4, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I don’t think there’s anything else I can say that hasn’t already been said- I too wrote my own response. My basic take away is that the article made valid points- some bloggers blog unhealthy habits, and there IS negative influence on blogs. But that doesn’t mean this was an unbiased article and that it didn’t skew quotes and comments. And unfortunately, it picked the wrong group of bloggers to dis.

kara October 4, 2010 at 4:16 pm

You said what I was thinking, but in a more articulate manner :) Great post!

Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) October 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Your response to the MC article is my favorite by far, including ones from the implicated bloggers themselves. I think you addressed that the article was unfair (which it was), but that it also brings up important issues that need to be discussed–whether its controversial or not. While there are definitely people that leave comments on blogs that are just mean and unproductive, many times there are comments that bring up good points, that unfairly get bashed by other loyal readers who take offense too quickly.

I don’t consider my blog a healthy living blog, just merely a place to share my creativity with photography, recipes, and real cooking in the kitchen. I do read healthy living blogs, but more because I enjoy the author’s writing and personality shining through their words and stories, as well as hearing about their life in general!

Anyway, I’m so glad you brought up these points! Looking forward to hearing more bloggers discuss these issues more fully.

Erica October 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm

There’s a lot of great discussion on here, but as someone in the journalism industry, I thought I’d offer my opinion about distinctions between blogs and magazines like Marie Claire.

In the journalism world, blogs are largely considered opinion. There are news blogs, reporting news about certain topics as it comes, but they distinguish themselves as reporting blogs. Otherwise, blogs are essentially like columns. Healthy Living bloggers write about their interests from their point of view, the same way Nic Kristof or Tom Friedman do on the NY Times; the same way someone passionate about dogs or music or DIY projects do on their own blog. Even bloggers profiting from their blogs, like professional columnists do, have the right to write about what they want, as long as they are a)giving context to what they are talking about (what part of your background/personality/experience led you to your opinion) and b) not trying to claim they are the authority when they are not (pointing to articles, other sources, from which you pulled information).

Columnists are obviously supposed to do their research, and in that regard, if bloggers are going to post about the benefits of chia seeds, for example, I think it’s fair to expect that they do their research about that as well. But the opinion Nic Kristof develops on African issues is the conclusion he comes to based on his own experience, which he presents along with the research he’s done. I agree with his viewpoint, but certainly not everyone does. Just as, the amount of exercise/food a blogger eats is the balance they’ve come to based on their own experience, which they should present with the research they’ve done as well. This happens often; sometimes it does not. And when it doesn’t, it’s fair to start a conversation in the comments. Just as, editors of professional columnists can appropriate “editors notes: the last column by Tom Friedman overlooked xxx” as they see fit, bloggers can (and have) responded to people who point out things they hadn’t thought about, or didn’t mention in the post. That’s what makes the blogging community a community; that’s what makes the opinion sections a “conversation” place instead of a news report. When people read the Opinion Section, they know they aren’t reading a news report — they’re reading someone’s opinion on a topic or issue, based on their research, background and experience. That doesn’t mean columnists can be irresponsible or completely offensive, but it does mean that they reasonably expect that some readers won’t agree with them, and their publishers are okay with that. Like Gina said above, bloggers need to understand what kind of people might be trying to find their blog, and be sensitive to it. Be conscious of your words, and maybe chose them more carefully. That said, in both professional columns and in blogs, you simply cannot prevent every single bad, harmful, negative thought in every single person that reads what you write. But you can be aware of it, as many professional columnists and bloggers are, and having that self awareness leads to better conversation, more engagement, and better writing.

All of that said, when a story is presented as a news/feature article, like this story in MC was, there are different expectations than for an opinion/column/blog story. As a reader, it’s reasonable to expect that when something is presented as news or a feature, the WHOLE story is presented, not just the point of view of the writer. They are not a columnist, they are reporters. Reporters of news stories and feature stories, at least the responsible ones, don’t have a goal or agenda in mind. They’re reporting the story to make people aware it exists, explore the issue, and look into what the future may hold for it, which means gathering facts and opinions from both sides of the issue, and presenting both of them. It also means giving sources the chance to respond to specific allegations. For example, I’m sure none of the “big six” were called to say “hey, this dietitian thinks you’re imbalanced. What is your response to that?” or “this dietitian read your post about running 22 miles and think you didn’t refuel adequately; people are saying you aren’t a healthy role model, what do you think of that?” The same way other people accused of something (wall street criminals, to the president, etc) are given a specific chance to respond. What bothers me most is the way this writer seems to have gone about the story: initially saying the story is about one thing, but publishing another. That is intentionally deceiving sources, and a big no-no in the journalism world. If she had approached these bloggers saying, I’m doing a story about the effect healthy bloggers might have on people’s perception of what is healthy, and how you might be helping/ or hurting that mindset, many of these bloggers may not have agreed to answer questions, and the writer would have had to dig deeper into this community to get a story — a better story– which would have benefited everyone involved.Whether or not the negative things in the article are true, there is a blatant omission of any kind of positive impact these blogs have had on women across the country. That is wrong, and a disservice.

I think there are a few interesting stories that exist in the blogging community, but the story that came out was not fair, not balanced, and not a way to start a positive, productive conversation.

I hope this forum is.

Becky October 4, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Thank you for this! I completely appreciate that you took this opportunity to generate honest conversation about the issues, instead of turning this into another angry rant.
The one thing that keeps bugging me about the “Big 6” (which the author clearly made up because no one who reads their blogs has ever heard the term used before) is that they aren’t just bloggers. They actually started and ran a weekend long conference on the topic of healthy living. Twice. On top of that, they gave presentations and sat on panel discussions about various health and blog related topics at that conference.
The truth is, people go to conferences to learn from experts on a particular topic. I think that once these girls took on organizing and running a summit, they may have inadvertently set themselves up as “experts.” At that point, they became more than just average bloggers writing about “what works for them.” Once that happened, the bar of responsibility got set far higher than I think any of them anticipated or wanted. So it’s not really surprising that they got singled out in the way they did.

amie October 4, 2010 at 5:08 pm

i LOVE this response. i also thought the article was distasteful, but i also agreed with some points and it brought to a head some of my own concerns about health blogging.

just recently, i deleted almost all health blogs off of my google reader, after over a year of dedicated reading. i LOVE blogs like Oh She Glows and i LOVE angela and the other girls, but i didn’t love the way their blogs were making me feel. i never felt like i could live up to their standards of “healthy living.” i have friends and family who always tell me how healthy i am, that my heathy eating and my training is inspiring to them, that i live a balanced lifestyle. but after reading a few of the blogs, i felt like crap. i don’t eat a strict vegan diet, i can’t afford to. i don’t exercise/run for hours every day, i don’t have the time. but these blogs were telling me that i SHOULD be able to find the time and find the money and do as they do. and i couldn’t. and the worst part is that those blogs never showed the falls of the authors. i never read that they ate a massive pizza after splitting a jug of beer with their husband (as i often love to do). i never read that their workouts sucked, that they gave up after a mile because they felt like crap (which i sometimes do). i never read about bad days, about grumpy days, or even about bad hair days. it all got a little too “Super Woman” for me.

i am not a Super Woman.
i am a super woman.

so i deleted. i kept the ones i still find inspiring (like (never)home maker) and i continue to live my healthy lifestyle. MY healthy lifestyle, the one that’s right for me. and i won’t apologize for or feel guilty about that pizza. because that’s what a balanced lifestyle is really about.

the Marie Claire article was certainly hurtful and questionable, but i think we can see it as a positive catalyst for change. it’s a call for transparency on health blogs. we don’t want Super Women. we want women who are super. women who know how to fall and get back up again and document it truthfully and without a “healthy” filter.

stephanie October 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm

While I do think the article was mean and a lot of the quotes were taken out of context, I do actually agree with some of what was said. I’m sorry, but if you are making money from a blog, then you DO have a responsibility to your readers. You have a BUSINESS and as such, you are held to a higher standard. This is, unfortunately, the price we pay for fame. If you hold yourself out to be an “expert” by dispensing weight loss/exercise/fitness tips on your blogs and other online magazines then you will be treated like an expert and all the disclaimers in the world will not change that. I understand that readers need to be personally accountable but I feel that once you are making money off of my readership, that you need to be responsible about what kind of content you post. It may sound harsh given that a “blog” is meant to be a personal journal, but that’s the way the world works, I’m afraid. Once you start getting paid, you will eventually have to answer to someone.

