The Thing About Healthy Living Blogs

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If you were dying to know what I thought of last night's Idol, here you go.

In fall 2010, Marie Claire, which has developed a little reputation for stirring the shit when it comes to things weight-related, published an article about some "healthy-living" blogs that might not be so healthy. Are the writers putting themselves--and their readers--in danger, by promoting dangerously low-calorie, high-exercise living? Were the cheery blogs actually guilty of promoting something more insidious, an "arguably unhealthy obsession with food, exercise, and weight"?

I am a person who, in addition to many other topics, spends a good amount of time contemplating food, exercise, and weight, so my immediate reaction was to tear the article out and go look up the blogs in question. To me, the article might have said "Whatever you do, don't go look at this big bloody car accident. Don't look!"

Based on the Marie Claire article, I basically expected a handful of pro-ana websites (note: I am not anorexic, never have been, but I am a sucker for anything unusual or niche-y on the Internet.) Imagine my disappointment when the blogs revealed no such dangerous obsession. Are the bloggers highly-focused on food and fitness? Yes, but not "diet" and "burning off evil calories." Most bloggers focus on something that is of high interest to them but not the world: these gals like running races and oatmeal recipes: other bloggers focus on their kids, or fashion, or cosmetics, all things that can cause a shitstorm when addressed in the big picture in terms of whether they're Good For All Women.

Having established that these blogs are not going to kill me, I've come to develop something of a love-hate relationship with them. I've become a dedicated reader, even though occasionally I feel like reading them is like taking my medicine. They're upbeat and happy, non-judgy but every now and then I let them make me feel crabby--it's all me, though, not them, so I'm trying to figure out what my beef is.

For one, some reason I get mad at these ladies for diligently taking lovely pictures of their food. This resentment comes from two places: one, that they can take such nice food photos whereas my photography skills have atrophied over time. One special Christmas I received a coveted manual Pentax camera. I took photography lessons and developed my own film and made my own prints. I could load a spool of film in the dark because I practiced, diligently, in my closet. Then came digital cameras and manual seemed sad and old (especially once I hit college, where you wouldn't want to lug a big old camera around with you: you want something petite and cute you can stick in your little purse to document the night's fun.) I was okay with pointing and clicking digital stuff, but then I married an actual photography enthusiast. When we go on vacation, I don't even bother packing a camera because he has the big fancy camera and he uses it so why should I take my own shitty versions? Point being, me take bad pictures and me sad. So these ladies' beautiful photos of their lovingly set plates makes me think of my own failings. Plus, I'm mad that they have the patience to take photos of their food instead of eating it right away. I am so impatient to eat I'm eating right this second.

I'm jealous that they have things like chia seeds in their pantry. God dammit. Just when I feel proud of myself for having a banana and carrots in the fridge and oatmeal in the pantry, these gals go and one-up me. Chia seeds. Every now and then I'll come across a healthy food ingredient that I simply deem as being too healthy to be real (usually it's something that's not really a food in and of itself but something you sprinkle on your food, like the chia seeds or flax seeds or nutritional yeast.) People who keep these in the pantry are surely not doing this for their own benefit: it's to make the rest of us feel bad. What's stopping me from just going to the store and buying my own sack (box? carton? cone?) of chia seeds? Nothing, except for the inkling that chia seeds will probably go the way my great flaxseed adventure went--I couldn't get used to sprinkling something that adds nothing, flavor-wise, on my food on a regular basis and just gave the flaxseeds to a friend.

I'm bitter that they have the time and wherewithal to make these lovely healthy breakfasts every morning, breakfasts that contain more than two ingredients. In the morning I consider something like slicing a banana incredibly intensive. I prefer a breakfast that just involves dumping things into bowls or perhaps just microwaving or peeling the tops off. Yet the fancy breakfast (not to mention the fact that I never see them eating anything frozen for lunch or dinner) is indicative of the fact that not only do they eat better than I do, they live better, plan their lives better. Oh, why do I even try?

I'm mad that they're always doing stuff and have time to blog about it. They are always networking, or moving, or running races, or going on fun group trips, or doing community service and then have time to type it all up. They never seem to have useless downtime, these ladies, especially the kind that involves watching Intervention while reading catalogs. this makes me feel like I am sort of a slobby loser. Maybe they do, and they just don't admit it like I just did. Crap.

On this note, they are prolific like whoah. If you miss a few days of these ladies' blogs you are in for some serious reading. Meanwhile I have been blogging for nearly ten years and about five and a half of those years have been me going, "What am I going to write about? Oh god, I am the worst. I should just quit."

They are endlessly positive! Even when they're sort of negative about something it's so gently just not-as-happy I wonder what I'm doing wrong all those days that I think, "God, I am too lethargic even to walk down the stairs. I wonder how much it will hurt if I just throw myself down them, because today I cannot stand to put one foot in front of the other." Now, obviously, a blog where the author complains all the time might not be the most readable, especially if she's advocating living a healthy life, but you know, every now and then misery loves company.

They seem to have moderation down pat, which I also envy. One or two drinks, never three, four or seven. I try to count how many drinks I have a week, which I dislike, and I try not to eat out too much even though I love it, and I'm trying not to eat too much sugar right now yet they seem to do it all the time yet with perfect moderation. Recently I read one lady talk about how she ate a quarter of a donut, and another day, a half an ice cream cone. Yet you never read them writing things like "Today I ate my chia and flaxseed oatmeal for breakfast even though what I really wanted were four McDonald's #3's" or "Tonight I was in a weird mood so I ate an entire bag of Cadbury minis." How do they do this? I want to be where they are.

Finally, they eat so artfully. Cute ceramicware. Nice tablecloths. They seem to treat meals with a level of civility foreign to me. You know why my laptop touchpad is currently broken? Because I got oil on it as I was shoveling food into my face while reading Facebook.

Clearly I have a somewhat complicated relationship yet I continue to read the blogs that Marie Claire warned me about, pretty faithfully. I don't find them unhealthy in the least, but sometimes they do annoy me, in the way that things that remind you how you can do things better annoy you, which is why I kinda read them for inspiration. And for recipes. And because I feel a little guilty if I don't.

Despite my semi-tongue-in-cheek complaints above, I actually do lead a pretty healthy life. I'm training for my first half-marathon this summer, and I am pretty sure I am in the upper percentile when it comes to eating healthy foods (I still like unhealthy foods too but I've come to the place where I've realized that I can't eat too much of them not because it's "bad" but because it makes me feel physically gross). It might be where I start comparing myself: "Well, her breakfast has more protein than mine does so she is better than I am!" where things get silly. There's no need for that. That's probably what Marie Claire hopes I do.

But on the positive end, these ladies' make me want to eat better, by which I don't mean less, by which I mean less stuff that is frozen or comes in cans. They make me want to taste things, and not just insert them into my food-hole to temporarily calm the boredom in my belly or brain. They make me want to exercise better too, by which I don't mean more, by which I mean happier, that elusive feeling you sometimes get of feeling happy that you actually accomplished something. And those happy broads make me want to be happier too. So if they're unhealthy, I guess I kinda want to be unhealthy like them.