The Good, Bad and Ugly of Blogging

blogI don’t know what’s wrong with me.  Guess I’m getting fed up with the state of food and fitness blogging today.  I’ve written about my concerns a lot lately — including my latest post for U.S. News & World Report’s Eat + Run Blog, reprinted below.  Fortunately, there are some great bloggers out there — and I’ve listed 10 that you should know.

Where people get information about diet and health is changing. Now, it’s likely to be their news feed instead of a newspaper. Rather than a registered dietitian or physician, it’s a blogger with a large following on Instagram and Twitter.

Trouble is, some of the advice from today’s online health coaches, wellness warriors and citizen scientists is unreliable and can even be dangerous.

Hadley Freeman chronicled the current state of wellness blogging in an excellent article in The Guardian. “Instead of qualifications in boring things such as nutrition and science, the wellness guru has a blog and an Instagram account,” she wrote. “From these, she advises thousands, even millions, of followers in her friendly, informal tone to avoid the likes of tropical fruits (too high in sugar) and stock up instead on cold-pressed green juices. She makes dark references to the many ways in which today’s food industry is making us all sick. She also includes many, many photos of herself to confirm the efficacy of her recommendations.”

Freeman says part of the appeal of this “eat like me, look like me” approach is the whispered promise of thinness. “And a lot of what these bloggers advocate – less sugar, more vegetables – is perfectly sensible. But it is often served up with a hefty side dish of misinformation and encouragement of food phobias. After all, being obsessive about healthy eating isn’t actually all that healthy.”

In a similar article in the Daily Mail, Poppy Cross revealed that many of the bloggers who are attempting to inspire their audiences to live healthier lives are battling a secret fitness addiction and suffer from eating disorders.

“Encouraging others to live a balanced, active lifestyle is a good thing,” she writes. “However, in the fitness-blog community, faked and photo-shopped selfies are commonplace. And I’m worried that they hide their eating disorders in plain sight, inadvertently encouraging their followers to do the same.”

She interviewed a fitness blogger who has come clean about her own struggles: “I look at other girls and think, why isn’t my life like that? Why aren’t I on top form all the time? That’s why I’m talking about this – because life isn’t a stream of perfect selfies.”

Indeed. Life is not a stream of perfect selfies. Putting so much focus on appearance over health, or striving to look like someone else can be detrimental. A study published in January in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology points to the potential downfalls of appearance-driven diets. The research suggests that a focus on appearance reduces a person’s reliance on satiety cues, or feelings of fullness.

While some of these bloggers may promote strict eating regimens and make bold, sweeping statements to avoid wheat, dairy or other “toxic” foods – there are bigger worries.

In some highly publicized cases, bloggers have urged people to avoid traditional medical treatment and opt instead for natural solutions. One blogger created a do-it-yourself recipe for Paleo infant formula, which alarmed pediatricians over the dangers to growing babies.

Don’t get me wrong. I think blogs can be extremely valuable. I’m a blogger myself. I just want people to browse responsibly. That’s one reason I created the Nutrition Blog Network – to help the public find reliable nutrition blogs and support registered dietitians who are trying to grow their audiences.

There are many good food and fitness blogs. It’s just important to remember that the biggest isn’t necessarily the best.

Here are 10 food and fitness blogs to add to your online reading list:

Rebecca Scritchfield

An Eat + Run contributor, this registered dietitian’s site is a welcome antidote to all of the calorie-crunching, skinny-seeking blogs touting diet recipes and detox smoothies. Her blog emphasizes healthy living, not the number on the scale. One recent post, “4 Reasons to Stop Calorie Counting,” reinforced her approach to use intuitive eating and self-trust.

Summer Tomato

Darya Rose, a neuroscience Ph.D., describes herself as a former dieter and proud foodist. You’ll find fabulous-looking recipes along with her opinions on new nutrition studies or the latest headlines, like this post “Juicing: Stupid and Pretentious or Nourishing and Enlightening?” Her mission is teaching people how to get healthy and lose weight without dieting. “Because life should be awesome,” she says.

Fit Men Cook

Kevin Curry wants to show his audience that healthy food doesn’t need to be boring. I like how he tries to shift people away from plain chicken breasts, engineered sports food and protein shakes and inspires them to start cooking. He has top-notch recipes and terrific food videos. His philosophy: “Our bodies are built in the kitchen, sculpted in the gym.”

Body for Wife

James Fell, a syndicated fitness writer, might be offensive to some (a few too many curse words and personal attacks for me), but you can always count on him to expose false information and questionable claims. After all, he describes his blog as “Fitness in Your Face.” It’s certainly that.

Fannetastic Food

Anne Mauney is a registered dietitian, marathoner, yogi and CrossFitter. She believes in an “everything in moderation” approach and encourages her audience to ditch the calorie counting and diet mentality and enjoy real, whole foods – and yes, that includes dessert.

Love and Zest

Kristina LaRue is a sports nutritionist who blogs about her own fitness training, her work with athletes and her adventures in the kitchen. You’ll find credible, science-based fitness information and beautiful food photography.

The Lean Green Bean

Lindsay Livingston, a registered dietitian and fitness enthusiast, has created a blog that’s full of tremendous recipes and exercise inspiration. Her approach: balanced, simple and real.

Real Mom Nutrition

Sally Kuzemchak, a registered dietitian and mom of two kids, writes one of my favorite blogs focused on family nutrition. She says she tries to “get everyone fed without losing my sanity or sense of humor.” Some of her recent posts include “Why I Let My Kids Have Junk Food” and “The Reality of Cooking with Kids.” You can always count on Sally to tell it like it is.

Mom’s Kitchen Handbook

Katie Morford, a food writer and registered dietitian, has created an elegant food blog about “Raising Fresh-Food Kids in a French-Fried World.” She says her aim is to “bring ease to your everyday table through delicious, wholesome recipes, practical cooking tips and nutrition know-how.”

Dinner: A Love Story

Jenny Rosenstrach is a food writer who has assembled wonderful recipes and strategies for getting dinner for the family on the table – and she makes it all seem within your reach.


image courtesy of xioubin low on flickr

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