You could say that the our growing interest in health and wellbeing is a positive thing, but when that interest is driven by guilt and obsession, things start to turn nasty. Unfortunately, fitness magazines have been, well, less than helpful in promoting a sustainable approach to fitness, health and wellbeing. Here’s why: 

 

Your body is not a “problem” that needs solving.

Does seeing images of taut and toned tums on every second page make you feel better about yourself - or worse? If you answered with the latter, you’re not alone. While fitness magazines may not blatantly state that there is a “problem” with your body, they constantly advertise unattainable and unrealistic images of the female & male body. They dictate to us what it looks like to be “healthy”, and this “health” always appears to look the same way… It makes sense then that we feel a little ripped off by the bodies we’ve been given if they don’t look the same. 

Pick up a fitness magazine and you’ll see that being “healthy” and “fit” is exclusively equated with being toned, tanned and trim.* Does that mean I’m saying that these magazines intentionally make us feel bad about ourselves? No… But they do continue to present us with new and promising ways to fix the “problem” that supposedly exists with our bodies. How else can you explain the onslaught of articles titled “Lose weight, look great – how to get lean and flaunt your best body ever!”. 

FYI, requirements for looking great/feeling great/being healthy/being fit include none of the following:

  • being toned
  • losing weight
  • being tanned
  • having little to no body fat
  • being lean
  • having a six pack

*(There is nothing wrong with being toned, tanned or taut. It’s also a beautiful thing. But it’s not the only way to see beauty and it’s certainly not a way to measure health and fitness.)

 

Strong is the next sexy…

And by strong you mean slim, right? Phrases like this are often stamped across pages featuring slender models who’s bodies align with a very small proportion of the female population. I’m not denying that these girls are absolutely stunning, as well as slim (and probably physically strong too), but it’s dangerous to exclusively equate strength with slimness and slimness with sexiness. Can you imagine seeing a photo of an 90kg female body builder with the words “strong is the new sexy” plastered across it? No. That’s because it’s not really strength that we are glorifying, but slimness, once again. (BTW, if being sexy is important to you, you can still be so whether or not you are strong or slim or skinny or bulky.)

 

Weight-loss = fulfilment. Right?

“Lose weight, feel great”. Yeah, maybe. But “eat cake, feel great” also works. And so does “be kind and generous, feel great”. Or, if you’re feeling particularly risqué, you could even try, “Don’t focus on weight loss (especially if you don’t need to), focus on overall wellbeing - and still feel great!”.

 

It is a capital mistake to theorise before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment. –  Sherlock Holmes

According to Californian scientists who conducted a one day experiment on a rat, if you rub cooked sweet potato on your body in a clockwise direction for five minutes a day, everyday, for five days, you will lose 5kg. This is because the sweet potato has fat-fighting compounds in it that actively work to draw out the fat cells from underneath the skin. 

Ok, I made that up - obviously -  but need I say more…?

If a reputable (or not) magazine published something like that and cited some sort of “scientific evidence” for it, no doubt someone out there would be sitting on their lounge covered in orange, potato-y goop. So if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Certainly, maintaining your health is not a walk in the park, but it’s not as complicated, bizarre or costly as many health magazines make it out to be. 

 

So some final words: 

If #fitspo makes you feel crappo, then put down the magazine. It’s better to go for a run and workout because you love your body and want to take care of it, not because you hate it and want to look like the model on the cover of the Women’s Health. It’s true what they say, comparison really is the thief of joy, and magazines really will do anything to sell you their next big issue, no doubt packed with the next big secret to weight-loss/wellness/happiness/fulfilment. 

If you’re serious about taking care of yourself - mentally and physically - it may be more effective to simply ask yourself this: who and what really inspires me to be me, as I am meant to be, in all my fullness?

Published by Courtenay Turner