I've been thinking a lot recently about one type of post that I could start uploading weekly for my blog. It's relatively easy: it doesn't require too much thought on my part, it provides consistent content and it's maybe even a weeny bit interesting (makes a change, eh?). It's a food diary. A What I Ate this Week. A little way of sharing what I've been up to via the medium of meals.
Robyn from one of my favourite blogs, The Real Life RD (SERIOUSLY brill if you're suffering from disordered eating or HA), frequently uploads a 'Weekly Eats' write-up. I really enjoy her blog, and especially these posts, where she updates her audience on her life, punctuating trips and events with treats and eats. I am inherently nosey (have you seen my side profile?) and so I find them so interesting, well-written and just generally so effin' refreshing to see someone enjoying eating more than açai bowls and grain-free bread.
And so I thought, why not upload my own? My boyfriend and I cook a lot, I have a PhD in Brunch Studies and I treat myself to v. aesthetically pleasing coffee more often than I should, so there'd be enough material and photos for a weekly post. I really like reading online diaries too, but my life isn't nearly interesting enough to warrant a week-to-week recap of purely events, case in point that the most exciting thing that happened to me at work today was finding that a Malteser had snuck its way into my trail mix. And so save for never really being arsed enough to carefully arrange broccoli florets into a fan shape, I was all ready to head on with the idea. Until I started thinking- is this really helpful?
When I was peak disordered eating, I trawled blog posts and sat through endless ukuele-tune backed videos, watching and reading about what the women of the web ate every day. And I'm not the only one. More and more often I see the 'What I Eat In A Day' video and blog post format creeping up in both frequency and popularity. Why has broadcasting what you eat become so ubiquitous with being a (invariably) female blogger?
I'm sure that in many cases, these posts are published, as would have been my own motive for doing so, as a response, or rather to show an alternative, to the streams of posts from people that purport to survive solely off of brassicas: to give a realistic view of someone's diet. Maybe it's to share recipes or cooking advice. Maybe it's because food photography is their thing. Money talks too, of course (doesn't call me as often as I'd like, but whatevs) so I can only assume that posts publishing one's meals garners also enough hits, views and just general interest to make it worth a weekly write-up.
So why was I watching them? Why are we watching them? And why do people, seemingly increasingly, continue to consume other people's food diaries?
The reason, of course, could be totally innocent. We're curious. It's innocent intrigue. We document our every move so detailedly online already, that updates on what everyone is eating are just an extension of that. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all let me know when and where my friends have gone for a Flat White, when they've voted in an election, when they've bought a new pair of dungarees in the sales, so it's only natural that our curiosity now stretches to what people keep in their freezer or what they sprinkle atop their muesli. It's nothing. It's harmless.
But I can't help but argue the toss that our motives for such a ravenous consumption of other people's culinary updates might be something more harmful. It certainly was for me. I know, that at the worst point in my disordered eating, every time I clicked on a 'What I Eat in a Day' it was for my own brand of diet advice. I could eat what these women ate because they were thin. I could not eat what these women said were 'treats' or 'naughty' or 'bad', because they were thin. I needed to exercise in the same way, at the same times, with the same frequency as these women, because they were thin. Of course, I don't for a second suspect that the motivation behind these types of posts are to herald this response, and I hope that the women who post these things have genuinely healthy relationships with food and their bodies. But I do think viewers could hold them as an aspirational thing: we need only look at the type of women who post these things, they tend to be white, conventionally attractive, and most importantly, thin. I wonder what the success of posts from people who fall outside of these narrow binaries would be, would we still be so curious?
Or maybe it's none of the above. Maybe it's actually a whole lot more positive. These days, what with the seemingly obvious but recent realisation of mine that I can indeed curate my own social media feed, I personally actually find them really helpful. After months of following clean-eating gurus and social media models come nutritionists, it was healthy for me to see an equal and opposite reaction to the nigh on endless stream of low-carb, low-fat, low-joy salads that used to saturate my Instagram feed. I wanted to see women happy, guilt-free, shamelessly, just eating. I wanted to see women chowing down on stuffed-crust pizzas, on slabs of Victoria sponge, on Monster Munch and ice cream and not hashtagging 'cheatday' or 'dietstartstomorrow'. And, eventually, through the swathes of guilt and shame that every picture of a Full English Fry-up cleared up, it gave me the strength to give myself full permission to eat what I wanted.
So either way, there is one thing that I'm pretty sure the surge of popularity of this blog post and video format tells us: it's indicative of the culture of fear that exists around food. We need reassurance of what it's 'OK' to eat, be that curly kale or a Curly Wurly. So if posting my meals would help to assuage that, would aid in showing that all foods fit, would show that one is allowed to eat what one wants, it'd be a positive direction for my blog to take.
And so I open the floor to some discussion. What do you think? Helpful or harmful?