Buns of Steal

Are Fitness Blogs Bad For Your Health?

Blogger (via Buns of Steal)

Is blogging (and the reading of blogs) about dieting and exercise actually bad for you? That's the question posed by Jezebel and Marie Claire recently. In their article, MC profiled six well known fitness bloggers and argued that by chronicling, in painstaking detail (often with photographic evidence of everything they eat and how many calories they burn exercising, and often with public, self-critical rants whenever they  "mess up") these bloggers are not only indulging their own diet/exercise obsessions, but also inspiring hundreds or thousands of readers to adopt the same borderline-disordered attitude. As a fitness blogger myself, as you might imagine, this hits close to home...

Of course I've blogged extensively about exercise, but also about dieting and my eating habits. True, I've shied away from counting calories and delving into specifics (after all, this is a workout blog, plus, I'm not a dietitian and feel uncomfortable offering diet advice), but I wonder how my constant musings on the subject affect readers. We blog our thoughts, and our private neuroses, but do we think about what happens when we put them out for the world to read?

I ran into this problem when I publicly posted an example of everything I ate in a given day, along with input from a "body tutor." My readers didn't exactly approve of the tutor's recommendations, and upon reading their comments I realized that by only showing a day of my "eating" life, I had presented a slanted view of both my eating habits and the tutor's thoughts. Reading back over this post, I have to laugh: just a random day of food intake, from a 24 year old working at a law firm, thrown up for the public to discuss and dissect. Is it really that deep? 

Apparently to some people who are reading for guidance and inspiration, it is. I don't know how I feel about the MC article. The comments on the magazine's website are scathing, and rightfully accuse MC of being hypocritical by skewering health bloggers on the same pages that run ads of emaciated models and recommend "5 day fluid" cleanses. That said, I think Katie Drummond raises a valid point about highly visible bloggers, and the unexpected responsibilities they have to their readers.

The bloggers featured in the article, of course, disagree with MC's take on things. From the article: "Reached by Marie Claire, the six bloggers denied having eating or exercise disorders. 'The vast majority of Americans aren't anorexic or bulimic. They're overweight and have no idea how to eat healthy,' says Boyle. 'If they read blogs like mine, maybe they'd learn something.'"


For the ongoing adventures of Buns of Steal, an impoverished but equally resourceful law student in New York City hoping to make it through 2010 without ever paying for a gym membership, visit "Buns of Steal."


I read two of the blogs mentioned in the Marie Claire article pretty regularly, and I do think that they have a lot to offer people in terms of how to live a healthy lifestyle.  The author of the article was overly critical and failed to look at any of the positives.

In the past, I've tracked my weight every Friday on Social Workout, and even wrote down everything I ate the entire month of October last year as part of the "Eat.Sweat.Blog." Challenge.  It may have seemed a little neurotic to some, but it certainly helped keep me on track and moving in the right direction.

starry04's picture

I think SocialWorkout is a good example of "it takes all kinds" when discussing health/fitness blogs.


I'm going to think on this. I still think blog snapshots of your 3pm 17-almonds-snack are weird, though.

Mr. Mohawk's picture

I also read a few of the blogs mentioned in the article, and, I think that the article took alot of the posts out of context in order to make the story as harsh as it seemed. While yes, sometimes counting every calorie can become obsessive, many people are aware of what they eat AND still eat healthy. This includes the normal slipup, or a splurge at a celebration, etc. Do I always need everyones play by play on what they eat? No. But, does it sometimes help me put things in prospective or provide an example of how other people balance life and health?, yes. Noone forces us to read these blogs, we go there for our own use - whether thats inspiration, curiosity, ideas, whatever. And, I think many people struggle with ways to balance their lives. So, if you don't like what the blogs are saying, don't read them. If you find them helpful, or find community/support from them, or just enjoy a different perspective, great!

(oh, and with the obesity epidemic in our country, maybe a few of us out there could use a lesson in watching what we eat and holding ourselves accountable.....could that really hurt?! just a thought...)

thefatbridesmaid's picture

Its funny, the more I think about the MC article, the more annoyed I become. I feel like now I need disclaimers all over my blog, warning people that no, I'm not a dietitian; no, I'm not a PT; and no, I'm not a professional health writer. That I'm just a normal, sometimes over-achieving, sometimes messed up, 25 year old trying to live her life in Manhattan and stay fit.  I agree with 'thefatbridesmaid' that health blogs can often put things into perspective and offer some new ideas and tips for those trying to live well and stay healthy. Nothing more.

Also, come on, Marie Claire. Your website is full of calorie counters, BMI indexes, even specialty calorie counters for desserts. You're in the same game as all these blogs... why pretend you're anything different?



Julia N.'s picture

It's just another sensational tactic... sorta like what the Democrats used to win the presidency, and what the GOP is doing now. Criticizing another group, in this day and age, seems to translate into some positive authority, ie, "These people suck" also carries the meaning "I don't suck." It's a stupid, shallow tactic, but in our blip-minded media it can have a lot of heft to anyone not reading closely.


On top of that, magazines are going doooooooooown, and a large chunk of their readership is flocking to bloggers that share readers' struggles and elements of their lives, whereas magazines are still milling out personality-less fluffs of articles that recycle the same dieting trends and continue to subtly enforce that people, particularly women, need to be thin to be happy. MC achieved the sensational, probably amped up its readership, and brought into focus the possible criticisms for health bloggers all in one move.

Mr. Mohawk's picture