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Is Food Photojournaling Really Just Disordered Eating in Disguise?

Posted Apr 07 2010 1:31pm

This is a cross-post at WeAretheRealDeal.com. You can read it here or after the jump.

Have you seen this article in the New York Times — First Camera, Then Fork ?

MizFit brought it to our attention today and I knew I needed to write a post about it … especially since it was relevant to our panel discussion last month at FitBloggin.

There, during our session where we tackled the topic of Body Image & Blogging, I sucked up my courage and made this bold assertion to a bunch of food and fitness bloggers:

I think some food bloggers are (unknowingly) masking disordered eating issues … and that photographing every morsel can lead to DE issues.

While I can’t say this is the case for everyone, I have to say, I see lots of signs in the blogosphere. In fact, I raised this issue about a year ago on my own blog ( you can read the post here ).

After I said it, I held my breath and waited to be booed off stage (as many attendees were food bloggers).

But to my surprise, a lot of heads started nodding and we opened up the discussion.

The consensus among the group seemed to be that while some bloggers are genuine foodies who love to eat and probably have no eating issues and just like to take pretty foodie photos (and, alternatively, photo-journaling food helps some people from a weight-loss perspective) the inherent act of photographing every morsel (i.e., putting 6 almonds, 4 chocolate chips in your palm to snap a pic with your iPhone) just seems a bit MUCH.

A bit disordered in and of itself.

And yes, this is coming from someone who will have been on Weight Watchers for six years as of April 13! Yup, you heard me right. For six years, I’ve written down/logged practically everything I’ve eaten … even weeks I go wayyyyy over, even on vacation.

But yet even I see a distinct difference between food journaling in private and photojournaling.

Even at my most obsessive moments a few years ago, I didn’t whip out my journal at the table … nor do I today. Instead, when I get back home or back to my desk (if I’d been at work), that’s when I jot it down/log it online. It’s done discretely, and for my own records. I know journaling helps me, mentally if nothing else. But no one else needs to know about it.

In fact, the LAST thing I want to do is call attention to the fact that yes, I still care very much about what I eat and how much; it’s just a habit.

Similar to a food journal, I think often people start out using photojournaling as a dieting tool … but then it backfires into an obsession where one can’t eat without taking a photo (as in the NYTimes piece) … and how is that healthy? Or apologizing to one’s readers for eating something they didn’t photograph? I’m sorry but that seems very obsessive to me.

And photojournaling might seem like a great idea for you, the blogger … but you also have to think about your readers … which could be at wild ends of the spectrum.

For example, let’s look at portion sizes and how they appear on camera — sometimes readers end up comparing themselves, which could be totally unhealthy if they’re in a delicate state of mind. While it’s not necessarily the blogger’s responsibility to be able to guess what triggers someone else, often-times people with EDs will gravitate to these types of blogs for “food-porn.” NOT HEALTHY.

I know I might be unpopular for saying this with the food bloggers out there, but I read a lot of their blogs and — maybe it’s because I’m coming at it from my own perspective — but I see a lot of disorderedness being masked in the blogosphere or, in other words, a lot of orthorexia that is going undiagnosed.

(For those unfamiliar with orthorexia it is “a a form of disordered eating characterized by going to extremes in pursuit of a so-called healthy diet. Literally translated, it means “fixation on righteous eating.” A person with this condition obsesses over the quality of the foods they eat, in an attempt to perfect his or her diet.”)

While I know not every food blogger has — or will end up with — disordered eating issues, I definitely see how it could happen … especially since the blogosphere can be a fairly competitive environment, stirring up thoughts such as “her spinach salad looks prettier than mine” or “her pasta dish is so teensy compared to what I’d eat.”

If I could give any advice to food bloggers, it would be to take a good look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

And if you start to feel overwhelmed with uncomfortable feelings of anxiety … maybe it’s time to take a step back and reassess.

Even a healthy mission can become unhealthy when taken to extremes … This is a lesson I’ve learned all too well. Trust me when I say, I speak from experience.

How about you? Do you think photojournaling is disordered eating (DE) in disguise, or could lead to DE issues?


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