Healthy Living? I’m Not So Sure Anymore

This post might get me in trouble in the blogging world. But I’ve been thinking about it for a while, so I have to get it out there.

I’m a part of a community called Healthy Living Blogs, which, by definition, should include blogs pertaining to all aspects of healthy living: nutrition, fitness, weight lifting, wellness, etc. While yes, there are many different types of blogs under the HLB umbrella, it seems that there is a certain (negative) perception about what an HLB is. And unfortunately,  many HLB blogs tend to live up (or down?) to that perception.

While there are many HLBs out there that promote true fitness, wellness, and nutrition, there seem to be just as many that promote much less healthy practices. It seems to me that the blogging world is full of disordered eating and other unhealthy practices, and that many readers look up to and even emulate these lifestyles.

There are countless blogs where people literally talk about eating “bird food”, or whose daily food consumption consists of raw veggies, PB2, and protein powder “pudding” (what the heck is that anyway?).  There are blogs out there with emaciated girls posting multiple pictures of themselves and their limited food daily, leading their readers to believe that that’s what healthy living looks like. There are bloggers who flood their Instagram feed with pictures of their emaciated bodies, and the worst part is the commenters who often say things like “I wish I had legs as skinny as yours!”  Some blogs make me cringe to click through their pages, seeming more like “pro-anorexia” blogs than promoters of healthy living.

And it’s not just one or two blogs that I’ve noticed with this same sort of message. There are a lot of them. Of course, there are some amazing Healthy Living Blogs out there, those that promote true fitness, nutrition, and overall health. But chatter around the internet (which is a smaller place than people think) leads me to believe that these people – myself included –  are the outliers in the HLB community. Or at least that is the perception. There is a lot of talk about what people think HLB’s are, and most of it is not positive.

So my question is this: Should I not be associated with HLBs? Is calling this a Healthy Living Blog tarnishing my reputation before I even write anything? I sure as heck don’t want to be associated with blogs that are promoting extremely unhealthy images and ideas under the guise of being healthy. I don’t want to be a part of something that can be triggering for young readers who may be struggling with disordered eating themselves. I don’t want to be a part of something that could potentially push a young, impressionable reader over the edge into a world of under-eating, over-exercising, and overall unhealthy practices.

What I do want is to reach people of all shapes and sizes, provide a little motivation, inspiration, and information, and help people to become better versions of themselves.  My blog is, as far as I’m concerned, about healthy living. Fitness, strength training, nutrition, and general wellness are all under the broad category of healthy living, are they not? But while I don’t want to be associated with the practices I listed above, I don’t want to completely get away from the HLB world either. For every reader who falls into the unhealthy-healthy-living trap, there has got to be one who is looking for real, true information. Instead of backing away from the HLB community, is it unrealistic to think that the perception of HLBs can be changed? If enough truly healthy bloggers emerge and speak up against those that are promoting unhealthy practices, maybe the HLB community can be seen as a truly inspirational group of bloggers, and not just a bunch of girls who compete to see who can eat less and workout more. 

Health is not about having unnaturally stick thin legs and hands that look too big on your arms. Healthy living is not about consuming zero carbs and weird concoctions made from protein powder and cottage cheese. Healthy eating does not mean fooling naive readers who believe everything they read on the internet, and leading them to believe that they too should be at a dangerously low body fat percentage. Health is not subsisting on dangerously low calorie levels each day while using food and camera trickery to make it look like you’re eating all day, every day, yet still maintaining an 80 lb frame.

These are things that are dangerous to readers who feel that whatever they’re doing is not good enough, because they can’t ever get their legs to be “that thin”. These are things that promote extremely unhealthy lifestyles, yet they’re proudly promoted by the HLB community. I guess my message here is to readers, bloggers, and the HLB world as a whole. When did those sort of blogs become the Healthy Living norm? And what can we do to change it?  If this gets me in trouble, and HLB wants me to take the badge off my blog, than so be it. But I think it’s an important question to put out there. When did healthy living become less about being healthy and more about being (dangerously) thin?

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44 thoughts on “Healthy Living? I’m Not So Sure Anymore

  1. tut tut, didn’t you know it’s not called skinny anymore, skinny is OUT. Lean is IN .
    I often sit on my hands rather than pointing out THEY ARE THE SAME THING.