With that being said, I have been reading all six of those blogs for years and I know that a lot of what was said was taken completely out of context and I do think that is incredibly unfair. However, I do think the article highlighted some behaviors in some blogs that were troublesome. I hope that in seeing an outsider perspective, the blogs in question will remedy that.

All in all, I agree with you, Rachel, that the article said some things that needed to be said, but I do not necessarily agree with the way they were said. Misleading six bloggers and taking advantage of their hospitality at the HLS is no way to write an article. Hopefully, the community can rise above this and some discussions that needed to be had can finally take place.

Kathy October 4, 2010 at 5:20 pm

The blogosphere is made of content albeit truth or circumstance. We, the bloggers, are putting ourselves, our lives, our happenings in the forefront. What MC failed to realize that the blogosphere was developed as a means for individuals to keep a web log. To share their lives.
Now, as it has evolved, RW is correct that this is a time to be more cognisent of our posts and take into consideration our audience. My fear is that the honesty, emotion and true self will be lost because we feel we need to be cautious. Attempt not to be referred to as an expert in any particular subject, other than your own life.

Lacey October 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm

You know, I had mixed feelings as I read the article. Mainly because I found myself relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who had issues with several of the blogs in question. Its not to say the article was a bit harsh, but again, this came from an outsider and I think that people inside the blog world definitely have rose-colored glasses on.

I’ve been a subscriber to most of those blogs [and others] for 2 years and a couple months ago I actually stopped reading all but Jena’s and Tina’s. I found myself constantly comparing my eating habits/workout routines and always trying to emulate what I was reading. Food was all I thought about and I didn’t like who I was becoming.

Funny thing, I lost about 5 lbs in the 8 weeks or so its been since removing myself from a lot of that guilty, obsessive thinking I was becoming enslaved to… letting go of the obsession has made all the difference in my eating and working out. I don’t blame them of course, but fixating and measuring myself against their lives really just resulted in a lot of negative thinking. Healthy living blogs seem to trigger that for me and I just know to avoid most of it now.

Babs October 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Most bloggers are not claiming to be experts, nor are they blogging as “experts.” They are merely sharing their thoughts/ideas. I think the article was terrible and untruthful. I read some of these blogs, and never ONCE felt they were unhealthy. They are not overly skinny or fearful of food. I’m sorry but if someone has to throw some salt on the extra food, then so be it. It’s sickening that 90% of the “food” in grocery stores isn’t actually FOOD. It’s terrible that most of the population is extremely overweight and fails to exercise regularly. The health crisis in America is certainly not due to some bloggers. Maybe magazines should stop filling their pages with size 0 models before they talk about “unhealthy” bloggers.
Babs´s last post ..Some run- I walk

Tracy October 4, 2010 at 5:43 pm

This is a great response. I liked reading about the “other side” of blogs from the MC article. Now I do think, after seeing pics of lunch/dinner, etc – did they eat it all or was it thrown away? My life (married, ft job, with kid) cannot compete with some of these bloggers and while I try my best – I wonder if they can “do it all” with the life I lead. I have to keep that in mind b/c you do compete with yourself and hold yourself against some of the bloggers and want to keep up. So, just have to remind myself to take you ladies with a grain of salt.

Paige @ Two Runners And A Brown Dog October 4, 2010 at 5:49 pm

When I first read the MC article, I was stunned at some of the remarks that were made. The more I thought about it though; the more I began to realize that there are some serious issues involved. The thing that struck me most about the article was the point that only one of the “Big Six” has any sort of training in the field of Health and Nutrition. After reading these girls’ blogs for so long, I began to think of their word as gospel. I never thought that I would compare myself to them or judge my fitness against what they are doing; but if I am honest with myself…I have done just that!

I believe that the so called “Big Six” started their blogs as ways to document their own journeys (just like the rest of us). I don’t think that they planned on becoming so popular so quickly. Like several have mentioned before me; it quickly turned into a popularity contest. When sponsors and other corporations saw what great “followers” we are, we made it easy for them!

I don’t fault the girls for taking advantage of their newfound “stardom” and success. I definitely wouldn’t turn down loads of free products, ritzy all expense paid vacations, and money for “hits.” I am even a little jealous sometimes, if you want to know the truth….

I guess the main thing that I have realized through this entire discussion is that I don’t need to judge myself or my blog based on what others are doing…and also to take everything that is said/written with a grain of salt.
Paige @ Two Runners And A Brown Dog´s last post ..Supa Fly

Brooke October 4, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Great post!! I too follow most of these bogs for some time now. Some are more “balanced” then others. A few do appear to be unhealthy but then again, it’s up to the reader to take the content for what it’s worth. These “Big 6” bloggers (lol!) who are reaping the rewards of having a large following, should be prepared for eventual criticism. I have noticed that some of them are becoming increasingly more egocentric and a whole less “reader-focused”. But, I’ll leave that issue alone right now. Besides we all read these blogs for different reasons. One thing is for sure, you can’t always comment and say how you really feel due to the seemingly cult-like following that some of these blogs have. I’d be lynched for sure. In any case we all need to take these blogs for what they’re worth. Most are young adult women who have a love/hate relationship with food and or exercise and are still trying to figure it all out themselves. I surely don’t consult their blogs for nutrition advice….If needed, I would consult a professional.

jackie October 4, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I DO have a problem with the lack of credentials and training among these bloggers and, frankly, include Rachel and Leah in that group. I think it’s important to discuss and worth pointing out.

Kara October 4, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I’m new here…just clicked over after reading Tina’s blog. I think this is really balanced post about the article. I have to say, I never would have seen this article had the bloggers not brought it to my attention. Here is the comment I posted on the MC page:

First off, I have to say I found this article a bit one-sided, extreme, whatever. It seems clear that Ms. Drummond had no intention presenting these women in a positive light. On the flip side, I was a bit relieved after reading this because I share some of the same sentiments about this community. I contemplated responding for fear of being scorned but I, like everyone else, have the right to say what I think.

I have followed 5 of 6 of these blogs, at varying degrees for the last year or so. I have read them less and less because I felt uncomfortable with them for some time because: 1) Although they don’t always present info as direct advice, it tends to read that way. Most of them are in fact, not qualified to be dispensing advice on these subjects. Saying that readers need to take responsibility for their decisions is true, but a cop-out. They have HUGE readership, they know it, they make money off of it. Let’s face it, they’re not any more interesting than the rest of us – people don’t follow their blogs for that reason. They follow for a sense of belonging and to “learn” new tricks about how to “live healthy.” People look to these women for advice. Period. In my profession, I follow an ethical code, which I am also bound to legally. They may not have that same requirement, but I feel they should act that way. I’ve read their responses to this article. They want this author to be held accountable for her words, but don’t seem willing to hold themselves to that same standard, merely saying “I’m just blogging about what works for me.” C’mon, you make $$$ off your readers, they deserve better than that. 2) The blogs are food obsessed. I don’t see any way around it. They blog about nearly everything they eat nearly every day. It’s too much. It seems like a cry for attention & it borders on eating disordered. It’s why I don’t read them as much. I don’t want to support that with my readership. A lot of healthy living bloggers out there are eating disordered (they say a history of, but you never really get over an eating disorder) and many of their readers are. It’s ridiculous that they act all shocked and bothered by having someone point that out on paper. 3) They seem willing to pimp themselves out to any sponsor for more attention & more $ (Eggland’s Best, Athenos). Where’s the line here? Where’s your sense of responsibility to yourself and your readers? Overall, they don’t seem to take much responsibility for what they put out there.

