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

By Beaut.ie | 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…

  • ceci says:

    I generally skip those sections as I think they are full of false promises. I am lucky with good genetics and a healthy enough lifestyle that I am happy with my figure (but could def do with some toning!).

    I think the thing that gets me is that mostly women write in women’s magazines, so I don’t understand how they agree with a lot of these articles. I guess they do their market research and these are the kind of things people like.

  • Sinéad says:

    It takes a long time for us girls to realise that celebs wether it be on the red carpet, in a mag or on our tv screens DO NOT wake up looking like that.

    It’s awful that we compare ourselves to beauties who get makeup artists & hairdressers to prim & prime any stray hair or blemish. Let alone when it’s all then airbrushed to smooth out any lumps or bumps.

    The biggest joke I recently saw was the Demo Moore add for a makeup brand (can’t rem which one) We all know Demis been through a tough time & fresh out of rehab. She ain’t lookin her best god bless her. She’s unrecognisable in this magazine, it’s laughable. Are they taking the pee?

    Same goes for all those dieting columns & girls doing cartwheels on the beech in their itsy bitsys. 100′s of photos narrowed down to that one perfect shot.

    Give yourselves a break girls…it’s not a perfect world, it’s a real one :)

  • coco says:

    Totally agree lorraine, im not 100% happy with my body still have the odd break down about clothes not looking good thinking my legs r ginormous etc i still would rather have my footballers legs than twiggy lil things that are supposed to be ‘beautiful’ and ‘normal’… the way the media portray body image is disgusting, the are like vultures circling the vunerable….

  • CeeCee says:

    Although I have a healthy body image I stopped buying magazines ages ago, they all say the same crap in every issue, the clothes featured in them are always astronomically expensive and I don’t trust their reviews on make up and beauty products cause I think they’re getting paid by the companies to endorse them (hence I now rely completely on beaut.ie and other blogs for real reviews). Also, passing comments on pregnant women’s weight is disgraceful, anorexia in pregnancy is on the rise and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to the negative image these magazines are portraying.
    @ Hellojed- I second your recommendation re Tina Fey, that book is hilarious but she also makes a lot of valid points.

  • Agree with the girls here too; they are so contradictory. An article about ‘Positive Body Image’ followed by an article on ‘Bikini ready in 10days’…with ads of size 0 models and ads for plastic surgery thrown in for good measure. A load of rubbish. They have a lot to answer for!

  • Amelie says:

    Can I name and shame?
    I’m going to!

    I absolutely hate Cosmo!

    Apart from all the ridiculous celeb airbrushed photos, it’s the ‘Your man doesn’t love you if he does this’ or ‘How to make your man like you’ articles.

    So after reading half the magazine feeling crap about myself because I don’t have legs up to my shoulders I then find out that my man doesn’t love me because I wont do some ridic sexual act or he plays the xbox with his friends.

    I cant believe women would write this knowing that it is going to make other women feel pants about themselves. Men don’t give a flute most of the time!

    And then there is the advertising. My god, it’s every second page! I wont pay to be advertised at with fake photos so I have stopped buying magazines altogether… even the obligatory airport buy and I am much happier for it :D

  • PinkPanther says:

    Why is it that so many women’s magazines hate women and make them feel shit about themselves? And why do women still buy these magazines?

  • Amelie says:

    Can I name and shame?
    I’m going to!

    I absolutely hate Cosmo.. with a passion!

    Apart from all the ridiculous celeb airbrushed photos, it’s the ‘Your man doesn’t love you if he does this’ or ‘How to make your man like you’ articles.

    So after reading half the magazine feeling crap about myself because I don’t have legs up to my shoulders I then find out that my man doesn’t love me because I wont do some ridic sexual act or he plays the xbox with his friends.

    I cant believe women would write this knowing that it is going to make other women feel pants about themselves. Men don’t give a flute most of the time!

    And then there is the advertising. My god, it’s every second page! I wont pay to be advertised at with fake photos so I have stopped buying magazines altogether… even the obligatory airport buy and I am much happier for it :D

  • Amelie says:

    Soz for the double post. I didn’t think it posted the first time :D

  • thefrog says:

    It’s a very good post Lorraine and timely as well, but as Makeupovermind said, it’s not just magazines. I don’t buy women’s mags because the lives they depict/promote has no relation to the one I’m living. But you cannot escape these images, they are everywhere, on every bus stop, every window of every shop…

    And even if I know deep down that they are fake, that I would have no chance of looking like them without surgery, it still weights on my mind from time to time. And, as Laura, I grew up with being told that I was a bit fat, the worst comment being from my dear mother “you could be so pretty if only you could lose weight” told to my 15-year old self. So yes, I will probably also always have some sort of body image issues.

    The only thing that prevents me from falling for these fad diets is personal history of having once done so and (as I mentionned on the blather one day) ending up fainting in the shower, and being so scared afterwards. And personal history of having always seen my mother dieting, and having always known her as being overweight. Which has never prevented her from marrying my dad, having a great carrier or anything (a wonderful daughter…lol).

    It’s funny you wrote this today because yesterday I watched a doc on French TV on the diet market (Dukan, WW and co) and the consequences on public health.
    One of the doctors interviewed was explaining how dieting can lead to obesity. What he said was that if you are at your normal weight but decide to lose a few kilos, your metabolism will slow down. So once you go back to normal eating, you’ll put weight back on, but more than what you had lost. And then you go back to dieting, with the same result and the same consequences, with every time the weight put on afterwards being greater than the weight lost. And that’s how a normal person can end up overweight.

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