*this is an actual card which work colleagues gave me for my Birthday. Something tells me I take too many photos of my food.
We’ve all seen them. The articles exploring the link between the increasing popularity of wellness bloggers and the rising cases of orthorexia (an obsession with eating foods which one deems to be healthy) has led to the industry as a whole receiving a bad rep of late. In much the same way as lifestyle bloggers are often criticized for promoting an unobtainable image of cupboards full of designer handbags and drawers full of MAC lipsticks, so too are health bloggers being tarnished with the same brush, albeit one of green juices, activated nuts and endless yoga sessions.
As well-known bloggers continue to come forward to discuss the dark side of the industry, it seems fitting that we should explore where our responsibilities as health bloggers lie, and how we can strive to recognize the obligations we hold to both our readers and ourselves.
An Honest Approach
Of all the things I could mention on the subject of responsibility, first and foremost comes honesty. This goes hand in hand with being transparent and ensuring that all of the content you are sending out into the world is an honest and accurate portrayal of your personality and lifestyle. It’s easy to post one thing and do another, but ultimately a lack of authenticity is not sustainable long-term and will be picked up on by readers.
When writing content and giving advice make sure you are always up front about your own experiences. Whenever I write I post I always think to myself, ‘is this the same advice I would give to a friend or family member?’ Reflecting on this statement allows me to consider if the advice I’m giving people I’ve never met is as sincere as that which I’d give to a loved one who knows that I’m still partial to a square (or several) of any type of nutty chocolate and eat pizza pretty regularly.
Equally as important is to justify any information and opinion with credible sources, especially if you have no recognized qualifications. Do your research before posting on a topic as personal and divisive as nutrition and fitness, and in the absence of specific qualifications ensure you have a disclaimer to notify readers that it is a personal opinion piece, rather than professional guidance.
“These bloggers have a duty of care and they are abusing their power by telling their followers these treats are ‘healthy’ and promoting them as fine to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner”
So, yes, absolutely continue sharing fantastic recipes for healthier alternatives, but bear in mind how this can be interpreted by a younger more easily influenced audience, with a potentially limited knowledge of how to adequately fuel their bodies.
Credit where credit’s due
In the spirit of honesty, the second important point to raise is that of recognition. As a dedicated blog and Instagram enthusiast I spend a lot of time scouring the internet for recipe inspiration, which can then form the basis for my own recipes. Of course, a lot of the things I choose to make from other bloggers don’t go up on my blog, but I will always send them a lovely comment, or tag them in my recreation on social media to let them know how it turned out.
However, if you are directly copying a recipe, be it from a cookbook or a blog, it’s important to be upfront and credit the source at some point in your post. Of course there are only so many possible variations of a Blueberry Buckwheat Pancake recipe, but if you know in your heart that someone else has put in the hard work, it’s only fair that they should receive a nod of thanks.
I can’t mention health bloggers without touching on the importance of social media, after all this is one of our main tools for generating reach and connecting with otherwise unknown audiences. However, whilst the positive power of social media is undeniable, it has created a virtual wall which is easy to hide behind, and is undoubtedly contributing to the inadequacy and feelings of low self-worth being documented in the press.
We’ve seen Deliciously Ella published a heartfelt post on her blog and Instagram, documenting her own struggles with social media, perfectly summarizing the lows which accompany the highs of being able to post about one’s day so freely;
“Social media creates a world of constant comparisons, we’re no longer just comparing ourselves with our friends and the people around us but we’re now comparing ourselves with hundreds or even thousands of total strangers…in no shape or form am I perfect and my instagram life is not my whole life”
This really hammers home just how responsible we are for displaying an accurate representation of ourselves online. Whilst bloggers are never going to spend time repeatedly posting photos of themselves having an ‘off’ day or looking tired and bloated, I think it’s important to chronicle our failings as well as our successes. If I test a recipe and it doesn’t look as picture perfect as I’d like I still like to post it, because these imperfections are what make us relatable and human.
These points are equally applicable to all health bloggers, regardless of whether you write for a personal project or because it’s your full-time job. Ultimately, we are all joined by a love for health and fitness, be-it for your mind or body, and in order to encourage others to join us in this passion we have an obligation to do so as honestly as possible. Far from creating the illusion of an exclusive and unobtainable lifestyle enjoyed only by the elite, we should be striving to portray a community which is inclusive and welcoming to all.
This article was originally appeared on Health Blogger’s Community Magazine, Nov 2015