    When healthy living becomes about eating right FOR YOU, exercising right FOR YOU, and feeling good FOR YOU rather than how lean someone can get. THEN it will be healthy living.

  2. tut tut, didn’t you know it’s not called skinny anymore, skinny is OUT. Lean is IN .
    I often sit on my hands rather than pointing out THEY ARE THE SAME THING.

    When healthy living becomes about eating right FOR YOU, exercising right FOR YOU, and feeling good FOR YOU rather than how lean someone can get. THEN it will be healthy living.

  3. I believe a lot of healthy living bloggers would benefit from posting less masturbatory self-praise and pictures of their meals and boring daily activities, and posting more INFORMATION and IDEAS and the REASONS behind their training plans. Talking about things that are rational and universal; the science of how the body works, discussing it on a more intellectual level. And less bragging all around.

    Think more T-Nation, less Shape Magazine.

    • I agree! When I first started blogging, I wondered if I was supposed to post mundane recaps of my daily life along with everything I eat, because that’s what everyone else was doing! I really try to stay away from that stuff on here, and try to include more of the information and ideas that you mention. Besides, I’m pretty sure no one wants to read what I do every day anyway!

  4. Then I read a blog yesterday which stated
    “This blog will be aimed at optimal body composition, so people seeking low levels of body fat, decent muscle mass, and to look sexy. ”

    Since when is optimal body composition to be low fat? Women need fat. Lean does not equal awesome by some sort of default, which is what a large proportion of the population seem to think. In fact I am sure there have been studies done to show the optimal weight for HEALTH is the upper end of normal/lower end of overweight on the scale we call BMI.

    For most women (not all) being able to see a 6 pack will mean their body fat is too low for optimum health.

    Saying all that I read your post yesterday on IF meals and thought how the hell do you get thru with that (to me) small amount of food on lifting days. Everybody’s body is different and needs different nutrition.

    • Hi Helen! I just wanted to quickly comment on my IF days — I actually looked back over that and thought “wow that doesn’t look like enough food”. It was about 2000 calories that day though, which is pretty standard for me, depending on the workout that day. Usually lifting days are around 2000-2200 cals for me and my goals. You’re right that everyone needs different amounts, and that can even vary from day to day! Sometimes I’m ravenous and probably eat upwards of 2800 in a day, sometimes not so much! Thanks for the comment as always 🙂

      • Also, I want to add that you are absolutely right! Some women, depending on their build, can have a visible six pack while still being at a healthy BF %. But for many women, it’s just not realistic or attainable for an extended period of time. Figure competitors who have visible definition of just about every muscle? They are at a dangerously low body fat level, and that is the reason why they have an off season, it’s nearly impossible and also dangerous to maintain that all the time.

  5. I read a blog yesterday which stated
    “This blog will be aimed at optimal body composition, so people seeking low levels of body fat, decent muscle mass, and to look sexy. ”

    Since when is optimal body composition to be low fat? Women need fat. Lean does not equal awesome by some sort of default, which is what a large proportion of the population seem to think. In fact I am sure there have been studies done to show the optimal weight for HEALTH is the upper end of normal/lower end of overweight on the scale we call BMI.

    For most women (not all) being able to see a 6 pack will mean their body fat is too low for optimum health.

    Saying all that I read your post yesterday on IF meals and thought how the hell do you get thru with that (to me) small amount of food on lifting days. Everybody’s body is different and needs different nutrition.

  6. i feel like the fitness industry in general has this problem –people with sound advice & knowledge combatting the likes of the media every five seconds. i have so many moments where i overhear conversations of people who mean well, but are only quoting what they hear on tv regarding diets and exercise. most of the time, all i can do is just shake my head. it’s exhausting. that being said, i think you’re a TRUE healthy living blog, and i think now more than ever it is important for you to have that title — to distinguish yourself as a true source of knowledge, inspiration and information among all the clutter. even the most naive readers will see the glaring differences between your blog and the others and even if they don’t necessarily follow you, you WILL make an impact. i understand what you’re asking, because it’s super frustrating to be in your position and be grouped in with all the junk, but i think if you just keep being your fabulous self, and trying to reach as many people as you can, you’re already succeeding in your mission. and if they steal your ‘healthy living’ title away, then i’ve got a million more (cooler) ones for you. 🙂 keep it up