It’s amazing that these women have parlayed their blogs into “careers.” I had no idea blogging was so huge until I stumbled upon them not long ago. I think they have a community they really believe in and are committed to. An exclusive one yes, but one some people feel inspired by and aspire to be a part of. For me the bottom line is, you put yourself out there in a major way when you write blogs the way these women do. You have to being willing to take the criticism and not cry “poor me” when something doesn’t go your way. I hope these women continue to be successful with their blogs and other ventures, but I also hope this article serves as a wake-up call and makes them more responsible with their work.

Sarah October 4, 2010 at 6:27 pm


Thank you so much for writing this post – I was following the twitter feeds yesterday and everyone was so quick to jump on the defensive that I was almost a little afraid to blog about the article in fear of the backlash. But in all honesty, whether the article was one-sided, mean, or not, it truly is an issue in the blogging community and I think it’s a good push for all of us to take a step back and ask if we’re really portraying ourselves in the “blog-o-sphere” as we wish to be seen.
Sarah´s last post ..What really matters

Mrs/Dr T October 4, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Perhaps someone covered this already (so many awesome comments, too many for me to sit and read right now), but I wonder if magazines are starting to sense some competition? Historically, the media has been one of the primary sources of health and wellness information. I wouldn’t be surprised if blogs are taking the place of magazines for a lot of people and this is affecting readership. Plus, blogs have the advantage of being interactive and more personal and perhaps, less biased. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just the beginning of a magazine vs. blog boxing match.
Mrs/Dr T´s last post ..Coo Coo for Coconut Water

Alison October 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I loved your response to the article. I recently went through my google reader and deleted all the “healthy living” blogs that I had been dedicated to reading for almost 2 years. I deleted Gina, Tina, Meghann and Kath. Their blogs not only made me feel fat, inferior, slow, and UNhealthy – they also really seemed compulsive and obsessive to me.

I hated to read a post and see a picture of a cookie and read a caption that said something like, “I ate 1/5 of this cookie and then took it home for later.” Why is it necessary to even comment on HOW MUCH of the cookie you did or didn’t eat? It’s just weird.

Thanks for not bashing the article author or for blindly defending the bloggers. I definitely appreciate a response to the article that was not full of venom.

Tina October 4, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I support all of you girls and wish that these big bullies would understand that their form of journalism is nothing but hurtful. If they generalized then they should have not named names or taken statements out of context. I’ve never been a die hard fan but I do know some readers and after bringing this to their attention they are appalled and will definitely look differently at the articles written under this pretext.
Tina´s last post ..What a weekend!

erin m. @ {{well in l.a.}} October 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I think the adversity will create a more cohesive and aware HLB community. Healthy living comes in all shapes, sizes and interests. Your reaction to the post is very logical and well-reasoned, more so than the article it is based upon in MC. Thanks for covering the “breaking news”!
erin m. @ {{well in l.a.}}´s last post ..Swim-Bike-Run- Scenes from LA Triathlon!

charlotte October 4, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Loved your take on this, Rachel!! Your post balances the affection and respect we all have for these bloggers (and others not named) with the reality that the MC article has a valid point. Brava!
charlotte´s last post ..New Trend- Texting While Running

jessica October 4, 2010 at 7:09 pm

1) LOVE your point about the emaciated models — that was the FIRST thing I thought when I read the MC article.

2) I totally don’t understand how somebody can put so much pressure on themselves to live up to another blogger’s lifestyle habits and then decide that because they’ve put all that pressure on THEMSELVES the blogger is the one at fault. HI, maybe learn how to not be so pressured into emulating everything you see / read…

Do I read all these blogs? Yes. Do I admire these women? Yes. Do I wonder how they “do it all”? NO, because I do it all too — maybe just not as well. But I don’t give two shits about living up to anybody elses ideals or vision for what healthy looks like — I just read the blogs because they are interesting, informative, pretty pictures, and good reads!

I think MC’s article was very snarky. And also pretty offensive to readers — I mean, I read blogs because they are fun. Not because I’m seeking medical / professional advice. Doesn’t anybody just do anything for FUN anymore?

kate October 4, 2010 at 7:14 pm

So many valid points and yet its all being lost. I truly think that if this wasnt such a biased piece we would be seeing change and not outrage.

elaine! October 4, 2010 at 7:27 pm

What I don’t understand about the proponents of the article are why they’re blaming the bloggers for their reactions to their blogs. A lot of people commented along the lines, “Those bloggers’ lifestyles made me feel inferior” — isn’t it your perception that’s the problem, rather than the blogs? (Classic cognitive behavioral therapy concept.) None of them tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing or put people down for NOT running marathons or eating vegan or whatever. Would you suggest that the bloggers constantly apologize for their lifestyles?

Maybe I’m more annoyed by this article because the only bloggers of the “Big Six” I follow have consistently positive messages. I have followed and subsequently unfollowed a few health bloggers either because they were downers, constantly had blog drama, or because they would post like five photos of the same apple from two centimeters to the left, two centimeters to the right, etc. (pick one and stick with it, I don’t have all day to download apple photos that I skim past in my RSS reader anyway). However, I would hardly call their blogs “harmful.” Take some personal responsibility.

The last thing that kind of pisses me off about the article is how the author went after the blogs’ sponsors. From the comments she quoted, it sounds like the conversations went like this: “Hi, I’m writing an article. Did you know that the blogger you sponsor promotes eating disorders? Would you like to comment on that?”

Though I -do- wonder how much of the article was the author, and how much was the editor. It’s quite possible that the author wrote a much longer article, then the space she was allotted got cut and the editor went in and cut it until it was completely one-sided.
elaine!´s last post ..Elite Runners in Slow Motion

Natalia - a side of simple October 4, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Thank you for sharing. I found your words very insightful, balanaced, and informative. Great post.
Natalia – a side of simple´s last post ..Sunday Un-Rest

Lauren @ Team Giles October 4, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Honestly, I felt the article by Drummond had mean intentions behind it. Perhaps in a way to stir up trouble, and get Drummond’s name out there… which has worked. If you’re keeping up with twitter and all these bloggers, its sad to watch the turmoil that’s been going on. Its obvious this ONE PERSON’S WORDS can effect so MANY people. Crazy to think huh? One person has such an impact negatively on thousands of bloggers. I like what you said Rachel: “Disregarding how much it hurts to have our friends attacked, let’s talk about what we can do, as bloggers, about the undeniable issues that this article has presented us with. Let’s not spend our energy on writing angry e-mails to Marie Claire; let’s spend that energy talking about how to be part of the solution.”
So much energy is being spent on how much we all despise Marie Claire and the one-sided opinion of Drummond(which I think was used for her own self benefit to become a popular writer). So what is the solution? How do we help our blogging community? How do we comfort and encourage the six bloggers that were hurt?

