Personal Evolution, and Responsible Blogging: A NEDA Week Post
February 28, 2013

Photo: So wonderful to spend time with my friend Sayward today.

Two weeks ago, when I was in NYC blowing off some study steam, I had a chance to meet up with my friend Sayward (pictured with me, above!) who was in town for Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan Academy training. Sayward began commenting on my blog years ago, and I was immediately struck by her intellect and passion. We’ve been blog-friends ever since, and it was wonderful to make the instant transition into life-friends. In case you missed it when I posted it on FB, Sayward is also the author of a recent, very powerful, and very brave post about facing a health challenge as a vegan. I highly recommend it.

As we got to talking, Sayward and I reminisced about our early days as bloggers. We began blogging at roughly the same time, and we’ve both gone through tremendous changes—personal, philosophical, dietary—since our blogs started. We were both very high raw foodists then, and we’ve both reached a more moderate place with raw food: still highly appreciative, but less seduced by some of the movement’s more dramatic health claims.

As we chatted, I confessed to Sayward that I often feel a sense of guilt and discomfort when I read over some of the statements or attitudes that I expressed on my blog in the early days. I remember how I used to promote food combining—before I took an undergraduate nutrition class, and realized that it lacks a scientific basis entirely. I remember how much more adamant I was about the distinction between raw vs. cooked, and how I bought into enzyme theory without scrutiny or nuance. (My impression is that there is some evidence that enzymes in raw foods can play a role in digestion, but that health professionals, including Joel Fuhrman, Brenda Davis, and Stuart Seale, M.D., all of whom I interviewed on this topic last year, believe that this role is probably more limited than the rhetoric of strict raw foodism would suggest.) I remember using words like “detox” without flinching. I remember how much more likely I was to file certain foods as “good,” and others as “bad.”

When I recall this stuff, I feel a mix of emotion. On the one hand, it’s hard to fault myself for having undergone an honest evolution in my knowledge and attitudes. In the four years since I began this blog, I’ve grown up. I’ve gotten much further away from my anorexia, and I’ve moved away from my tendency toward dietary extremism. These are big, positive developments in my life, and in a lot of ways I’m glad that I’ve chronicled them in writing. I’ve also gone from having an interest in health and healing to studying it full time. It was inevitable that I’d learn things along the way, and that some of my opinions would shift. I have no doubt that my ongoing education will provide me with plenty of occasions to broaden my understanding of how health and nutrition work.

At the same time, when you blog, you don’t only share your personal story and your attitudes. You also set an example, whether you intend to or not. In my case, I both shared an example of my lifestyle and I marketed it professionally, through my coaching work and in assuming an expert’s voice. I was a responsible health coach, I hope—caring, informed, and I always urged my clients away from extremes—but when I tackled nutrition here on the blog, I often made big, sweeping statements—about acid and alkaline balance, for instance, or enzymes—that I wish I’d explored in more depth. Most of all, I sometimes worry that my own predisposition towards creating stark dichotomies—raw vs. cooked, healthy vs. not, good food vs. bad food—may have influenced some of my early readers in ways I’ll never be able to determine. Once somebody has read your work, you can’t undo any impression it may have made on them.

Blogging has taught me all about the power of impressions. No matter how many times you say something like “this is just what works for me,” food blogging is to some degree an invitation for others to imitate what you do—to make the recipes you make, pick out the foods and ingredients you suggest, explore the lifestyle tips you share. In the food blog world, imitative behaviors are common, and trends emerge quickly. This presents a bit of a quandary: how can we, as bloggers, be both responsible to our readers—may of whom, it’s worth saying, are quite young—and also be candid about our own experiences? To only put forth only an editorialized, ultra careful vision of our lives food for the sake of protecting readers seems wrong; it seems to lack transparency, and I imagine it would lead to a lot of anodyne blogging. But at the same time, I think that a certain amount of responsibility does come with the blogging territory—especially if you, like me, know for a fact that many of your readers have complicated relationships with food.

Through Green Recovery, I get countless emails saying that I’ve made a positive impact on somebody’s recovery from an ED. But once in a while—just today, in fact—someone reaches out to say that my blog has in some way provided a negative influence, or compounded disordered thinking. When something like this happens, I regret any post in which I may have given the impression that healthy living should come at the expense of freedom or joy. I know that I can’t control everyone’s response to everything I say, but these emails are a vital reminder that, while blogging has the power to share tremendous inspiration, it can make readers scrutinize themselves ungenerously. That’s really unfortunate, and it is all the more reason for me to be as responsible and conscious as possible.

