Women’s Magazines Are Making Me Angry

This past weekend my husband and I visited my parents for the Thanksgiving holiday and, as usual, my mom had a stack of magazines and newspaper clippings waiting for me in the guest room. One night before bed I started leafing through the December 2013 issue of Family Circle:

Within the pages, I came across this article:

Party_Planning

See the opening sentences? “Eat, drink, and don’t waste a single second worrying about holiday pounds. We’ll share the secrets to having your cake (and cheese and wine) and enjoying it too!” Okay, well, thanks, I already enjoy cheese and cake and wine (when I wasn’t pregnant) and I don’t think I need any secrets…? Also, thanks for the advice to not worry about holiday pounds, I agree! Oh, wait, this is an article in which you’re going to tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat. Sigh.

Do you see some of these ridiculous suggestions? You want me to have low cal chardonnay instead of regular? Um, okay, I’ll call ahead to make sure the host has a bottle on hand. You want me to eat two plain sugar cookies when the frosted ones look soooooo much tastier? To save 200 calories? Because why again?

You may not know this about me, but I used to be a Big Time Dieter. Oh my gosh, the diets. For years and years I really did think that if I just lost five pounds or ten pounds or fifteen pounds I’d be oh so much happier and more confident. In the meantime, I ended up obsessing about what I should and shouldn’t eat, hating myself and my body, and developing an eating disorder, yay!

Now I’m all about health. In fact, in less than two weeks (!), I’ll have my Master’s degree in Health Education. I’m also trying to figure out how best to spread the word that dieting is no bueno and moving your body, incorporating whole foods as often as possible, and taking care of your mental and spiritual health will make you feel way, way better than being on a diet for the rest of your life. And hey, maybe you’ll lose some weight by making healthy changes, but the end goal is your health and well-being, not a smaller jean size.

After noticing and ripping out that article, I just had to leaf through the other magazines looking for similar stories. Did you know that Good Housekeeping has a monthly feature called “Drop 5 Pounds”? It’s true, see below. I thought this was a one-time thing, but there were two issues in my pile, and they both contain the same feature, so, sigh.

Weight_Watchers_Brownie

Example 1

GoalsExample 2

Oh my gosh these make me so angry. Take example number one, under “Sweet Swaps.” “Picking up a brownie, cookie, or Danish on your daily coffee or tea run is a quick route to a muffin top. Save calories (and money!) by choosing a lighter supermarket find.” First of all, this completely reinforces the story, ahem, LIE, all women are told: that if they have a muffin top or some other feature the media has deemed “undesirable,” that there’s something wrong with them and they should immediately try to change said feature. This is so, so bad for us and our society. We come in different shapes and sizes. I agree that having better endurance and agility and more energy may increase happiness, but eating crappy fake diet foods so you can look like you’re “supposed to” never will. Second point: those Weight Watchers Triple Chocolate Brownie Bliss? This is what’s in them:

weight watchers brownies

I find it absolutely despicable that anyone would recommend eating this garbage, which is filled with processed fake food-like substances (as Michael Pollan would call them) and chemicals. If you really, really want to lose weight because of serious health concerns, I would highly suggest filling your home with whole, unprocessed foods, and hitting up a local bakery or Whole Foods once a week or every other week for a single serving of a delicious treat that’s satisfying and made with ingredients you can pronounce! Sit down and savor it, and please don’t buy this junk because some magazine told you to.

I could say the same thing about some of the food choices in example two, but instead I’m going to say that I do like the idea of setting a smart goal, but in my opinion that goal should not be based on a number of pounds to lose or a pant size to fit into. Instead choose something like, “I’ll walk for thirty minutes four times this week,” or “I will eat five servings of fruits/vegetables today, including at least one green vegetable.” I know all too well that once you start obsessing about counting things or stepping on the scale every day, you often feel worse, not better.

I highly, highly recommend checking out some of the blogs and articles below, which will help you understand why weight isn’t neccessarily the best predictor of health, why body size shouldn’t define the way you feel about yourself, and why dieting can be very harmful for adults and children.

Finally, I want to make the point that I’m not against people losing weight, I’m against weight loss being the only and ultimate goal. So much of weight loss seems to be built on the idea that women need to look a certain way, and so many diets seem to be harmful and, for the most part, not permanently effective. If you want to get healthy, I applaud you. I suggest learning how to prepare and enjoy whole foods, moving your body frequently in a way that feels good to you, and doing things to support your  mental and spiritual health, such as pursuing a hobby you love or catching up with friends on a nice, long walk.

And with that, I shall end my rant.

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