    • This comment made my day, of course! I actually like referring to all of those blogs as clutter and junk, good use of words there 🙂 You are absolutely right too, this is definitely a problem that spans the entire fitness industry. I’ve had to stop reading a lot of “fitness” magazines because they are often just filled with total junk. So thank you so much for this, and if I lose my healthy living title, I’d love to hear some of the other names you’ve got lined up for me! 😉

  7. I can’t thank you enough for addressing this issue on your blog. I too struggle with this whole questions of “HLB”. I think there are a lot of bloggers out there who are FARRRRRR from healthy, but what they portray is what the mainstream media shows as healthy — abs, low body fat, extreme diets, disordered eating. What’s really healthy is in the opposite direction it isn’t even funny. I struggle because I definitely control my eating, but in a healthy way. I don’t count calories, but I try to consume clean foods (not tons of protein powders and bars – fake food) but with lean meats, fresh veggies and fruits, and whole grains. I exercise, but not to an extreme. You won’t see me lifting weights for 2+ hours or running on the treadmill forever (unless I’m marathon training) so that I can burn calories. Because I limit myself – albeit limiting myself from junk food – is that not “healthy”? Yes, I have a treat every once in a while. Gotta follow that 80/20 rule or else you go nuts, but do some people see what I do and take it too far? It’s a hard line. Very hard line.

    • Thanks Sarah! I agree with the 80/20 rule, and I live by it pretty well. I too don’t spend tons of time in the weight room, and you can bet I’ll eat a tub of froyo if it’s put in front of me! (And I even enjoy full fat ice cream from time to time… gasp!) I definitely think that there are some people who take the whole “clean” eating thing way too far, and sometimes dangerously so, and the fact that so many readers think they have to do that too is what really scares me.

  8. I’ve followed your blog for a while (I think I found you via Elizabeth at Triathlon Obsession?) and finally got around to adding you on Twitter (today!) and I found myself nodding in violent agreement with your post.

    I shun associating myself with the HLB community for just the reasons you outline – that the community as it portrays itself online, for the most part, is far from my idea of healthy. I shun the HLB title and the blogging networks associated with many HLBs, and instead have focused my energies on my own network – those who embrace healthy living, with healthy attitudes to food and exercise, those with open minds and blogs that start discussions rather than close them down.

    Thanks for opening this discussion, for keeping it real and being transparent about your own experiments and efforts, and for acknowledging the often left unspoken thoughts so many of us have had! And, speaking of keeping things transparent and real, I hope your finger is healing!

    • Donna, I’m so glad you found my blog, and glad we have connected on Twitter too! I completely understand your reasoning for not associating with the HLB name, and clearly I am questioning it for myself as well. Some of the other blogging networks really bother me as well — I wont name names but I’m sure we’re talking about the same things here. When I first started blogging, I thought I HAD to be a part of those things for people to read my blog, but then I realized that I’d rather have less readers, but still be writing what I want to write and be proud of my content and it’s message!

  9. I completely agree!! Unfortunately, I think a lot of the bloggers you might be referring to are probably too sick and trapped in a disordered mind to truly realize that they are NOT living a healthy lifestyle. But this is exactly why someone needs to step in and say something! I’m totally with you on the changing the perception of HLB’s. Hopefully more people catch on, and we can spread the word!

  10. glad Donna posted your link on twitter – I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying! I often feel quite inadequate in the HLB world when I look at “popular” vs my blog (ha!) and then it only takes me a few minutes to realise, that’s not healthy living to me!!! So while I may drivel on about my training and how much food I’m eating (because I eat!) you won’t see me promoting no/low fat or eating as little as possible and touting it as “healthy”. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m out there and I may not be one of the popular ones, but I AM actually a very good example of Healthy Living 🙂

    • Preach on, girl! I feel the same way… I’m not one of the “big” blogs with thousands of hits per day, but I’m proud of what I write and the information that I put out there. So glad you found my blog, I’ll head over and check yours out now!

  11. I love this post! It needed to be said. I am a new fitness blogger and I am a mental health professional as well. My mantra is all about being HEALTHY, HAPPY, and STRONG and I want to motivate people to find their version of this through trying new things, eating less junk, and challenging their body to do the amazing things it was made to do! As bloggers, even when our intentions are good we have to be so careful to think about how our messages are perceived by women and men who are struggling with unhealthy, unrealistic expectations about their body. Great post; I hope it reaches many bloggers and reminds them to be mindful of this as it did me!