I hope we can all come out of this as a stronger community and like you said Rachel, keep each other accountable. We all have a common tie, we want to live happy healthy lives. Lets not lose sight of that, just because of ONE persons (lies) words.
Lauren @ Team Giles´s last post ..10 miles in the books

zenlizzie October 4, 2010 at 7:57 pm

For me, I’m more offended by the author’s lack of journalistic integrity than most of the claims that she made. Can I just say that I LOVE Erica’s response? Seriously. That is a fantastic, fact-based, non-biased response from a journalist, and she said everything I was trying to say but wasn’t articulate enough to.

I can understand liking or appreciating the content of the article as a fellow blogger or a reader. That is opinion. I cannot understand any journalism student or professional truly believing that this was a well written or researched story.
I don’t work for a newspaper anymore, but if I did I would hope that none of the reporters on staff approached stories the way that the MC article was, or else I would question their education, ethics and maturity.
zenlizzie´s last post ..How my make up 5k turned into an almost 6k

Lori October 4, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I finally got a hold of that article and by the end, I swear ominous music was going to swell up…”Meanwhile, discussion of the 2011 Healthy Living Summit has already begun.”..bum bum BUUUUUUUUM!

The whole thing is just absurd. It is based on the assumption that these women do not blog responsibly…and that is totally and completely so ridiculous (to use a Rachelism).

Just like everything else in Marie Claire.

Seriously? We really expected a magazine like this to truly be a reputable source of information? I suppose there are women out there that treat it like the Bible, but c’MON. It’s practically a tabloid.

KK October 4, 2010 at 8:10 pm

My two cents…

Yes the article was mean, hurtful, and one-sided. You know what? So, is the response of the bloggers mentioned and most of the readers commenting…with the exception of this site.

It is true that only one of the women mentioned has legitimate training in nutrition or any other related field. Does that matter? Maybe it didn’t when these gals got started, but given the size of their readership and the money they earn, I’d say it does now….and it should.

They all claim they don’t present themselves as experts, but as someone else commented “These women do present themselves as the end-all, be-all of healthy living.” That REALLY comes across when you read. And when you host a “Healthy Living Summit” where you and your fellow bloggers are the featured speakers, you’re presenting yourself as an expert.

A lot of people are firing back with the claim that the readers need to be responsible for themselves. This is true, very true, but the bloggers need to be responsible as well. This issue didn’t just appear out of thin air, it wasn’t created by Katie Drummond or MC mag. It is an issue that has been present since these blogs began and conveniently ignored all along. I have never met any of these women in person. They all seem nice, well-meaning, intelligent, fun, you name it, but that doesn’t mean they should be exempt from criticism.

None of us readers can say for sure if any of these women have eating disorders, but the fact is, some of their practices are questionable, sometimes their eating is too restrictive, and sometimes they over do it with exercise (even considering marathon training). When you read, whether you have a history of eating disordered behavior or not, it is east to get caught up in the social comparison game.

I also think it’s a cop-out to reduce this article to MC trying to stomp out their competition in the “free media” blogging world. These bloggers do have an enormous reader base and they make some coin doing what they do (sorry sweethearts, then it ain’t “free”); however, it doesn’t really compare to the size of the media conglomerates that produce Marie Claire. From what I’ve seen, most mags and other media sources have embraced blogging and incorporate it into their production. Hello, Tina Haupert writes for Health! And at least three of them have book deals. These aren’t a bunch of innocent women pursuing a small time hobby, they blog for a career!

I think this is a chance for bloggers and their readers to step back and think critically about what motivates them to blog, what motivates people to follow, and how they can be responsible for what they write.

Melissa October 4, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Extremely well said. I’ve brought this up a few times on my blog–esp, the bloggers that take a pic of every single morsel of food they eat — and how I see that as disordered behavior. Likewise, constantly training for a marathon or race COULD be construed as over-exercising.
Melissa´s last post ..Disordered Behaviors in Disguise

Lori October 4, 2010 at 9:19 pm

One more thing: I totally did not think it was “mean.” It sounded like a woman who wanted to be taken seriously for some investigative reporting. Judging from what one of the features bloggers posted on her blog regarding the email conversation, I can totally imagine how warped the original idea started out (hey, health blogging!) into this expose on pro-ED sites. At most, if I want to armchair diagnose which everyone seems to want to do, they (and a lot of us) have orthorexia (which is a whole other topic). What she wrote belongs in the editors section (or maybe a blog – something a previous commenter touched on cuz a blog is, ya know, an OPINION).

What I have thought about on reading comments, blog posts about this subject, is that what truly needs to be discussed are two things:

1. Orthorexia
2. At what point does a blogger need to recognize that their hobby has become a powerful communication tool that needs to be more than mind vomit or information gatheringandpresenting. It’s sorta like the actor that became a celebrity but never intended to be a role model but they are forced into that “label” anyway. What do you do with that?

Ok, now I’m done. Heh.

Tamara @ The Stretch Jean Incident. October 4, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Great post, Rachel! I completely agree with just about every point. I also enjoyed KK’s comment and Melissa’s post (“Disordered Eating in Disguise” I will admit that in the past, I have outright imitated the eating and exercise habits of some of the bloggers mentioned, based solely on what I saw in their posts.

Considering I’m a recovering binge eater, bad, bad idea on my part. But as Melissa mentioned in her post, I think the way *I* view the content on these blogs depends on where I’m at in my recovery. On a “good” day, they can be inspiring, bursting with great food and workout tips. On a “bad” day, well, I can view them as excuses to binge. But that’s all *my* doing and I would never hold the blogger responsible for such behavior because last time I checked, I’m a big girl, fully capable being responsible (and aware) of my own actions.

HOWEVER, I also agree that despite Drummond’s treatment of research and content and despite the responses from some of the “Big Six” bloggers themselves, this subject felt like an elephant in the room for a while and it’s refreshing to have an open discussion about it. And, indeed, forget e-mailing the author and editors at MC; pause and reflect on what it all means and how you and/or your blog may be affected…
Tamara @ The Stretch Jean Incident.´s last post ..Monday Madness

Brooke October 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm

by the way. this place is great. nothing like a blog about blogging. ahhhh!

Kelly October 4, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I love that there is a discussion going on. I think regardless of whether you think the article was mean spirited or one-sided there WERE some valuable points in there that are worth considering when it comes to blogs. I understand that the bloggers featured might want to write rebuttals 100% dismissing everything because doing otherwise could make it seem as though they agree with how they are represented, but I do think, as you point out, that this comes at the expense of seeing some of the lessons in the article.

I do think there has to be a sense of responsibility once one starts making such a substantial living from blogging. This isn’t to say that I don’t think these girls blog responsibly, but I think it’s hard to argue that the more public you become and the more you make a living from your followers and fans the more you have a responsibility when you post. I honestly think these girls live up to it for the most part but there have been some things that have been written that I know from personal research weren’t fact checked very well. I thought about pointing it out because I hate misinformation, but felt like I would hav e been crucified by their loyal fans.

To be honest, that’s what’s turned me off from reading most of these blogs anymore. People say they want discussion, and I think many of these bloggers too, but the community on the blogs is such that often if anyone says something that questions the author, offers up a different point of view, etc. the commenters are mercilous in taking these people down, no matter how valid the point. I’ve noticed it started to create a culture on a couple of blogs where disagreement with the blogger seemed to be shunned. To me that’s a problem, that kind of unquestioning of what’s going on and the feeling that if you are to like a blogger you have to agree with everything she says.