There’s plenty of continuity between my early blog writing and now: I’ve always been vegan. I’ve always been flexible about eating both raw and cooked food. I’ve always really loved to cook. I’ve always been open about my ED past. But today, I’m a lot more open about my history than ever before (see: Monday’s post), and whereas I once regarded food more as “fuel” than anything else, I have most certainly come to see it as a source of both sustenance and pleasure—with an emphasis on pleasure. As far as raw foodism goes, this post sums up my evolution in that department pretty nicely. Most significantly, I’m no longer as susceptible to extremism in the realm of health and nutrition. I do not vilify “bad” foods, and I don’t believe, as I used to, that my health is so fragile that even small missteps might make it unravel. This post and this post say a lot about how my feelings about healthy living have changed with time.

My hope is that the fact that I’ve been honest with you about all of these changes has in some way made up for any stringent messaging I may have put out there in the past. When I told Sayward my feelings on this topic, she said that she absolutely thinks it’s good for people to see an example of someone who has been able to shift away from rigidity and toward real friendship with food. I hope she’s right, because it has always been my goal to help people with this blog, whether by inspiration to live healthily (and I mean mind/body health, not “health” in the sense of some austere dietary regime), encouragement to embrace the recovery process with an open heart, recipes that are uplifting and delicious, or vegan activism, which (I hope!) helps people to find peace and meaning–and act responsibly toward animals at the same time.

Me on a blogging panel, last year (with JL!)

It may seem odd for this post to be a part of my NEDA week musings, but I do think that there’s a place for dialog about bloggers’ responsibility this week. Food blogs didn’t exist when I was really sick, but I often wonder how I’d have treated them if they had. In the last four years, I’ve seen them help countless of people to get better, but I know that they sometimes reinforce struggle, too. I think it’s important to acknowledge that fact, and tread mindfully.

And so, this week, I’m giving some thought to how I can continue to set the best example I know how. This means putting forth health and nutrition information responsibly—by checking my facts before I hit publish, doing thorough, scholarly research, and, since I’m very much a student of health myself, acknowledging when there’s stuff I don’t know. It means finding ways to show you all how truly and wholly I love food, because it is impossible to share that love too many times. It means practicing compassion. It means continuing to eschew body molds, and to emphasize the importance of loving your body as it is, not because it has obeyed a dietary paradigm or because it ran an eight minute mile. It means endorsing a moderate, sane approach to healthy living, and not getting behind wackadoodle “cleanses” or “detoxing.”

Yesterday, a good friend of mine mentioned something about how moderate I am with food. Moderate, you say? Me? “Moderation” is a word I never, ever expected to attach to myself. I’ve got an extremist streak that runs deep through me, and in some ways, I like it that way. But in the realm of food and body, extremism has never done me much good. I’m so happy that I’ve come to advocate—and to tread myself—a path of moderation. I am vegan, and to some, that’s still an extremist position, but whereas it was once a matter of good/bad food divisions for me, veganism is now a position of compassion. And my vegan diet today is inclusive and open in ways I could never have imagined only a few years ago, when I first sat down to write CR.

Thank you for always allowing me to change and to grow here in this space. Thank you for challenging me to be good to myself. I hope I am—and will continue to be—good to you.

xo

Categories: Food and Healing

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    80 Comments
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  2. What a great and thought-provoking post. Thank you for sharing all the ideas. I agree that it is wonderful to see someone evolve their relationship with food (and with themselves). I suppose you’ll gain some readers and lose others along the way… But as long as we try to remain true to our own process, the writings will be genuine and hopefully will speak to the right audience at the right time.

  3. I think when writing a post, we as readers and those who write a post must consider that our information is information only and perhaps have a disclaimer that says ” to seek your own advice”. and do what is best for you, food as in life is subjective and what may work for one person may not work for another. But I feel your pain.

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  5. Thank you for an honest, well-written, and inspiring post. I am truly grateful for courageous bloggers like you!

  6. I started reading your blog in grad school (circa 2009?), and it has been a joy to see its evolution over the past few years. As a nutrition professional, I’ve really enjoyed the more balanced perspective you’ve developed, and I would love to find a MD who has such a holistic perspective on wellness. You’re going to be a great physician!

  7. I am a broken record of gushing appreciation, but I can’t say it enough: Thank you for this (and all of your similarly themed posts)! I admittedly feel really implicated in this, but none of it is a shock to me. As someone who is only a few years into to learning about “clean eating” and “detox lifestyles,” I am still seduced by some of the claims. I know, logically, that if I find “proof” of this stuff in my own body that it’s more mental than physical, but even that seems to motivate me. I am working to find a balance between the liberation I experienced with my first CLEAN program detox—an experience that enabled me to objectively transform my eating habits for the better (less processed food, more whole food)—and my new tendency towards orthorexia. It is a struggle everyday, but in many ways it is a far less scary struggle than my former days of bulimia. The mentality is still intertwined with feelings about my weight, but I am doing less physical damage to myself, since I no longer binge and purge.

