Many people know I love food — I’m a Yelp-elite wannabe, I love spending slow weekends cooking and baking in the kitchen, I avidly follow and read up on what the Bon Appetit kitchen is up to both in the kitchen and out, and, of course, I’m often found, eating and/or munching on something. With that being said, it is no surprise that I spend a large amount of my day simply just thinking about what I will eat next, many times, quite ironically, in unhealthy, overly obsessive ways.
I wanted to observe how ethos, pathos, and logos all played into my food decisions, specifically represented by my digital environment (but with external aspects of the physical environment as part of the experience as well, ie. step count in my day and what I have in my refrigerator, that being said, I rarely ever stock up on snacks and other unhealthy foods in my house, so my kitchen becomes a relatively static variable in this). I did this by logging some of the influences as well as my outcome (what I ended up eating) over the course of five days, and defined the following criteria for each aspect of persuasion as such:
- Ethos: the amount and types of NYTimes and Medium articles I read that day, pertaining to health, diet, and wellness.
- Pathos: the amount of content and type of content that I found on Instagram discover pertaining to health, diet, and wellness, and then the type of content that I decided to further explore and/or seek out.
- Logos: My daily step count, as logged by my phone, as well as the hours logged by my Instagram per day (the Instagram data for some reason, did not transfer over properly onto my new phone, however, I did write down the data)
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a loaded class schedule, so I try to meal prep during the weekends in preparation for these days. Because I make all my meals before-hand and am quite busy for my Tues-Thurs days, I feel the least influenced by external factors such as through social media, overly concerning myself with my step count, and revisiting my fridge. That being said, because I have less time to endlessly scroll on my feed, I instead end up reading more articles on my favorite websites — NYTimes, Medium, and Bon Appetit, which I value to be credible sources. On this particular day, I was specifically intrigued by a wellness article written by Martine Thompson on Bon Appetit. In addition, even though I very briefly and sporadically checked Instagram throughout the day, my discover page provided a lot of accounts pertaining to trendy gym clothing (the biggest blue square in the upper left), as well as several health food accounts (which, on average, take up about the same amount of composition as it normally does in my discover). For many of the food posts, there was an immense gush of emotional appeal towards how eating healthy made them feel — “Made these Thai-inspired lettuce cups for a quick, tasty, and nutritious dinner.” — which really sells me on the idea that eating said food would allow me to have an equal, if not more, happy lifestyle. This combined effect of a busy schedule with a few sprinklings of healthy eating and mindful moving led me to eat a well-rounded, satisfying, yet still pretty healthy, day of eating.
On Wednesday, I have the most “awkward” schedule in that I have this class from noon until three. As a result, I prefer to spend my mornings slow while getting work done in my house, until I have to leave to MM, to which from there I work until around dinner time. I spent some less time on Instagram than normal, because I generally like to read more articles on Medium and NYTimes as part of my “slow mornings”. What particularly caught my interest was an article written by Gretchen Reynolds for the NYTimes on “How Exercise Might Affect Our Food Choices, and Our Weight.” This then led me read several more articles on fitness and health. Knowing my schedule and that I was most likely to log a low step count for the day, I felt encouraged to 1. work out and 2. eat as mindful and healthy as I could. So, I proceeded to do a brief work out before class, while still trying to stay on a healthy track. That being said, I was surprised with a pint of ice cream, to which I absolutely devoured that night lol.
After a couple of days of mindful and relatively healthy eating, I was having an extreme hankering for sweets. On Instagram, I found myself down a rabbit hole of looking at sweet treats after clicking on a pancake post on my discover feed, however, because it was a “healthy” pancake post (ie. made of less sugar and processed foods, etc), I didn’t feel quite as guilty if I were to make it (emphasis on if, because I ended up being to lazy to make it). On this particular day, I didn’t really read any posts from any of my favorite sources or writers, but found myself redirected to a website on healthy foods. At the end of the day, I treated myself to an ultimate brownie in efforts to satisfy my sweet tooth (ie. my craving for pancakes triggered from Instagram), and also because I knew that my step count would be relatively on the higher end, it being Thursday, and so that I could “afford” it more (as logged around 7,000+ on my phone). After eating relatively well (except the pint of ice cream the other day), the ultimate brownie made me feel particularly icky, as it was not only too heavy and sickly sweet, but also just not what I was craving for. As a result, I feel as if I could really relate to the healthy and mindful eating posts in that eating such intense junk food made me feel not my best.
On this Friday, I felt overall heavily influenced and persuaded by several external factors — I spent a great amount of time on Instagram looking at recipes, restaurants, bakeries, influencers for lifestyle, as well as influencers for health. For example, I ended up looking at Rebecca Jane’s profile for quite a while; Rebecca is a lifestyle content creator focused on recovering from her eating disorder, and had recently posted a video in which she spent an entire day eating only carbs. She posts many other videos and posts about her journey to recovery, many times with a great deal of braveness in sharing her most private and personal moments — “At the beginning of the decade, I was completely consumed in a world of fear, rules, and obsession..and I fought hard to keep myself trapped. I NEVER would believe that my life or change, nor did I want it to…” Additionally, I read up on more articles from my favorite writers on Bon Appetit, pertaining to their healthy habits for 2020. Overall, I felt more exposed to a lot of “self-care” and “acceptance” posts, to which influenced my food choices for the day — eating not only one, but two desserts, and not only one, but two dinners. I was quite overstuffed and sugar-high by the end of the day, despite going to sleep quite late.
This was the day that my pancake craving was satisfied — yet also the day that I found myself eating more sugar than probably the first 2 days combined. I started off the day by finalizing plans to go back to New York for Spring Break, and so I found myself tapping onto specifically my favorite food spots in New York on my Instagram discover page, and also searched for updates on many of my favorite bakeries and dessert shops. Afterwards, I went to brunch with a friend (in which I promptly ordered the pancakes after a long-time craving). I had a relatively healthy dinner to balance out the sugar from the day’s earlier meal, however, I found myself wanting more sugar later towards the night. This called for a frozen yogurt run, which then led to a crepe run, immediately after. I felt like it was an okay treat, given that I saw my step count was much higher than it normally was on a Saturday (usually it’s an average of my Wednesday count and Tues/Thurs count). Afterwards, I read “What to cook for this weekend” because of how the bright green dish really appealed to me after an intense amount of sugar consumption, (almost as if reading it were to help will the sugar and dessert out of my body), and some other articles on smarter living, in hopes of making much more mindful and healthy choices the next day.
Overall, this was an interesting exploration for me — although my diet, lifestyle, and fitness are aspects that, on a daily, take an immense amount of brain power and time, I had never mapped it out for me to see. This, however, is only a very small portion of what I am exposed to and influences my food choices on a daily (ex. what about the physical world? when I go grocery shopping online, when I go grocery shopping once in a while in person, the types of friends that I interact with the day, the types of people I encounter at the gym, etc.) and so I would be curious to explore further the other influences that impact me, and how those compare and contrast to (what I assume) the predominate influence of digital platforms in regards to my health and wellness.
by Vicky Zhou