I feel like as bloggers we’re straddling this weird line where many are happy taking the benefits that come with being taken seriously (freebies, trips, book deals), but don’t necessarily want to live up to the responsibility that comes with it.
Kelly´s last post ..A Luxury Dinner Party – Exotic Twists on Elegant Classics

Laura October 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm

AMEN to this post.
I couldn’t agree with it more. The article was written in a tone which seemed extremely agressive, however some of the points they raised are definitely worth looking into. I’ve suffered from an eating disorder for well over 4 years and a lot of times the blogs can be triggering to me- but they can also be extremely HELPFUL. I don’t think all blogs are bad, or all bloggers are eating disordered and showing other people how to do the same. I think it’s a mixture of lifestyle choices and when it comes to lifestyles- everyone is bound to have different opinions. Plus…blogging about everything you eat and how much you exercise each day is just setting us up for comparison- but I think it’s the readers obligation to decide whether or not they should read a specific blog or not.

Thank you for posting this…it’s the most well-written and thought out post regarding MC’s article that I’ve yet to read.


Jay October 4, 2010 at 10:24 pm

I totally agree with you; the article was much too one-sided and extreme but highlighted some important truths as well. I think that some of the bloggers mentioned have totally healthy eating habits. Others, not so much. I had to stop reading carrots n’cake and Graduate Meghann as I felt their chronic undereating was having a negative effect on me. I do not think ANY of these women have eating disorders. I just think for one reason or another a few of them undereat. I don’t judge the motive behind this- maybe they just don’t really pay attention to how much they’re eating and don’t realize how low their daily caloric consumption is. However, I felt the need to stop following those blogs because they definately influenced my thinking.

Clarice October 4, 2010 at 10:48 pm

I think Drummond’s article is doing exactly what she intended. She has gotten hordes of people to talk about what she wrote. People like me, who would never have gone to the Marie Claire website or Facebook page visited today or last night just to see. If she had said, “The Big Six” are marvelous, no one would have noticed. Her job is to generate interest and press, which she has done fluently. While I think she could have chosen some bloggers who actually display disordered eating, it would not have accomplished her goal, every journalists goal, which is to generate press.

Lastly, in response to holding each other responsible, I think we should be careful. It is one thing to be constructive and offer a comment on a blog in which you are loyal reader. However, if people feel they are being policed with too many standards or constantly criticized, I fear the outlet of blogging won’t be one people in which people want to participate. Obviously, a writer should be responsible, but if I wanted to write academic MLA papers, I would go back to a university. Overly standardizing things might remove some of the personal, intimate quality that makes blog reading and writing so enjoyable.

elaine! October 4, 2010 at 11:20 pm

To answer, “Now…where do we go from here?”

How about Hollaback hosts a blogging roundtable that focuses on these topics? Invite a few high-profile bloggers to respond to the questions and include their replies here; then open up comments and trackbacks to get the rest of the discussion going. Break it up into a few different blog features to keep it manageable if needed.

We’ve already got some good seed questions from the interview Q&As as posted in some of the “big 6” rebuttals.
elaine!´s last post ..Elite Runners in Slow Motion

Amy* October 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

I’m surprised to read some comments that people didn’t realize that these bloggers aren’t experts. None of them have ever professed to be, from what I’ve read. If you assumed that they were, that is the result of your own poor critical thinking skills.

I’ve also seen many commenters saying that they have chosen to reduce/discontinue reading these blogs when they (the reader) felt pressure to live up to some ideal or started making unhealthy choices. To me, that is a a big red circle around the idea that the readers ARE taking responsibility for their own health.*

Fitarella October 4, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Well written Rachel. I’m really glad that this discussion is happening, it’s been underground for too long.
Fitarella´s last post ..Marie Claire Blogger Article – Let’s talk about it

rebekah (clarity in creation.) October 5, 2010 at 1:16 am

girl, you know how i feel about this. rock on.
rebekah (clarity in creation.)´s last post

jd October 5, 2010 at 1:58 am

Rachel, Im glad you posted something more thought out and productive than much of what is circulating on the internet about this story! For the other people commenting on the facts etc. of the article, keep in mind that MC mag bought this story, they have fact checkers, editors and lawyers who read through articles many times before they are published. Personally I am excited about the discussion the article is generating-it’s about time people start talking about this stuff openly and honestly!

Lesley October 5, 2010 at 2:38 am

In regards to point #6, that was one of my biggest issues with the article. In addition to the fact that I didn’t feel like it accurately represented the few blogs of the “six” I read, I felt like it was giving the bloggers too much power. You cannot create an eating disorder out of someone who isn’t already prone to developing that behavior. Are we going to start pointing fingers at bloggers who are unafraid to post a drinking binge that they are encouraging the abuse of alcohol, and they need to worry about the reader in corner 5 who’s in AA? I don’t think so.

Yes, I read blogs following the lives of people who run more than I ever will, eat less than I care to, avoid foods I love, and are thinner than I’ll ever be. We owe it to ourselves as consumers, of whatever our consumption may be, to think critically and know how to process information for our own use. I don’t appreciate being talked down to as an audience that I do not have the ability to separate out what is healthy for me and what isn’t, and certainly not by a woman’s magazine that is basically in the same business of pumping out advice that may or may not work for you. I’m not going to stop reading MC because I disagree with one journalist, but seriously, of all the things to “blow the roof off of” could they pick something that’s actually a threat? I am not threatened by anyone’s lack of donut – I’m still gonna get mine.

Kath October 5, 2010 at 2:43 am

Great points Rachel.

Heather October 5, 2010 at 3:35 am

It’s really interesting to read everyone’s comments…I’ll be honest, when I read the article I saw some truth to what she was saying and was shocked to find a forum that actually agreed with that. Your post is great!

Sometimes I feel like the big bloggers can portray themselves as too perfect…not intentionally, I honestly feel that they are truthful in their posts, but that begs the other question: how can you be so perfect all of the time? Don’t you want a piece of pizza once in a while or just have a day where you lay on the couch and not run everywhere? I started noticing that I was trying to make my own blog live up to that certain standard, but then I realized I was just not happy blogging that way, simply not for me.

Glad I found this site!

Tracy October 5, 2010 at 6:04 am

This is a great post, and while I don’t agree with everything in it, I think about the blog world in general it raises a lot of great points. I have really only read 2 of the 6 mentioned regularly, and while they are of the “posting every morsel of food” variety, I never saw a problem with them. Granted, the two I read are less lambasted in the article than some of the others, but they are mentioned.

A big point I agree on: these blogs are a brand. This is something I can often forget myself. There have been a few products they have mentioned, I have bought, and thankfully I loved them. But sometimes I do have to remind myself this is their JOB and they are schilling things to support themselves.

On the food photo front… I can see how that could be triggering for someone with an ED. But, to play devil’s advocate, how is their food photography worse than tracking my calories every day? If I wasn’t mindful of what I was eating, I know that I would eat a lot more than my body needs. I know the 2 blogs I read have said they did this when they were losing weight, and the food photos are a more relaxed way of keeping track without counting calories because they aren’t actively losing weight. And, let’s face it, if these blogs were just about showing us everything these bloggers eat, we wouldn’t all be reading it, because it is not that interesting! Food is a big part of all humans lives; we need it for sustenance and we also like it for enjoyment purposes. Yes, they tell us about their food and their exercise, but they also tell us about the events that they go to, the books they read, the general activities of their day. And they do this all while sharing beautiful photos of it all, whether it be their adorable puppies or the stunning vistas they pass throughout the day. What bothered me the most about this article and these comments is that people seem to be ignoring the fact that so much more than food is blogged here. Yes, it is a big thing, but when I think about how much of my day is spent preparing meals, eating them, shopping for them etc, it is no wonder!

