Today: May 29, 2024

Lies my health magazine tells me: The real truth behind women’s fitness magazines

Cassandra Cammarata, Staff Writer-

I, like I’m sure many of you, while waiting in the excruciatingly long grocery line, have perused the magazines on the racks. While painstakingly awaiting the old woman in front to receive every discount possible, or to the dreaded light-flickering tower beckoning for a price check, there is definitely a good chunk of time to scan the magazine covers and to flip through one or two while awaiting your turn on the conveyor. 

I am constantly in awe of how flippant and highly sexualized the women’s magazines are, but even more disturbing are the magazines disguised under the veil of “women’s health” which display extremely abnormal, beautiful, fit bikini-clad women with tags such as “3 Week Total Body Makeover” from Prevention Magazine, or “Sexy Arms, Perky Butt, Firm Abs” on the latest Shape Magazine. These magazines are not intent on actualizing a healthy woman, but rather promoting and perpetuating the mythologized icon of the “ideal” woman. 

Many of these “health” magazines are littered with messages of inadequacy, guilt and necessity of “the skinny.” Prevention Magazine, on their online component, shows a large picture of a delicious, frothy milkshake and has a tag saying “6 Diet Mistakes that Make you Fat,” which produces feelings of guilt in a woman for allowing herself to desire the milkshake. This could produce two scenarios: the woman, ashamed of desiring the “diet mistake,” goes on a strict diet plan that consists of dangerously low calorie intake and obsessive exercise, or she could feel guilty and down four milkshakes only to continue the cycle of depression and guilt. 

This is not healthy at all. Agreed, not all women would react in such a way, but there is a deeply rooted psychological relationship women have with their bodies that is sometimes easily exploited or vulnerable to outside pressure, especially a pressure that is guising itself as the healthy compatriot.

The urgency and quickness is highly idealized, with fast ability to transform yourself into a beautiful, skinny ( more desirable?) woman. We all are completely aware of the dangers and non-lasting powers of a “crash diet”; however these magazines tote an almost magic bullet every month. It is sickening, and only further deviates a woman’s ability to become not only physically but emotionally, psychologically, and socially healthy. 

While the actual material of these magazines is detrimental, the high rate of sales and subscriptions is even more astonishing. While U.S. newsstand sales dropped 9.1 percent in 2009, with big magazines such as Newsweek, Time, and SmartMoney on a decline, Rodale’s Women’s Health rose drastically 21.5 percent, as measured by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (it must be noted that Prevention Magazine dropped 13.2 percent, which could account for the heavy online subscription push). While the decline in these paper sales is eco-friendly, there appears to be a correlation with what people want to read when money is tight. Although alcohol sales rise in times of economic depression, I would like to propose that indulgence in the ability to transform yourself, or at least read about it, into a healthier version of you with more time allotted in your life to achieve such is also alluring. However, these magazines are perpetuating the notion that to be healthy means to be skinny, and to do so fast. 

Women’s health magazines are not healthy or helpful to women. If women want to be healthy, don’t subscribe to these; rather, come to understand what is making you feel inadequate, find a channel to help progress healthfully, and the other channels of total health will follow. Remember, it’s a process, a usually long one. 

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