    It’s a journey and a process, and I do worry about how documenting that process on a blog impacts others. So much to think about.

    Thanks again.

    • You are welcome, my dear!

      And let’s get real here: we’re all implicated. There are very few readers of this blog who have not, at some point, been dazzled and seduced by extremist dietiting (whether dressed up as “detox” magic or not). You’re in good company, and no one is assigning blame. The idea is more for us to join together and talk about why these diet plans appeal to us, and to overcome their lure. I’m so glad to have you as a reader.

  8. You should be so proud for being true to who you are and not afraid to take a step forward, even if it means readdressing earlier thoughts. This is such a commendable post. It’s a topic that most bloggers don’t discuss and I applaud your honesty.

    I think there’s a moment where all of us can feel swayed by food blogs because of the power of imitation, as you said. I remember years ago when you said that you’d often only sip green juice (as breakfast) until lunch time, and I thought to myself: “wow, I could never do that.” For a brief moment it is easy to feel “less-than,” but I had to remind myself that we are all different and one mold is not right for everyone.

    But your blog has been so inspiring to me along my own journey. I began reading it when I was still an omnivore, and now I’m vegan. It has definitely been a strong influence, both in the power of compassion and being kind to all living beings, and enjoying meals – the exciting, unusual ingredients, and also the simplest foods.

    None of us is the same person we were three or four years ago. And it would be a boring life if we all remained stagnant! Even though I don’t know you personally, as a fan of CR it has been a true pleasure to watch you grow and change. We’re all doing it together, and that IS and should be part of the joy of the vegan blog community!

    • Ah, the “sip juice all morning” days — how dazzled I was by the idea of “detox friendly” eating. The funny part is that I can no longer imagine how I ever attempted to do that myself, since I tend to wake up ravenous 🙂 I’m so glad that period was short lived, and so grateful to you for having taken it with a grain of salt. Thank you for being such a thoughtful, compassionate, and engaged reader, Catherine!

  9. Gena, your integrity, intelligence and honest shine through in all your posts, but in this one especially. Thank you for sharing and also for demonstrating to all of us that life is not static! We all change over time, and as long as our values are in the right place, I believe that people will be totally okay with that. I for one have enjoyed observing this journey, and am full of such respect and admiration for what you have created, and put out there to the world, in this space. xo

  10. Bravo Gena!

    I have followed your blog since the very beginning when I was a raw food vegan. I remember going to Cassie’s little colonic office to see you, her and Gil Jacobs speak about the importance of raw food and detox. I was deeply mesmerized by the raw food dogma and, looking back, would not trade those years for gold.

    Although my extreme raw food ways and die-hard alliance to Natalia Rose caused minor and major health issues, it pushed me into a greater awareness of how food effects my body. When my body stopped responding positively to the approach, I was forced to find my own path and that led me to my current career as a Holistic Health Counselor. After learning about many other dietary theories I was able to reconstruct my diet to deeply nourish me and reframe what it means to eat morally.

    Even though I am now a conscious omnivore, I never stopped checking in with your blog. Its funny feeling connected to someone you don’t know in person, but when I read your blog I find myself reminiscing about your glamourous days as a NYC editor or when you made the courageous leap into med school or how you followed your heart to DC (I even found myself wondering the other day what ever happened to Mr. M….further proof). My point is you connect with your readers on a far deeper level than most bloggers out there. Your polished writing and passion shine through the multitude of blogs and keep readers coming back.

    Out of all the food blogs I have read, your blog is the only one I have consistently followed. I think most of your readers can say the same.

    Just as you have evolved, we have evolved, too, in various ways.
    This thought really spoke to me:

    “No matter how many times you say something like “this is just what works for me,” food blogging is to some degree an invitation for others to imitate what you do”.

    I wish more leaders in nutrition really owned this statement. While I think that it is important for bloggers in particular to take responsibility for their impact, I also believe it is immature to blame bloggers or nutritional gurus for our issues. In the end, we all have the responsibility of listening to our own intuition. Theories on lifestyle can help push you in one direction or the other, but we will never be whole if we subscribe to dogmatism. It has taken me years to understand this and probably many more years to unlearn everything that kept me from listening closely to my body.

    I still struggle with my diet and often fear I lack the ability to guide people to their own health. In fact, I am taking a step back from my holistic health counseling for a little bit to further my nutritional knowledge and gain a better balance with my health. But I know-only from the lips of my clients-that just being there to support people in their journey and actually listen to them is a powerful way to help them heal.

