clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Expert: Photographing Food May Be Sign of Mental Illness

Photo: Flickr / foodieSarah
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

Sure people who photograph everything they eat can be annoying, but are they also mentally ill? According to a Canadian mental health expert, taking lots of pictures of food can indicate health or mental problems. CBC reports that Dr. Valerie Taylor gave a presentation called "Food Fetish: Society's Complicated Relationship with Food" at the Canadian Obesity Summit in Vancouver last week in which she argued that "For some people who have the predisposition for weight behaviours" food photography and social media activity can anticipate "unhealthy weight disorders."

Taylor went into more detail in an interview with the Huffington Post. She says: "We take pictures of things that are important to us, and for some people, the food itself becomes central and the rest -– the venue, the company, et cetera -- is background." (The idea here is not so different from comedian Adam Sacks' mock iPhone ad which suggests people who take pictures of food care about the restaurant more than the people they are there with.) Taylor also finds similar issues with people getting food tattoos.

This argument isn't new. Last year, television health nag Dr. Oz suggested (pretty unconvincingly) that looking at food porn makes you fat. But couldn't obsessive photo taking be just as tied to a desire to show off where you've been as it is to the food itself? And when chefs get food tattoos are they maybe just celebrating their lives' work rather than "fetishizing" food?

In the pro-food porn corner, food writer Josh Ozersky defends food photography in this week's Eat Like a Man column. "Anybody that has any objection to the use of smartphones and their cameras, for any reason, needs to pipe down right now," he writes. He suggests that taking pictures of food might even be a sign of mental strength. "If anything, shooting food pictures is an act of impulse control, delayed gratification, and long-term planning. It would be a lot easier to just gobble that food up." Perhaps.

· Posting pictures of meals online? You may have health problems [CBC]
· All Food Paparazzi Coverage on Eater [-E-]