And lastly, as to responsibility… I think some bloggers handle it properly, and some don’t. I know at least one of the non-experts has a disclaimer on her blog, and HAS HAD a disclaimer on her blog, that she is not an RD, that this is just her experience and is not advice, and that is in addition to giving reminders in her posts that she is just sharing her experience.

I am not saying these points didn’t need to be brought up, but Drummond did so in a way that was irresponsible and all for the shock value. Her report was very biased, and she used quotes from less than half of the bloggers. She completely glossed over the good things that have come from these blogs so that she could create a higher sense of outrage from readers. I know that the readers of the blogs in question will not stop reading just because of this article, but what about the corporate sponsors? Remember, for many of them, this is their job! If they lose their sponsors, that affects their livelihood, and I don’t think that is something they should have to go through. I don’t know what the exchange was with the sponsors, but the way their responses are represented in the article, it sounds as if Drummond called and asked “this blogger that you sponsor may be involved with disorded eating somehow, what is your response to this?”. These women all agreed to be part of this article, but if you see their responses (not the opinion part, but the exchanges with Drummond) it is clear she misled them with her intentions at first, and that is a travesty. The questions may be good ones to have been asked, but I don’t think the bloggers attacked all deserved the harsh words that Drummond had in store in her article.

andi @ livelaughbefit October 5, 2010 at 10:33 am

i agree 100% and thank you for bringing about a real conversation. i can’t fess up to calling them the big 6 because, much like everyone else, never heard that term before. but the conversation needs to be had (and appears to be starting). i take issue with the strongest voices not at least having experts they can turn to, and that the community is at times seemingly blind to any conflicting opinions–how often has a comment dissenting from the norm been lambasted? the messages are good, but to ignore the issues makes me feel that we are superficial.

thank you for starting the dialog.

MelissaNibbles October 5, 2010 at 11:40 am

At this point, what more can be said? I think that there needs to be both personal responsibility and blogger responsibility. As someone who compared herself to other bloggers and lost 20 pounds as a result, I do take this seriously. I don’t blame the bloggers for my own actions at all. I ran those miles, I starved myself. I AM TO BLAME. However, I don’t see the harm in from now on, bloggers blog a little less about their daily workouts, stats, running times, etc… It could help people from being less competitive with their own. Maybe reminding readers in every post that they’re in training for a race would help. It may become tedious, but if it helps one person scale back or check themselves, isn’t it worth it? Readers also need to check in with themselves as well. Reminding themselves what their goals are with their exercise and eating habits. If they’re trying to lose weight, just check in to make sure they’re doing it in a healthy way. If they’re trying to improve their running time, check themselves that they aren’t trying too much too fast, etc… Also, if a blog is making you feel insecure, stop reading it.

The problem of seeing bloggers we think are overtraining or undereating is a very touchy subject. I wish someone had commented to me, I really do. I know it’s scary to comment in someone’s blog post, but would an email hurt? If you do decide to comment and risk the wrath of other commenters, is it worth taking the chance? At the end of the day, if you’re truly worried about someone and you take the chance to address them (in a respectful manner) about it, then you can live with yourself. If you say nothing and just continue to read and can live with yourself that way, hey, that’s on you.

I have to commend Heather from Hangry Pants for putting her ego and hurt feelings aside and actually trying to have a discussion about what the core of the article was about. I have a lot of respect for her for trying to have a respectful discussion amist all the anger and hostility.

Instead of leaving mean comments on Marie Clare’s Facebook page, why don’t we stop giving them so much attention (they’re loving this) and post something positive on the National Eating Disorders Facebook page? Thank them for everything they do to help young men and women who are suffering. Better yet, why not make a donation to help the cause? What is leaving comments on Marie Clare’s page going to do? Come on, they’re not going to stop hiring skinny models over this. Yeah, the article sucks, but you notice how fast they put that thing online for everyone to read? I’m very curious as to how many of the same people who left those comments are going to buy the issue just to see it in print.

Let’s turn this negative into a positive, put the egos and hurt feelings aside and move on in a positive way. We all know that the women featured were taken out of context, but let’s address the core issue and all start blogging and reading more responsibily.

Damn, I should’ve made this a blog post.

PoP October 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I think the blogaspheres ‘shock’ at this articles is interesting in itself. These ‘big six’ blogs are famous, and with fame comes…well harsh criticism. While its pretty easy to see the flawed journalism in the MC article ( I have a degree in Communications and clearly the journalist missed out on her ethics class). At the end of the day however, a magazine article is not exactly a newspaper article and bias and pizzazz in magazine articles sells the magazine after all. The ‘big 6’ should really be stoked about this because I went through and read all of their responses as I’m sure others will and they will at least double their already large readership and hits. So MCs article in the end will only make the Big 6…bigger. So lets hope that the girls are as responsible as they claim and that readers are the same.

I am new to the blogging world… and shock horror I dont/ or didn’t follow the ‘big 6’ I will for the immidiate future as I watch this play out. SO thx MC for pointing us newbiews towards the big players;)


Jess October 5, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Thank you for this….I agree with much of what you said. The article was mean-spirited (or felt that way), but I DO feel like it brought up some valid points. I look to a couple of these bloggers as role models for healthy living and moderation, but I had to stop reading Meghann’s blog awhile back because some of her behaviors were red flags to me. I realize not everyone is as sensitive to this as I am (I am recovering from an ED), but I am just being honest. Sure, the bloggers are free to post whatever they want and however they want. But I just worry about the teenage impressionable girls who are looking to someone who is working out 10 – 15 hours a week and posting meals that might seem small to them, and who only take one rest day a week (and use that day to do hot yoga….not really “rest”). The article definitely brought out the “elephant in the room,” one that most bloggers don’t want to bring up themselves because, in my opinion, they would be bashed by the friends and followers of many of these popular bloggers.

betsy October 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Well said, Rachel. I enjoyed reading this post.

Betherann October 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I really appreciate your balanced, fair take on the matter.
Betherann´s last post ..Guest Post- Maggies Favorite Cooking Oils

Emma October 5, 2010 at 4:19 pm

I desperately want to start a blog, if for no other reason than to respond when topics like the MC article explode in the blogosphere. Fortunately, while I’m putting in my BTB time prior to launch, Hollaback has provided a forum for me to voice my views. And, I couldn’t be happier that my first exposure to the topic came through Hollaback.

When I read this article, it triggered something in me. In fact, I’m fairly certain my interest in this topic has elevated to ‘obsession.’ I rarely read comments, but I have not only kept up with all of the comments on this post, I’ve checked out just about every response to the article I could find AND read through the comments section on those posts as well. Obsessed.

Why the obsession? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, at first; at one point or another, I’ve had all of these women on my Reader. Currently, I keep four of the six on there, and Jenna is one of my top three fave blogs (Rachel safely holds the number one spot). As Rachel said, I feel like I know these women, and I have a great deal of respect for them and what they do. Yet, the feeling I was having was not one of intense defense; it was relief.

While I willingly read their blogs and enjoy them quite a bit, I’ve always had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. I thought it might be jealousy – these women ‘live the dream’ – they eat healthfully, exercise, and go to fun event for their *job.* They get to work from home, make their own schedules, and generally have really FUN jobs. Maybe I’m just jealous – who could blame me?

Then, I tried starting my own short-lived blog. I tried the ‘food diary’ approach. I took (crappy) pictures of every morsel I ate and posted descriptions of my (lengthy and intense) workouts. And you know what? I lost weight. I was the thinnest I’ve ever been. I ate super-healthy, and worked out often; I felt accountable. If losing weight was my goal, this worked.

