If you read my blogposts throughout Lent this year, you might have figured out that I have a complicated relationship with food, exercise, and self-esteem. I’m saying this to give you some context to the rest of this post. I may sound angry and bitter. I might be angry and bitter. But beyond that feeling of anger and bitterness is simple, straightforward exhaustion.
Food blogging exploded in the last 5 years, along with possibly every other type of blog. It’s not just a covert little corner of the Internet anymore, heavily segmented and niche – it is everywhere. In a way, it’s great that we all write about more than one thing. But for people like myself, who struggle with disordered eating, it makes it really hard to avoid, too. Once upon a time, you could follow a fashion or book blog without necessarily being triggered. Now, I have to thread carefully everywhere.
This post, however, isn’t just about me. It’s about all of us, and whether we are asking the right questions before we hit the “publish” button.
Let me start from the beginning: blogs can be about many things, but at their heart, they are incredibly personal. My journey. My experiences. My thoughts. My ideas. Everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt because everything is subjective. That is all well and good when we’re talking about things like makeup or books, but “health” is something so incredibly personal, so reliant on individual biology, it is impossible to give advice based on your individual experience.
I have Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, which, last time I checked, occurs in 1 in 20,000 people. That is so rare and yet so important to me. Every aspect of my life is affected by it, but I would never dream of telling people what they should eat or how they should exercise – because we are not the same. Even if someone had the same affliction as myself, I know better than to assume they would find the same things helpful. Their experience is not mine. Their resources are not like mine.
And what “healthy” means for me is very different from what it might mean for somebody else. That is undeniable and unchanging.
And it’s okay.
What’s not okay is when I go online and I see person after person dispense health advice like it’s some sort of gospel: eating “healthy”, “exercising for health”, staying “healthy” on holiday (I mean, wtf, aren’t holidays the thing you get when you need to be more “healthy”, as in, relax?) The very word has been hijacked by every snake-oil salesman, food guru, and marketing expert, to sell us everything from diets to Viagra, and that needs to stop.
To be clear, I’m not telling anybody what to write about: by all means, tell us what you eat in a day, or how spin class makes you feel, or how you love green juice. But use the right language. Be precise in your vocabulary. And for fuck’s sakes, stop pertaining to knowledge that you don’t have. What is a “healthy” diet for your age, body type, and individual health markers might be absolutely devastating to another person’s system. Or worse, if they’re suffering from low self-esteem or anxiety or have issues with body image, it could be a psychological trigger.
When we made our blogs, we made the decision to participate in public life. Our pages are not a private diary – they are easily searchable and they are around forever. We are public figures, regardless of our readerships, and as such, there is a responsibility for the content we put together. We write about what we want – about everything that we want. But we must be precise. We must always be precise.