    You are the canary in the coal mine. Much like an artist works to paint a picture of what is really going on in our world today, your blog is a reflection of the fledgling science of nutrition and diet. I am incredibly grateful to you for being a reflection of the messy process of finding what works for your body and heart.

    Lastly, you mentioned that you felt a little guilt about promoting theories that may not have any scientific credibility. I also remember you once saying about food combining that you no longer suggest it because you learned it doesn’t actually scientifically make sense, but that you did find real relief from it when you believed in it possibly because of the placebo effect. What if most of medicine is a placebo effect anyway? (There are some fascinating studies being done at Oxford supporting this). What if instead of finding the scientifically accurate solution every time, you were instead a beacon of hope for millions of people? Letting us know there is a way to heal our relationship with food and our bodies.

    Hopelessness is the worst disease of them all and your blog is a powerful anecdote. A women who sacrificed fame and glamor to throw herself into the endless demands of med school and set an example of how to navigate western medicine with a holistic perspective. A women who is never tires of finding the truth and compassionately standing up for equality for all.

    Essentially Gena, you rock 🙂

    Please keep writing about how you are feel in the moment.
    Thank you deeply-

    xo

    Kate

    • Oh my goodness, Kate. This is one of the most touching and heartfelt comments I’ve ever gotten. I’m so lucky to have you as a reader and supporter, and it makes me so happy to hear that you’re now practicing health coaching yourself. I’m sure that your clients will be able to benefit not only from the knowledge you’re currently gathering, but also from your insight into what it means to eat intuitively, and with a sense of individuality.

      I changed my life so dramatically when I became a post-bacc, and I underestimated how much I’d ache for my old job, my old life. In the year after I left NYC and publishing, I had a lot of homesickness–not just for my literal home of New York, but for a culture into which I fit so easily, and an intellectual discipline that was familiar and in which I excelled. It’s really touching to realize that people who read this blog also remember the old days. As for M, well, you likely guessed that we didn’t remain a couple, but we did remain good friends. It didn’t make the DC transition easy, but in the grand scheme, I can’t complain too much. We’re still in each others’ lives, and I feel lucky for that.

      You rock, and thank YOU deeply,

      G xo

  11. Watching your evolution with health and food has been an inspiration for my own evolution. You can’t do better until you know better and you have always publicly corrected yourself quickly and clearly in light of new information. I really admire that. I remember the post revisiting food combining and thinking how awesome it was for you to frankly come out and say that the evidence just doesn’t hold up despite your earlier devotion to the practice.

    It’s natural to focus on the small things we didn’t get right, but I hope you know that when most of us think of CR, we focus on all the things you DID get right – devotion to helping animals, dedication to providing a safe space for those recovering from EDs, and an ever growing arsenal of recipes to back it all up! xo

  12. Hi Gena,
    Could you please clarify what you meant by “wackadoodle detoxing”? Are you referring to activities designed to support phase one and phase two detoxification? Or to something else?
    Thanks!

  13. What a fantastic post. I started reading Sayward’s blog 2 1/2 years ago. I absolutely love that she is back at it and I love the honesty you are putting forward with this post.
    People learn new things and make new discoveries. You shouldn’t beat yourself up if what you once believe has been altered (just look at the complete 180 of Alex Jamieson).
    You are a beautiful person Gena and your compassion comes out in your writing.

    Looking forward to many MANY future posts!

  14. as always, such a pleasure to read your perspective. I’ve been reading your blog since the beginning and it’s been great to see your evolution as a blogger and health practitioner.

    Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are people first, bloggers second. As we put our lives and opinions and views out there, the world reads alongside us, but we also gain different perspective on our lives as well. I too have changed a lot of my views over the course of blogging, but I also know that it makes me human.

    Keep doing what you’re doing lovely lady. Thank you for your continued honesty and awesomeness!

    • So true, about being people first. I’m still navigating the line between wanting to give myself freedom to be an individual who is always learning, and wanting to be responsible to my readers. Thanks so much for the input.

  15. “When I told Sayward my feelings on this topic, she said that she absolutely thinks it’s good for people to see an example of someone who has been able to shift away from rigidity and toward real friendship with food”
    I was thinking this very thing before I got to this sentence. I agree that some of your early posts could trigger restrictive tendencies. But looking at the evolution of your blog and the demographic of your readers, I think it’s very lucky that your blog began in this way. My sense is that you picked up a strong early following of disordered eaters from detox and raw and vegan communities (as well as some healthy eaters). Because of the strong philosophies you espoused you held these readers’ attention- and then slowly led them on a healthier path, step by step. This was not your explicit plan at the outset, but I think it actually benefited a large number of people who would not have become as ardent followers had you not begun as one of their kind. At least, I know I’m not the only one in this category. There were times when you moved more slowly than I wanted, and I clung to what you said, but without your example and “permission” I might not have evolved- or might have not held on to the truly healthful aspects of the path I was following. So focus on all the good, and not on not having all the answers. None of us do. 🙂

  16. Your blog has been, and continues to be, an inspiration and source of comfort to me. Thank you for your openness, thoughtfulness, and compassion.