I also lost my period. I freaked out if I didn’t spend at least an hour at the gym every single day. I felt guilty over eating an ‘extra’ apple. Seriously. Because, you know, eating too many apples is the problem with most people’s diets. I was happy with the way I looked, but I was constantly pushing myself harder, feeling the need to ‘keep up’ with the incredibly active and healthy lives of the top bloggers. I wasn’t anorexic – I ate plenty! – but I was definitely disordered.

Obviously, this wasn’t their fault. Not one of those bloggers would encourage me to do what I was doing or feel the way I was. In fact, they are all very clear that what they do works for them, and may not work for everyone. They are also very clear that being happy and feeling balanced are the most important things. In addition, I believe they make every effort they know of to discourage disordered eating and EDs. They emphasize that their workouts often revolve aroung training for races. They are all well-meaning and appear to be very sweet women.

One of the keys for me is that these are exceptional women. As in, the exception. They rarely miss a workout. They are often satisfied with a small square of chocolate for dessert. They rarely overindulge, and when they do, it’s normally accompanied with a ‘oops!’ emoticon or a ‘I think I deserved a treat after my 15-mile run! ;)’ I don’t think any of them have ever polished off half a pint of Chubby Hubby in one sitting.

And that’s fine. That is the lifestyle they choose, and that IS what works for them, which is all they have ever claimed to share. I don’t believe that any of them have eating disorders and I don’t even think they are disordered eaters (though, I can see how a journalist could paint that picture, given their behaviors). 

The reason this article filled me with relief is because I finally felt like someone was putting words to my feeling of ‘this is not average, right??’ Between the article and Hollaback’s response, I felt understood.

Because Rachel is right – while the MC article was definitely mean, they need to take some responsibility for what they put on their blog, and the effect it might have on readers, regardless of their (really good) intentions. Rather than focusing their responses on rebutting the article, they could talk a little bit about how their lifestyle IS exceptional. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it IS the exception, and being healthy does not have to look like that. 

Where do we go from here? Well, I think this discussion is a good start.I think I’d like to see less food guilt, and less ‘earning’ treats. I’d also like to see more discussion about how they keep themselves from eating several tablespoons of chocolate almond butter straight from the jar, because anyone who says they aren’t tempted to do so is lying! (I’m being semi-sarcastic there. Semi.) Maybe it really IS effortless for them now, but was it always? And, if not, how did they get here? From reading their stories, we know that many of them initially lost weight by cutting back on junk food and incorporating more real food, but did they struggle with this? And did they ever eat too much real food? Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing. I guess, overall, I’d like to see more discussion about what healthy living really is, rather than just photographs of healthy food and healthy people doing healthy activities. I know a lot of bloggers, including some of the ladies in the article, DO do this, and that’s very much appreciated; generally speaking, there can be more!

To be really (really!) clear, I’m not attacking, blaming, or condemning what these ladies – and the many other healthy living blogs that follow this format – are doing. I know it works for them, and, though I struggled with the competition I created in my head, i’ve learned a LOT from these blogs. But I think there is a reason this article was published and is making so many waves: it needs to be talked about! We don’t have to be as malicious as MC, but we DO need to talk about it; it certainly can’t hurt! 

A big thank you to Hollaback, and ALL the healthy living bloggers striving to make the world a better place (the ‘Big 6’ included!). We’re all making a difference, and there is so much potential – and power! – with which to do more! We’re all on the same team.       

Emma October 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm

P.S. Major props to Rachel for getting herself quoted on Jezebel in such a flattering way. Love it!

MelissaNibbles October 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Emma, I relate to everything you went through. Your comment is very well written and informed. Please start a blog. I’d love to read more.

D October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm


Is there anyway to enable “reply” comments on individual posts? I’d love to respond to a few in particular but you can’t do that on here :( And I think if I just posted a new comment directed at the person, they might never see it. Thanks!

Emma October 5, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Thank you! You’re very sweet. I didn’t realize how ridiculously long that was until I finished it, then worried it would be obnoxious!

One of the things I love about Hollaback is that I’ve discovered so many new-to-me bloggers, like yourself, that not only blog, but like talking about *issues*, both in and about blogging.

Keep up the good work!

P.S. Told you I was obsessed – I can’t stop refreshing this comments page. I’m just hoping the guy running the training I’m sitting in doesn’t notice…

Rachel October 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Melissa/Emma/all you lovely ladies, Great points! I agree there is more to health than eating perfectly and exercising insane amounts. And if those 6 bloggers (among hundreds of others) want to take pics of every single thing they eat, so be it. But as many of *those* kinds of blogs there are, there are also just as many if not more healthy living blogs that focus on the whole picture. I wish more women would read these blogs as well, and realize they are out there already instead of encouraging the “big 6” to change the way they blog. I myself have a healthy living blog and have been writing for nearly 2 years ( While it may not be as “popular” as these 6 women’s blogs, it is there and I love sharing my thoughts on health, eating, fitness, happiness and confidence with other women. And no, I’ve never photographed the food I eat unless it’s for a delish recipe. When I was in college, I struggled with disordered eating and could never get food off my mind. I was obsessed, and frankly I was way too thin. It was no way to live. Now that I don’t obsess and take a holistic approach I am so much happier, healthier and full of life! I urge you to read these kinds of blogs too, to get the whole picture and a fresh perspective. I’m actually working on a memoir right now of my inner battle with food/exercise obsession and how I’ve overcome it. I guess I’m just saying there are plenty of wonderful, feel-good blogs out just have to look a little harder to find them : ) great discussion ladies!!
Rachel´s last post ..Single Gal’s Fresh Mozzarella &amp Pesto Pasta

Monica October 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Love this post.

Love what it is saying.

Love that it is a balanced,refreshing look at this hoopla.

Not loving some of the “big bloggers” angry posts in response. To be honest
that made me quite disappointed.People have right to write articles, of course they too have equal rights to respond, but the grace and maturity with how they hold themselves is very telling.

Thou doth protesteth too much some might say. I would say keep peaceful and get ready for more dissenting opinions to come in future years. Not everyone is going to believe that what you are doing is “healthy” (this I am referring to mentally almost more than physically!)

Anyways, kudos to Hollaback!!!

Hangry Pants October 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm

While I don’t want to make this about me, I do want to stand up for myself because I know most people who read healthy living blogs do not read mine – I do not post in a food journal style or post everything I eat (except for one week when my boyfriend and I did this as an experiment), nor am I a professional blogger getting 100s of thousands of monthly views. I just want to clear those misconceptions up – I don’t fault anyone for thinking that about me or my blog as that is how it seemed in the article and lost of you do not read my blog or know who I am.

Also, I’ve responded to the article on my blog and did a post about what I do to be responsible if anyone is interested.

MelissaNibbles October 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

@HangryPants: Heather, you have a huge amount of respect from me for trying to have this dialogue on your blog and for taking part in the discussion about the core issue at hand. It shows that you care not only about yourself, but about the blogging community as a whole. Thank you.

Rachel Wilkerson October 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm

DONE! Tech goddess, right here…
Rachel Wilkerson´s last post ..Rule 15- Love That Which Lets You Love It

Emma October 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm


I actually have read your blog, and I know what you do on there; I’ve seen the posts you’ve written about your own struggles with gaining weight and food guilt. And I have a TON of respect for you for this. I know that all 6 of you have different blogs and that you, and many, many healthy living bloggers, do the very best they can to encourage general health.

Personally, I don’t really think you have anything to defend! You’ve done nothing wrong. I do, however, think it would be a lost opportunity for the community not to talk about this issue; you’ve shown you know it’s an issue, and I think it’s fab that your taking part in the discussion. I can’t imagine how much it SUCKS to be singled out for such an attack, and I really, really respect how hard you’ve worked to make something positive out of it.

