Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Weight loss blogs and eating disorders

I came of age during a time when the internet was just beginning to get popular.  In middle and high school, I still had to do my school research in a real library (imagine that!).  Even though I have been active in social networking sites for quite a few years, I didn't know what personal blogging was until a couple of years ago, let alone see the point of it.

As you can see in my story here, I have a lot of experience with yo-yo dieting, restriction, and large amounts of weight loss.  What really brought this post about was that I happened to come across a genre of blogs dedicated to weight loss and dieting.  The authors of these blogs usually list their stats directly on the front page of their sites (height, weight, % fat, current weight, goal weight, weight loss, weight loss per week/month/year, etc...).  Their blogs focus on what they are eating, the diets that they are on, how much they are exercising, and how they can't wait until they reach their weight loss goals.  These sites are also riddled with 'thinspiration' images and pictures of the author's own weight loss. 

While I 'get' the fact that these blogs may help some people shed a few pounds, in terms of a weight-loss support community, I also find myself having very intense and negative feelings toward them.  Because of my story, and because of my experience with weight loss and dieting leading to eating disorders, I am extremely weary of the slippery slope that websites like these present.
Many of these blogs discuss 'being bad' and 'being good' with regards to food.
As in...

"My friends bought me a birthday cake for my birthday, and I didn't have ONE bite.  I was so good!  It was difficult, but I am so proud of myself!"

or chastising posts like...

"I was SO bad this weekend.  I went to a party and ate so many BAD foods.  I totally broke my diet.  I'm so mad at myself.  Why can't I just control myself around food?"

(Just to clarify... the above examples of posts are fictional.  But, they are thoughts that I have previously written in my own journals, and they are very similar, thematically, to what I have found on many weight-loss blogs.)

Having gone through similar scenarios, I know that once you start categorizing food as 'good' or 'bad', you're in trouble.  Food is fuel.  Calories and fats are gas for your engine.  It makes me so sad to see that these beautiful people are breaking down their happiness into how much weight they did or didn't lose.  It devastates me to see they view their lives as somewhat incomplete until they get to that 'goal weight'.

But, the reason that I'm so bothered is that I could have been one of them.

I feel so lucky that I didn't have the access to blogs when I was going through the height of my weight loss or yo-yo dieting.  All I had to 'vent' in were my own personal journals-- a place where I could keep my crazy thoughts safe and sound.  A place where no one but me could "comment" on what I had written. 

Nobody else but me could instantly 'congratulate' me on my weight loss, or give me tips on how to lose weight.

If I had been a blogger at the height of my eating disorder, I would have inevitably had a thinspiration or weight loss blog.  I would have felt pressure and competition with other weight loss bloggers, and I'm positive that my eating disorder would have been incredibly more detrimental that it was.
I want so badly to tell every one of these bloggers that diets DON'T work.  Most people find that it is tremendously difficult to stay on a restrictive diet, and there are usually three outcomes: maintained weight loss (if your body is naturally happy with the lower weight), weight gain greater or equal to what was lost, or, in the worst case, continous disordered eating for the rest of one's life.

I'm certainly not one to want to discourage people from getting healthy.  I just want to save them from the inevitable crash that is to come if they strive to keep their weight at a place that is not comfortable for their body.  I want to save them from years of disordered thinking.  I want to tell them to eat intuitively, let their weight land where it may, and accept their bodies   I want to tell them that they are beautiful, and that they should throw out the scale.

And I've tried.  I've done all of the above.  But, most of the time it doesn't make a difference. 

Because they haven't learned all the lessons.
They havent gone through the experiences.
They haven't been disillusioned by the diet and weight-loss world.

Because they still believe that once they get to that goal weight they can start living.

And nothing that I say will change their beliefs, just as nothing that anyone told me in the throes of my ED changed mine.

How do you feel about weight loss/thinspiration blogs? 
(I didn't get into pro-ana blogs because that is a long post in and of itself!)

Do you think that it's possible for weight loss blogs to lead to eating disorders?



  1. Good Questions:

    How do you feel about weight loss/thinspiration/pro-anorexia blogs?:

    I find them to be horrid. I hate them. I wince when I read personal blogs and come across to their personal bio and see the words "pro-ana". It's terrible. I avoid the websites or anything relating to pro-ana or weight loss programs.

    Do you think that it's possible for weight loss blogs to lead to eating disorders?

    I've known some people who were morbidly overweight and got their bodies back in the shape in a healthy and appropriate ways. I knew a person who worked out 5x a week for over a year and learned how to eat better. He lost 150 pounds and changed his lifestyle. He had to have a surgery to get rid of excessive skin. Ever since, he has been maintaining moderation in everything. Did he have an eating disorder PRIOR getting healthy? Possible because his eating was terrible annd emotional-related. But now, does he have an eating disorder? No.

    On the other hand...some people do lose control of exercising and eating appropriately/healthly and develop eating disorders.

    I would not necessarily say that weight loss always mean there will be an eating disorder. At the same time, there is a risk.

  2. Wah, i wrote a long comment, but i must have deleted it. i'm short on time, but i just want to say -- it's so terribly sad to not eat cake at your b'day. and to be proud of it.

  3. Guilty!

    Hi Yasi! I have been reading your blog for some time now and wanted to say thank you so much for posting this! While I have been losing weight in a healthy manner through Weight Watchers, I definitely characterize with some of the things you described above. Letting the world into my weight loss journey and seeing the huge support network has been fabulous for my weight loss but I can see how it could go bad when the compliments just make me feel so good and want to lose more and more! Great job on taking care of yourself it has been eyeopening to get a glimpse into your journey!


  4. @ Ashley- thank you for your thoughtful response. I just want to let you know that I took the 'pro-ana websites' out of my first questions b/c after re-reading my post, I didn't want the 'pro-ana' bit to take away from the point of my 'regular weight loss websites' post.

    @I hate to Weight- Sorry your comment got deleted! Hate when that happens. I'd love to hear your full response! Post back later if you get a chance. :)

    @ Casey- thank you for the lovely comment, and congratulations on taking on your journey to health! I am glad that this post offered you some perspective. Although I'm well aware that many people are completely mentally fine with losing/gaining weight, as person in recovery, I am hyper-sensitive to these types of blogs and to weight-loss in general. I know all too well of the dangers that can come with becoming preoccupied with weight-loss, and I really strive to deter others from going down that path. :)

  5. Great stuff yasi!!!I read your blog and knew very well about weight loss. Thanks for the great resource. Keep in touch.

  6. @calotren- thanks for reading. :)

  7. Great post - it's so important to have a venting system and support system when going through weight loss. Especially when most of the time its a lifestyle change also!


    In Fashion and Style

  8. I agree that these blogs are damaging and in some ways encouraging for ED. I remember going online about a year ago to look up ways to lose weight and I found many pro-Ana blogs. I read and noticed how small the girls were that wrote them. I then realized that they must be doing SOMETHING right, so I mimicked the drastically small calorie intake.

    Anyway, I am glad that there are also blogs like yours which prove that healthy eating is the way to go, not restriction :)


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