Every morning of 2012, I woke up in a large two-bedroom house in Charlotte, North Carolina, opened up my fridge, and pulled out a jar. I had memorized the ratios I measured out each night: one part oats to two parts milk, a teaspoon of maple syrup, a few shakes of cinnamon, a tablespoon of some expensive and high-fiber seed like chia or flax. I’d stir it and top it with nut butter, then let it all soften overnight. In the morning I’d put it in my work bag, next to a Tupperware full of salad, make some coffee, and drive to the yoga studio. On a good day, I had already meditated.
I was living in a place I didn’t realize I hated, and working in a lame corporate consulting job that I knew I did. I didn’t have many close friends; in April, I had ended a relationship and became even more reclusive. But I read a lot of healthy-living blogs, following a cadre of women and their every balanced meal, their every long-distance run. I felt closer to them than I did to most people in my life.
The healthy living blog — HLB, for short — was born in late 2007. Michael Pollan was promoting a natural, whole-foods diet; Blogspot and WordPress were booming; so, too, was Lululemon and its billion-dollar cocktail of inspiration and aspiration. In 2010, I graduated from college and started cooking for myself. I found recipes on the internet because I’d developed an interest in not feeling fat anymore. I had just started running, and felt the thrill of progress. Healthy living blogs found me in my hour of aspirational need.
In this passionate corner of the internet, women posted photos of their healthy breakfasts, their vegetable-heavy dinners, their beaming faces after a yoga class, their green smoothies at all hours of the day. They encouraged readers to follow similar paths and adopt similar routines. Even posts about bad days were bookended by optimism. I followed their goings on the way you might follow your ex’s new fling: with a blind passion for the tiniest crumbs of information. I ran races because they made it look fun! Their ultra-healthy lives became my model for normalcy.