Keep up the good work!

Bess October 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm

As I have communicated with you offline, I am incredibly impressed with how you handled having personal details about your life misrepresented and put up for scrutiny by thousands of people.

Thanks again for such a rational reaction and your genuine concern about the feelings of others in the blog community.
Bess´s last post ..Would You Like Chickpeas On Your Chickpeas

D October 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm


amanda October 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I agree that the issues raised in the article are issues that NEED to be raised. I don’t, however, agree with the way they were raised. I felt as though the article left a lot to be desired – but you know what? You’re right – journalists aren’t required to be nice – but it would be nice if the article was at least better argued. It’s true also that we don’t really know if any of these women have eating disorders, but neither did the author of the article.

While I would like to think that blog readers can and should be responsible for themselves, the truth is that in reality this just isn’t the case. While I disagree with the idea that these bloggers are promoting unhealthy lifestyles, with the openness of their words it is easy to forget that before this lovely healthy meal of veggies and fruit, they may have downed a burger and a six pack. It’s easy to forget that we aren’t seeing the whole picture.

As readers, I don’t think we should judge based solely on the blog and some responses to a few questions – and I don’t think the magazine should have either.

Katie October 5, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I just saw found this blog (after reading about the Marie Claire article on Gawker) and I applaud your response!!! I love reading about healthy eating and recipes, especially being a former college athlete and dealing with exercise and diet throughout my entire life. Keep blogging! I find these blogs so inspiring!!

Mary (A Merry Life) October 5, 2010 at 10:31 pm



heather October 6, 2010 at 1:34 am

THANK YOU! i have been saying “I wish!” for this on HBH for a while :) hooooooray!
heather´s last post ..Now What

tish October 6, 2010 at 3:29 am

Ok, I have to admit I’m a lazy reader so I didn’t read through everyone’s comments, but I did go to the “About” tab and one of the girls who writes for this blog stated she works out a butt load so that she can eat what she wants…

So now I’m confused. Are we all supposed to be mad at MC for writing such a scathing piece? Are we saying it’s OK to work out and eat like one of the blog contributors for this site?

Can someone help a sista out?

Rachel Wilkerson October 6, 2010 at 3:32 am

HA…okay, Cliffs Notes version: Yes, MC was douchey, but we think the issues at hand — disordered eating, overexercising, and the danger of a groupthink mentality — are true, important, and worth discussing further.
Rachel Wilkerson´s last post ..Rule 15- Love That Which Lets You Love It

Whitney October 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Those girls are crazy. I stopped reading their blogs because of how unrealistic their lifestyles are. Also, I was sick of the molded blogs. Sure, running 20 miles then having greek yogurt is “cool” now, but they have no real background or training to be blogging about healthy lifestyles.

I’m glad the magazine shed a different light on the blogospehere. It’s not natural or healthy.

Joanna B October 6, 2010 at 7:31 pm

This is the first time I have seen this site. I would like to comment on your article as a whole. I don’t have any answers just some questions. To what extent should bloggers really be responsible? Does one have to watch out for the entire population of people who are insecure and a copycat? Should someone really change their writing style because others are imitating it and harming themselves? Is this the same as people saying that guns in rap videos cause violence? These are very fine lines we are tap dancing on.

I’d use myself as an example, I started a blog after reading some of the ‘big 6’ blogs. I started my blog in hopes of inspiring people to take things other than food and exercise to achieve their fitness goals. I don’t have the same template or lifestyle of any blog I have read, for one I’m not a chocolate lover and I don’t drink alcohol. In fact, each and every blog is different. I don’t do many of the things that some of these bloggers blog about. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t read and enjoy them.

At the end of the day you can’t please everyone, you never ever will, so stop trying. Let’s all be true to ourselves what ever that means for you. I commend you for sharing your opinions and having a place where we can disagree.

Liz N October 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

Emma, what a fantastic response. I’m from Australia and only just found the whole MC controversy.

Bloggers who keep it real appeal to me the most, the ones that aren’t perfect and have their own struggles.

Liz N

Emma October 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm


Thank you! That’s very nice to hear. And if you like that, you should def check out the Hollaback Girls latest post on the subject. I agree – I love the bloggers who keep it real, and these ladies *always* do. And I’ve found that this blog is a great place to stumble upon other bloggers who do the same; like yourself, as I just checked out your site 😉

Keep up the good work!

Melissa October 7, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for the shout out!

Betsy October 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm

And here I thought I was the only one critical of the healthy living blogs. While I did find MC to be a bit harsh, I’m with you on appreciating the fact that this starts a necessary conversation.

Rachel K. October 8, 2010 at 12:52 am

I don’t even know what to say or where to start and there’s no way I can get it all down or capture all my feelings regarding these going-ons. But just a little bit: Rachel, when I first started your post, I was afraid I wasn’t going to like it because it initially appeared to me that you were perhaps jumping on the bandwagon along with the majority of posters on MC’s site, their Facebook site and the on the “Big Six’s” blogs, that is, that you were about to hate on the MC article. However, by the time I got to your point 5, I saw that was not the direction of your post. I was happy because, truthfully and, can I even say it: I kinda liked MC’s piece.

Of course one thing that struck me is how hypocritical is for MC or, unfortunately, any fashion magazine out there to publish an article like this when they themselves constantly promote unhealthy standards for women in their magazine and on their Website. They publish articles such as, yes, “Victoria’s Secret Angels Dish on How They Stay So Skinny” and are one of the main forces in society that help to create and maintain the standard of beauty as being a size negative zero, through their advertisements and their cover models/celebrities. It is ironic that this article ran in the magazine with skinnier-than-ever-idol Victoria Beckham on the cover and that the Internet version of the article has a video of extremely thin supermodel (redundant!) Irina Lazareunu that plays next to it.

But this aside, journalism like this is bound to be dramatic and even slanted. But a lot of these things needed to be pointed out. As Rachel reinforces time and again bloggers DO have a social responsibility. Many of them do act as experts— I mean, for many, this has become their career. Since, many of the blogs now have huge fan bases and endorsement deals, this responsibility has become even more crucial. Definitely at least upon reaching this level, a blogger should recognize that she is responsible for what others are doing because of what she is advocating on her blog. But yes, Rachel as you point out, whether you have 10 readers or 10,000, you hold a social responsibility because you are putting it out there for the world to see and, unfortunately, expert or not, some people take what these people say as truth.

And really, can we feel that bad for the bloggers mentioned? After all, they were just given free publicity! I really do believe that, in this case, any publicity is still publicity. I am positive that since the publication of this article, the “views” on the mentioned blogs have exponentially multiplied, only further resulting in more “spending money” for Meghann and the others 😉

Katie October 8, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Great comment, really well written and I agree with you on so many points! When I first found blogs, it was some of the “Big 6” and then after awhile, I branched out thinking: “This is not average, right??”

diet_diva October 11, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I think the article is valid and should be read by all health and fitness bloggers. I have been “excercise dependent” and still struggle with feelings of guilt if I miss a scheduled workout. I also have been as meticulous as the bloggers mentioned and it resulted in my losing my period for 2 years while over training and counting every single calorie (1500 was my max goal even though I was lifting heavy 4 days a week and running about 35 miles a week). Back then I would’ve read the MC article and scoffed, “This person is obviously jealous or fat or lazy” but now my perspective is, “Yes, there are a lot of women out there who are making themselves miserable in the name of HEALTH” and they need to take stock of where their motivations lie and how healthy they really feel way down deep inside. We are all capable of taking stock and aknowledging when we’ve gone a bit too far.

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