  17. Beautifully written. I so admire your transparency about your process and your willingness to discuss these feelings/questions with your readers. The blogosphere needs more of exactly this. Heart you lady! <3

  18. Wonderful post addressing evolution and responsibility as a blogger. Kudos for bringing up these topics. I find vegan bloggers especially have to be careful as the diet can be detrimental to health if not followed properly (concerns regarding B12, iron, protein, etc) and many of the diet’s health claims are not backed by a super strong research; therefore boasting that the diet does X, Y, and Z (when they may NOT be able to do these things for a particular reader/vegan) can be a tricky territory. Sayward’s post was incredibly brave and responsible. Sometimes vegans (and bloggers) do get sick or experience health troubles linked to the diet or their “healthy regime” …but when they fail to tell their readers about it, or fail to modify their views on the blog, are they lying to their readers (or to themselves)? Even if they just haven’t made the mental link between the diet/healthy-regime and the problems, they may still be taking their readers down the road of health troubles along with them. Veganism may not be for every “body” but not a lot of vegan bloggers address these concerns. No, bloggers aren’t our health coaches and really aren’t responsible for what their readers do or don’t, but they are inadvertently acting as the diet’s role models.

    As for your blog, I have to be honest and say that I had to stop reading it for a while. In your earlier days of blogging, I was struggling the most with my ED (I am since fully recovered) and your blog was too strict (and maybe even preachy?) for me at the time. I’ve since come back (about a year ago) and absolutely love the “new” CR 🙂 I definitely noticed the change; you should be proud of your evolution and the space you’ve created here.

    • Well, Rebecca, I am so delighted to have you back as a reader. Thanks for being willing to witness change here on the blog, and stick with it as it evolves.

  19. WONDERFUL post Gena, thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts, I truly appreciate your perspective on this. I often feel the same as you, wishing I could erase some early posts, and I think my evolution is following a similar path to yours… I try my best to give the right attitude and impression, but I know there are always things that can be misinterpreted. Thank you for the reminder of the impact we have as bloggers, your honesty and eloquence is something I admire so much 🙂

    • Awww. Well, I admire your passion for health, your commitment to readers, and your powerful energy within our community, Heather. Thanks for the comment!

  20. Gena, I think it’s great that you feel a responsibility toward your readers, and I’m sure it’s one of the things that’s helped you stay the course during the transition to the post bac and life in a new city. But you certainly can’t be faulted for writing to the best of your knowledge at the time! My goodness. Isn’t life all about learning? I have actually been reading from the beginning, and I’ve always detected in you a capacity for critical thought. Or I’d never have bothered to comment. I mean, I’m just not the person who goes around leaving the “amen” sort of comments (if I don’t comment, you can take it as an “amen”). Even where you draw hard (bright?) lines, in your choice to be vegan, for example, I’ve seen incredible evolution in your thinking, much of it because instead of dismissing your critics outright, you’ve taken the time to process opposing views. I’m still not vegan, but I found your responses in the comments section of your “Feastly” dinner last fall incredibly nuanced (if not quite persuasive :-)). You’re actually a stronger proponent of veganism for having engaged your critics (and I know I am one of them).

    I agree wholeheartedly with Abby that responsibility lies with readers as much as (if not more than) writers. There were no blogs in my day, but there were other anorectics to copy, and inspiration a plenty. Honestly, I don’t think the Internet would have made a whoot of difference in the progress of my illness. I do wish there’d been blogs like yours whenever I made the decision to recovery, however. Early recovery was lonelier for me, somehow. Hard to explain.

    • This comment almost made me tear up. Thanks for being part of the dialogs on this blog, and for your personal support of me, right from the very start. So much good has come of the intellectual, practical, and philosophical contributions you make here. I am personally very grateful.

  21. Gena this post is wonderful and reminds me (as if it were necessary!) what a sensitive, thoughtful and intelligent wonderful human being you are. I do miss talking to you terribly but love that I can still feel I know you through your honesty and personality on the blog. An honesty and personality mean mistakes and changes too but I wouldn’t want anything different from you!
    Much love x

  22. And here’s to change! Awesome reflections on your own evolution. I think you would be far less effective in all that you do were you not willing to change. You exemplify the Anais Nin lines, quoted so often as to be almost cliche’, that at some point the bud’s resistance to blooming becomes more painful than the fear of stepping forth. You bloom continuously.