    • Thank you so much, this comment means a lot! I think your point about good intentions vs. the way messages are perceived is an important one; too many bloggers are irresponsible with their messages and it can be downright dangerous. Healthy, Happy, and Strong is the best combination in my book, so I think we’re on the same path here as far as philosophies go too. Glad you enjoyed the post, good luck with your blog and I’ll be sure to check it out!

  12. I could not agree more with all of this. It definitely needs to be addressed and I so wish that some bloggers would realize how their pictures, posts and just overall attitudes are affecting other people (especially younger women) who “aspire” to be as “thin” as them. It’s sickening and sad that no matter how much you call them out on their shit (excuse my French..) nothing will change. I do honestly think that some of these bloggers actually BELIEVE that they are truly healthy…when in reality they are emaciated and so in danger and putting other innocent people in danger as well. Amen to this, chica. Thank you,
    Meg

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I agree with everything you said, and I had to hold back from using some choice words in the post myself! This has been frustrating to me since I started blogging, but even more so after I went to HLS last summer and saw many of them in person. And yes, you are right, many do believe that they ARE TRULY healthy, which is the scary thing, for them and for their readers.

  13. LOVED this. I have been lurking your blog after seeing it listed on Squat Like A Lady’s and I totally agree with you. While there is obviously reader responsibility to do what is best for them it seems like bloggers more and more and encouraging disordered eating and like everyone trains like crazy each and every day posting pictures of their calorie burns and the food they turned down because they have the will power to do so.

  14. Awesome post! Every time someone refers to my blog as a healthy living blog, I cringe!!! As much as my blog is about being healthy, I don’t want to be associated with the community. It’s very sad that the majority of bloggers who are disordered can’t even see it. They just dismiss any criticism as “haters” and can’t open their eyes to their own problems. At least when I’m feeling disordered I’m not afraid to call myself out – today’s post, prime example! Haha

    For the record, I put you (and Chelsey above me) in the same camp as me. Not an HLB, but just someone trying to improve the population by dispensing sound nutrition and training advice 🙂

    • Thanks Tara, I knew you would have something to say about this! I’m almost glad you don’t think of me as an HLB…and I’m starting to not think of myself that way either. It is a strange and sometimes very sad community to be associated with, but I can’t help having this feeling that it can change? I don’t know, maybe that’s just me being optimistic 🙂

  15. Funny that you wrote this today, as I spent a chunk of time looking at other blogs today, trying to get motivation for doing a wee bit of cardio. None inspired me. Mostly, they all frustrated me because I clearly don’t want what these girls want and/or are striving to look like.
    I love the saying, “Strong is the new Sexy” but I find it posted on blogs full of anorexic looking girls. Whow, slow down little pony, you think you are STRONG? If that is what strong looks like, I guess I am totally confused.
    I am constantly reminding myself on some days to put only good things in my face. I focus on how I will feel after I eat something–not guilt but more how full will I feel and is this something I want in my body. In fact, I have a student I am teaching right now who only eats veggies all class. Her classmates (all men) yell at her telling her she needs a “balance.” I find their choice of words so very interesting, as she isn’t emaciated but just looks small, but they focus on her need for protein and carbs as being important. I am in love with the fact that men are potentially moving forward in the ideal of the perfect woman. I am curvy (only on the top half as recently my best friend nicely reminded me my body will never have jacked calves) and will always have a bit of a belly. For me, I like to focus on the health behind it. Yes, I want to lose more weight or tone up more, but all and all, I feel very healthy and am happy.

    Thank you for stepping out of the box and reminding people that healthy isn’t scary skinny, and that it doesn’t in fact line up with tiny-ness.

    • It’s so true that there are a lot of bloggers that preach about being “STRONG!!!”, yet they look like they are in the midst of an ED relapse. Which, in itself is very sad, and shows that they need help, not that they should be telling the rest of the world how to stay healthy. You are focusing on the right things — how do you feel after eating, are you fueling your body for what you’re asking it to do — Not just “is this going to make me skinny”. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  16. Awesome post Steph and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been having similar thoughts ever since last fall. If this is what the HLB community has turned into, I don’t know if I want to be a part of it. I just can’t support bloggers who blatantly display unhealthy habits (and unhealthy looking bodies) while parading around calling themselves healthy. Also I’m sick of hearing about “clean eating”, Paleo-style eating, and baking protein powder into everything. Whatever happened to just normal healthy eating?

