How the Eco-Food Movement Mass-Markets Eating Disorders
As locavorism, veganism, and other healthy food trends took off, some of the people who pushed them the hardest suffered the most
I meet Christy Harrison in a crowded Brooklyn bar on the first night of summer in 2017. She’s an extremely pretty brunette with chic, angled bangs and a great navy-striped dress. There’s also something just a little bit guarded about her. As we talk over pork belly sandwiches, I decide it might be from knowing she appears to fit seamlessly into one mold — stylish, thin, healthy-food-oriented — when, in fact, she’s been working hard for many years now to build a different kind of reputation. “I was a food writer,” Christy says, “who was really struggling with food.”
Christy was on staff at Plenty, a hip indie magazine that ran for a few years in the mid-2000s, and later at the iconic Gourmet magazine in the final two years before it folded in 2009. She wrote about organic farming, biodynamic wine, and the evils of processed foods. “Oh, and I definitely helped fan the flames of the gluten-free craze,” Christy tells me. She’s not proud of this. Because in between all those fancy press lunches, chef interviews, and junkets on organic farms, Christy was spiraling. What began as a diet in college turned into a full-blown eating disorder by her early twenties. “My symptoms never fit neatly into one eating-disorder diagnosis,” she explains. “I would move between restricting, bingeing, and over-exercising, over and over, but it was always sort of nebulous.” Christy can only see the patterns of her disorder now, in retrospect. At the time, she thought she was just “obsessed with food,” and really no different from anyone else around her.
Christy and I didn’t know each other during those years, but her story is familiar. I know the world she inhabited, because I was at its periphery, as a junior health editor at the now defunct Organic Style magazine, and later, as the kind of freelance writer whom women’s magazines call when they need a piece on which types of produce are the most important to buy organic, or why you should learn to cook quinoa.
On one freelance assignment in 2007, I found myself sitting at the bar of the famed farmhouse-chic…