    Of course, too, one of the biggest difficulties for a person with an eating disorder is around change. I sometimes think my love of hiding in cupboards is an external manifestation of fear of change (which is perhaps why my changes tend to be massive, drastic, moves across the country)!

    Keep on!
    love you,
    Ela

  23. This is by far the best blog post I’ve read, ever!!! Too many sites do not post responsibly. While people don’t always know what they don’t know, it is wise to keep in mind, as you say, that others may take what you write as gospel. This at least must always be in the back of a blogger’s mind in order to write more responsibly. I have shared your post with others and am an inspired fan of your page 🙂 I am a new blogger, under a year, and this resonated with me immensely. Thank you so much for sharing all of this!

  24. Gena you are amazing! I honestly wish I could give you a big hug on reading this, and thank you in person. Your attitude to food is so admirable and I feel so fortunate to be evolving in my own relationship with food in the same way. Your non-extremism, honesty, compassion and love of food all really resonate with me. Thank you for all you do.

  25. As a vegan and a person in recovery from an eating disorder, I appreciate your take on veganism, eating disorders and feminism. Some food blogs, especially those that focus on “healthy eating” with “good” and “bad” foods, really trigger negative emotions or could if let them. I’ve come a long way in my recovery so that I feel confident in myself and my ability to nourish my body and mind but I strongly dislike anything along the lines of vegan = healthy = deprivation = skinny. Your writing is uplifting and positive. I always enjoy reading your posts.

  26. My, you have SUCH a way with words. Thanks for so adeptly merging your compassionate love of food with a sane and scientific approach to healing.

  27. Lovely post, as always Gena! I really appreciated the honesty in this post, and the acknowledgement that this blog is, and should be, so much more than just a “vegan recipe blog”. I love that you’ve documented your growth and evolution, and I think that’s so indicative of the honesty and inclusivity you show on this blog. Keep it up!

  28. I commend you for having the sheer courage and honesty to say that you have evolved in your relationship with food and health; not many people will admit that they may have been wrong about some of their former beliefs, dietary or otherwise. Despite the fact that I am a very science/math-oriented person (and therefore always careful to research), I had some pretty hardcore notions about nutrition when I was in the depths of my eating disorder. I don’t know if it was a function of my psychological state or what, but I do know now that I have reached a much more comfortable and moderate place in my life regarding food and exercise and have never been happier!

  29. Gena this is such a beautifully written posts with so many important points 🙂
    We admire you in so many ways, we have always looked up to you and loved your passion for health and food. Our view about food has changed from when we first started blogging as well, we think just about everyone goes through that change in a some way or another. And now we still go back and forth on our thoughts and feelings about what foods to eat for certain health benefits. Though, we now have a stronger relationship with food in the sense that we are open to any food and truly enjoy food now!! We cherish food and have a great appreciation for food and the life as a whole 🙂
    thanks always Gena for being you and being so honest, we love you for that.
    hugs
    Lori and Michelle

  30. A beautifully written and thoughtful post as always, Gena. As someone who has been in the field of nutrition for 30 years, I can assure you that I look back with regret at some of my early observations and recommendations, wondering if I did harm to anyone. In my early vegan days, I was a big proponent of very low-fat diets, and as you know, my perspective on that has evolved considerably. It’s good to evolve–I hope we’ll both continue to do so–but it is sometimes painful, too!

  31. I totally agree with Sayward, friend – you can’t be expected to be perfect; then, now or ever! The fact that your balance has taken time to evolve only proves that you’re human… and makes you that much more relatable for anyone currently struggling.

    You know I’ve only benefited from this blog 🙂 Thanks, as always, for your thoughtfulness.

  32. I love your article & especially the portion about how “blogging has taught me about the power of impressions”. Healthy Mama Info has also taught me a lot about how influential posts can be on our families, children, & others. Good Job!

  33. Wonderful post Gena; very thought-provoking and I really admire your bravery and ability to look back and reflect on yourself critically, while also being open to & appreciative of how far you have grown in your understanding of foods and nutrition. xo

  34. We live and learn. There is no way to know certain things until we’ve had the life experiences that have taught them to us, or prompted us to seek out further information. I appreciate your integrity, Gena, and am really enjoying your blog though I’ve only been reading for a short time.

    Alanna 🙂

  35. ::slow clap:: gena, you have no idea how much of an impact you’ve made on this omni! since i’ve been reading, i’ve cut my intake of animal proteins by 70%. i only have eggs or fish most times and if i do have flesh it’s often only at a restaurant or sourced from a farm near me.

    the power of impression is so strong and on one is flawless in the evolution of their life’s tastes, or habits. we change ever so slightly with each piece of knowledge that becomes learned.

    i also tend to have that extremist streak– (a mark of that perfectionist attitude for sure) and i often find myself censoring and/or taking a step back to reflect before i proceed. this is a huge step considering my impulsiveness is years past. looking forward to more thoughtful notes this week! x

  36. You are so amazing, Gena! Your thoughtful writing and the mature, measured way that you acknowledge your previous beliefs and actions, even if you no longer agree with them, is such a shining example to me. I love your writing!