    • I’m so with you on that! Why is there protein powder in EVERYthing? And clean eating, although I do use that term for lack of a better one sometimes, is a mystery in itself. To some people it means paleo, to some it means no carbs, to some it means no processed foods… heck to some it probably even means “only eat veggies and protein powder”.

  17. Important discussion. I don’t think abandoning HLB as a genre / classification is the right way to go, nor is necessarily calling out specific bloggers on their bad habits. What I think would be more helpful to everyone is to highlight / focus on / share the love about the bloggers who *are* living healthy and are writing about it (i.e., how I found your site). The more examples and exposure given to bloggers with good habits and good content, that will raise awareness and hopefully raise the bar of others who call themselves similarly.

    Maybe it will splinter then the community into something else… “Real Living Bloggers” ? 🙂

    (my site: http://foodbloggeronadiet.com)

    • You are right, and that’s why I didn’t call out anyone specific here.. and also because there are so many that do that sort of thing, it’s hard to just pick one out as an example. Thank you so much for your comment, I hope to keep living up to the standards you’ve written above as a RLB 🙂

  18. Awesome post, girl..

    I follow a blogger that posted yesterday her Pinterest inspiration workouts; and they’re these supermodel “get skinny thighs” workouts.. I wanted to punch my monitor. Nonono.. this is not the message you should listen to!!

    Then someone else posted on another social network I am on about how proud she is of meeting her 1250 calorie goal for the day..

    I say stick with the HLB – it is a great network of people, but have to disregard those outliers who preach the wrong things. We are strong women and I probably wouldn’t have found a lot of the great bloggers I follow if it wasn’t for this group.. but gotta do what makes sense for you! 🙂

    • So true, and I’ve found some amazing bloggers through HLB too! I guess it just comes down to being able to pick out the truly healthy influences out there (like you!). While I’m not going to go on a crusade to out the bloggers I’m talking about, I just think that it’s sad that they are so irresponsible as people who have so much influence over other people.

  19. The answer to your questions “when did healthy living become less about being healthy and more about being (dangerously) thin?” is simple: right around the time the thinspiration community began to be shunned everywhere (for example, Pinterest banned the word ‘thinspiration’ as a search term a while ago). Those girls still need an outlet, so they have now cuckood their way into the HLB community and are pushing out its rightful inhabitants. It sucks.

    Body issues are the main reason I go online to try to find help and support from people who know what they’re doing (like you). It is a daily struggle for me to remind myself that a size 4 is not the goal – that I want to be strong, healthy and fast and I will have to embrace and celebrate, down the line, whatever body comes with that. The blogs you are referring to are not helping. Deep down inside we all want to go through life looking photoshopped. It does not matter how many times you remind yourself it is not real, not realistic, not healthy and not desirable. Every oiled-up ass you come across – shot in perfect lighting and smudged and patched to perfection by some bored and underpaid digital “artist” – chips away at your self-confidence and it is damn, damn hard work staying sane. That is where you come in.

    Your job is to provide some much-needed sanity. Leaving the HLB community will do no good – thinspiration, under whatever guise it may assume now or in the future, will always follow you around because you happen to be working in the same territory, albeit from opposing perspectives. Do not run away from it, but face it head-on. Expose the bullshit and provide knowledge. That is as far as your responsibility goes, after that it’s up to everyone individually whether they still want to do a master cleanse and “lose up to 10 lbs in 2 hours!” or do it the right way.

    • Awesome comment, thank you for this!! You bring up some excellent points here — namely the photoshopped/pinterest/thinspo bullsh*t. You are right that it doesn’t matter how many times you tell yourself that stuff isn’t real, when you see it enough, it becomes an expectation. Very similar to some of these bloggers — you tell yourself that eating 1200 calories/day isn’t enough and that those emaciated bodies aren’t strong, but when they tell you that day in and day out, it’s easy to start to think that it IS realistic and healthy. Thank you for the advice, and I wish you the best of luck in finding the inspiration you’re looking for!

  20. Pingback: Random Monday Thoughts | I Train Therefore I Eat.

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