The Magazine Myth of Healthy Body Image: How do You Feel About it?

By | March 26 2012 | 75 Comments

angry woman with rolling pin

“You need a kaftan or shawl because they hide a multitude of sins! Here’s a collage of options from our advertisers, now pick one and get it on, fatty”

“Get beach ready with our fruity shakes [read: starve yourself and drink a smoothie when you begin to see flickering dots]”

“Get bikini ready in ten days!”

Sound familiar? It does to me. I have a select few magazines that I like and the rest make me call Live Line. In fairness, Joe, they perpetuate a load of bullshit.

Beaut.ies, ignore it. I’ll tell you how to get bikini ready in ten seconds: take your clothes off, whack on some sun block and pull up those bikini briefs.

I can only speak for myself, for how the magazines made me feel. I’d flip through ‘em, look at the beautiful clothes and feel like a waste of skin. I felt totally undeserving of any piece of fashion featured, that I’d be tainting the designs by putting them near my chubby frame. I was genuinely ashamed of my body, unable to try something on without crying in the dressing room.

But you know what? I didn’t get skinny. I looked at these models, some of them blatantly emaciated, and decided that there was no way I’d get my body to look like theirs if food was a part of my life. We all know that doesn’t work, in the long run. I could go for days on a Muller Light and cigarette but eventually a home made meal would be put in front of me and I would inhale it before I knew what I was doing.

On top of that, it’s impossible to get motivated when you’re unhappy. These magazines shame any woman who isn’t slim and shame is not a catalyst for getting fit or dieting. I was flipping through some Sunday supplement last weekend, a mother’s day special that did their “sack the stylist” segment on pregnant women.

One was called a “walking sofa” and described as “a sausage ready to bust.” Seriously? She has another HUMAN in her belly! And probably food too, well deserved and needed food. I’ve never been heavily pregnant but imagine that, if I were, I would have and embrace the right to eat everything that can be eaten, especially writers who liken me to furniture.

I don’t think these magazines are worth a cent or second of anybody’s time. €6 to feel crap about myself for the rest of the day? Do one. It’s taken years but I’m fine with my body now, every excess inch of it. I still worry about those who aren’t, those who are taken in by the skinny spiel.

How do you feel about the way body image is approached by magazines? Name and shame, folks, name and shame!

Beauty , , , ,

75 Replies to "The Magazine Myth of Healthy Body Image: How do You Feel About it?"

  • I 100%agree with everything you said, but I know that it does still affect me. Unfortunately. Personally, I need posts like this on a regular basis to remind me – I know they’re airbrushed, possibly starving etc etc, but I still have my days! Although I have actually stopped buying magazines (mostly) for this very reason. Get bombarded with it everywhere else – don’t need to pay to see it! Great post!

  • Laura says:

    I still remember the day when I realised that I actually expected my body to somehow look similar to celebrities’. “Mortified” doesn’t even come close.

    As someone who was constantly told that I was fat as I grew up (by nearest& dearest, no less), I’ll probably always have some sort of body issues. I’m just grateful that I am FAR too lazy to have ever really made an effort with any of the mad diets that magazines suggest I try.

  • Hellojed says:

    There’s an excellent chapter in Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants” about her experience with photo shoots and airbrushing – in case you don’t know her, she’s a comedian/writer.

    I have read quite a bit about how airbrushing is done and is widespread, but this hit home a lot more as she’s a ‘normal’ person (not a model, hollywood actress etc) and would never pretend to be naturally thin, toned etc. Definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a magazine addict!

  • Aifs says:

    Great post Lorraine. I rarely read the “bikini season” articles. I think they’re a load of rubbish. I look at the pretty swim suits & flip flops! I have not touched Diet Coke, chocolate or crisps since Ash Wednesday. (Test of willpower & part diet more than anything!) I lost a couple of pounds and then put them back on. Nothing major so I have decided I am not going to lose a stone between now and June. I would like to just be a slightly more toned version of myself. Less wobbly bits. I will up my exercise but I will eat as normal thanks! And if I’m wobbly? I’ll still be on the beach!

  • ~Thalia~ says:

    Lorraine, I have to agree, I ESP hate the “sack the stylist” segment, it’s ok to have a go at people’s clothes but the ones that red ring a bit of cellulite or underarm hair? That’s just mean. Same goes for slagging off pregnant women, I’d wager that the caption writer for those has never been pregnant and isn’t aware that frankly when 9 months gone, u don’t give a shit if you look like a burst couch!
    It’s not just weight or clothes too, it’s the impossible perfection of the model’s skin in the beauty sections, the airbrushed glow that no foundation alone can achieve.
    The above coupled with the fact that I used to find that all magazines every month were more or less spouting the same stuff is the reason I don’t buy them anymore.

  • ShuGal says:

    I am comfortable & confident with my body but maybe this is partly to do with not usually buying magazines. I will buy Stellar as I like that it’s Irish & I think it is more positive but the likes of heat, ok etc I never buy. I was a regular Grazia reader until abut a year ago when one of their “diet specials” had a light meal for dinner or skip dinner altogether? Great healthy way to loose weight- Don’t eat! I don’t watch what I eat but I am aware of it & I do exercise, for me healthy is the new skinny. Although I don’t know what mixed messages I am sending myself when I flick between Fashion TV & Food Network…

  • gobo says:

    In total accord with this. I can handle the pics of skinny models but the manipulative and downright offensive language and assumptions drive me nuts.

  • LauraLou says:

    Totally agree with everything you said! I dont really read gossip mags anymore, im more towards I.D and Pop magazine for the makeup. Ive come to the realisation that im not 5’11 & a size 6, im 5’1 and will never be a size 6 and my thighs will never be skinny, who cares, im not a super model!

    HATE when mags slam a celeb who has cellulite, jesus god forbid she might have a bit on her body, WRECKS my head!

  • cici bee says:

    Im actually looking forward to getting into a bikini this year!14 months off the dirty cigarettes has giving me a new bodyshape which at first had me a little freaked out cause none of jeans would fit me and in these hard times i would soon require a new wardrobe!
    I had a scrawny frame that wouldn’t look out of place on a teenage boy even though thin is part of my genetic makeup,the fact that Im now eating and not replacing some meals with cigs has giving me womanly curves that i longed for!
    So I’ll be hitting the beach in may on my holidays confidant with my new better healthier body!
    Have to say at the moment im loving stellar magazine,its awhile since I’ve read a mag cover to cover,and the best bit its Irish and prices of items inside are Irish too!
    Great piece this morning!
    Saw a pic of a very heavily pregnant Jessica Simpson and the first thing i thought of was oh my god she looks so happy!!

  • Another amazeballs piece Lorraine, I read a lot of mags (mostly for the pretty pictures!) but approach them with a healthy dose of cynicism and tend to just skip over articles on diets, getting bikini ready etc. I find that even mags that make an effort to promote a postive body image are contradictory – they might write a half decent article, but because they also have to placate their advertisers it’s positioned beside a whole load of guff…

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