  37. Favorite line: “Moderate, you say? Me? “Moderation” is a word I never, ever expected to attach to myself. I’ve got an extremist streak that runs deep through me, and in some ways, I like it that way. But in the realm of food and body, extremism has never done me much good.”

    Gena – You know I admire and am inspired by you for so many reasons, and your unique brand of raw honesty and self-accountability, exemplified in this post, is a huge reason. I’m looking forward to continuing to evolve along with you…you are the best! xo

  38. Even in the time I have been reading (and I didn’t read back in the food combining days), I have noticed your evolution. As someone who loves science and critical thinking, I love that about you. Rigidly sticking to a position because it’s something that has been attached to you in a public space is just dogmatic and has no place in a healthy, happy life, in my opinion. How boring would life be if we never changed based on new information, experiences, and life stages? Although I see the extremism in your personality (and by that I mean the parts of your personality I can glean from the blog), I actually see you as someone who is really comfortable exploring nuance, complexity, and the “grey areas,” rather than someone who is prone to all or nothing. Perhaps that’s your gift as a writer, that you acknowledge nuance and complexity in your posts, but I actually think the moderation has been there for a while. Maybe thinking and writing about all of these health and food related issues for these past four years has helped draw out something that was there all along? At any rate, I really appreciate your blog and posts like these, and your willingness to change when warranted is very much appreciated from this reader’s perspective.

  39. Thank you so much for this post, Gena! It takes much honesty, self-reflection, and courage to write a post like this.

    One more thing I would encourage you to examine are GMO foods.
    I used to be cautious about GM technologies, wondering whether their long term safety was sufficiently researched. Until I learned more of the rates of naturally occurring mutations in agricultural plans, and methods currently used under the “conventional farming” umbrella, such as chemical mutagenesis. The insistence that tightly controlled gene modifications go through dozens of years of safety testing – while nobody seems to care about uncontrolled and unchecked genome-wide induced mutations occurring in conventional technologies – feels mind-boggling to me right now…

  40. This is such a wonderful post. I’ve been blogging for over 3 years and at times I have felt like I wished I could delete a good few months of posts because what I was documenting back then was in fact a very disordered way of being. I feel that I am similar to you in that I have an extremist streak (or an all or nothing personality as I call it) which can either work for my benefit or against me. It is so difficult to try and consider the multitude of ways in which you can be either positively or negatively impacting on your readers, my view is to just be as honest as possible that this is my journey, that I’m not perfect and that I will make mistakes sometimes. I have to admit that I have been previously vegan and have came back to eating meat again because I had begun to associate my veganism with my unhealthy ‘all or nothing’ approach to food. I think in time my diet will likely evolve again in the future, but I am trying to take a lot of the good things I discovered though veganism such as a more whole foods diet and a much, much greater appreciation of where my food comes from, forward. Thanks again for a very thought provoking post 🙂

  41. I really like Jenny O’s comment and think she sums it up well. But along with responsible blogging, I would add–as you know–that it also comes down to responsible blog reading. I’ll admit that I had a span of time where I thought about jumping on your food combining bandwagon because I was searching for a new way to approach my issues and trusted everything that you said. While it may work from some, it became entirely too restrictive and obsessive, especially for someone like me who really can’t afford to be any more restrictive or obsessive with food.

    No matter what you’re looking for on the Internet, you can find a blogger or a writer or a website to justify your actions and choices. It’s so important to find mentors and support while also taking responsibility for what’s right for you personally. I love the way your blog has evolved and regard you as one of the most reliable bloggers for the unique combination of intellect and emotion–not too much of one or the other. It’s a great balance and I thank you for what you do.

    As I continue with my own journey, I look forward to following yours.

    • Oh, Abby, I could not agree more about responsible reading, or using blog examples as an excuse. In fact, I have some posts in my head about owning responsibility as a person who lives with an ED or an ED past — I just could only tackle so much this week 🙂

      Your second point is one reason why I cringe a little when people jump on veganism as being a potential excuse to restrict. So is EVERYTHING. I found tons of dietary styles that allowed me to restrict — none of them designed specifically for that purpose — when I was sick. It’s so much more about the mentality of the person who is eating (or not eating) than anything else.

      <3 you

  42. Gena, this post was so exquisite! So mature, too – a topic many bloggers never seem to go to. I think you are so lucky you didn’t have food blogs around during the worst of your ED – I sometimes wonder where I’d be had I never read them, especially because I started reading them in the midst of my ED, but also when I started out recovery. It definitely had an impact on the recovery process, in some positive, but mostly negative ways. I’ve been able to reduce my reading a lot, though. You are so right to acknowledge that many readers are young – look at the slew of new 15 year-old bloggers doing the whole WIAW stuff and workout summaries. It’s definitely out there.
    Anyways, there is so much in this well-written post that sparks a fire in me, so thank you! Refreshingly honest as always, Gena. I also had to look up the word “anodyne” – one of several vocab words I learn from this blog 😉

    • Well thank you, Hannah, for having supported me from the beginning, and for this wonderful comment. I’m happy that it resonated, and I am grateful to you for pointing out the relatively young age of so many blog readers. I think it’s a fact we can easily forget.

    • Also I love that pic of the blogging panel. JL looks like such a hoot and a wonderful friend!

  43. Gena, these posts are why I love you and your blog. You are not afraid to be honest, or to evolve. That’s all we readers can really ask. Not a single one of us is perfect and without major goof-ups along life’s path. Can we look forward to seeing more recipes for cooked vegan fare?

    • Aw, thank you Wendy! That means so much to me.

      As far as raw vs. cooked, that “why raw” post I wrote earlier this year kind of summed it up. The balance you see now on the blog is a totally honest reflection of where I am, which is to say: I still love the way raw foods taste, I think they can be very wholesome, and “uncooking” has had a huge impact on me as a “chef,” if you will. There are a lot of things I just prefer raw now–snack bars, granola, cashew cheese, etc. But whereas I once kind of thought, “this is raw, so it’s BETTER,” I now think, “this is raw, and it’s delicious — and that’s cooked, and it’s delicious, too.” So, you can expect a mix 🙂

      Thank you for reading!

  44. Beautifully put Gena! I always enjoy reading your insight and perspective. I think you discuss a commonality amongst bloggers- putting not only their personal beliefs, stories, but “suggestions/recommendations” out there at that present moment that are apt to change. We evolve as individuals, as students, and as teachers; but I think blogging is a wonderful outlet and canvas for growth. Also, I agree with the ladies above, your Green Recovery is an absolutely amazing section that I look forward to reading. I feel it gives those a free space to freely write, feel not alone (if still suffering or in recovery), and get wonderful information and advice.

    Thanks for sharing as always Gena!
    -McKel

  45. A beautifully written post with an impressive level of maturity. I for one think your integrity far outweighs any minor errors along the way. You are clearly doing your best to get it right and no one can ask more. I’ve been thinking of trying blogging myself and this has given me food for thought. Thank you for a fabulous educational and inspiring blog.

  46. Exquisite writing as always Gena. Your eating disorder articles are admirable and always so well researched. I am in such awe of your ever growing knowledge of nutrition and science and love to read your new findings and discoveries.

    Never quiet your inspiring and honest voice, and obvious passion you have for this important topic. Good for you.

    • Oh man, Kathy! I’m getting teary. Thanks for being not only a friend, but such a supportive blogging colleague through the years we’ve known each other. It means a lot to me to know that you applaud my honesty, and of course I hope you know that I applaud and support your work in all ways, too.

  47. Thanks for this really honest post Gena. I agree with you on many different levels and it’s taken me a while to appreciate balance and moderation as crucial aspects of my diet as a Vegetarian. There is so much conflicting information out there which I think also makes it hard for people wanting to make the healthiest possible choices about the food they eat, so I always find myself torn between certain beliefs. I guess the best way is to be open minded and do as much of your own research as you can without being too quick to believe something or commit to it.

    Thanks again!

    • Nat,

      Yes, I think research is crucial. It’s also time consuming and way harder than taking someone else’s word for something, but in the end, it helps us to separate fiction from fact.

      G

  48. as always, a beautifully articulated post, friend. it’s amazing how our relationships with food and body image can change over time, and how conflicting it can be to look back at old posts, attitudes, and the unintentional affect they could have had on our readers. while i’ve never had an official eating disorder, i’ve experienced disordered thoughts under the veil of “health” or whatever i’d been immersed in or reading at a particular time. it’s frightening to think about how books and plans convince so many that they’re the end-all-be-all when in reality, there’s no “one size fits all.” thank you for this wonderful post, for setting a vibrant, glowing example of what it means to entirely transform your outlook and health, and for sharing your wisdom with all of us.
    love you <3

    • I love you, too, sweetie <3

      And yeah, ED or not, I think any of us who have passed through disordered thinking or fixation on food look back on those phases with a sense of "oh god, what was I thinking." But we learn from them, and learning is part of being a better blogger and health advocate.

      xo