Do health and fitness mags really help women?
Do you love to sit down with a good magazine as much as I do? The pleasure of stopping for a moment and relaxing with a good mag pure is bliss.
But lately I’ve become more secretive about what mags I choose to buy and when to read them…and it’s not because I feel guilty that I am sitting down instead of doing something more ‘productive’.
I love buying a range of health and fitness magazines, and I read them for the articles, new product release info, to stay up to date and current with trends in the health and fitness industry.
Why would I want to hide them then, especially from my 10 year old daughter?
It’s because I know it may not be sending her the right message about body image and self esteem…and she is at such an influential age when it comes to what she thinks and feels about herself.
Let me explain a few things to help you understand where I’m coming from…
Firstly, and this is with full disclosure…for years I did use to buy those magazines because I wanted to look like the women on the front cover. Toned, tanned and totally rocking the bikini. I saw a confident, fit and healthy woman…or so I thought.
I’ve since woken up to air brushing, camera angles and good lighting AND the fact that most of these women don’t always look like that. In fact, unless you are a naturally very lean women with a metabolism like a rocket ship, to stay that lean can effect your hormones and often your mental health in a BIG way.
How do I know this…it’s because I went through my own ‘body transformation’ a few years ago…and the end result lasted all of about 2 months…and totally screwed with my body and head. But that’s just me…and every body is different.
I wrote an article a while back for the Sista Code called ‘Is Reality Better Than The Fairy Tale’ which goes into this more so check it out if you want.
I do want to make it clear that the effort and discipline it takes to get ‘magazine body ready’ is incredible and a bloody lot of hard work. I am certainly not here to take that away from women who do this work for a living. This article – like all my articles – is just my opinion and story.
Secondly, and I think this has come to my attention since reading the awesome book called ‘The Butterfly Effect’ by Danielle Millar, that what we are constantly exposed to can have a huge effect on who we think we are as women and what we feel our purpose is.
I know for sure that I want my daughter to grow up knowing (and believing) that she is worthy of anything she sets her sights on and that her body is only part of creating that life and achieving her goals.
I want to see more women on the covers of magazines that have a story to tell – not just there to sell a magazine and make money for the advertisers and magazine houses.
I want to see women on health and fitness magazines that have real bodies, and who are DOING things with those bodies…like taking on a mud run, doing their first push up, running their first marathon, playing in the park with their kids, winning an event because they have a strong capable body…not because they look good in a set of tights and a crop top!
You just have to look at the women who do Cross Fit to see that society still judges women for their looks. The typical comment about cross fit as a woman is… “Oh you don’t want to do Cross Fit, it will make you look huge and it puts on lots of muscle”.
Arrrrrhhhhhh….people, you are missing the point. Most women who I trained with at a Cross Fit Box awhile back were normal women, just having a go at something other than a ‘Abs Butts and Thighs or Fat Burner Class.
We don’t celebrate enough the amazing things that women’s bodies can do. I bang on about this ALL the time with my clients. I hate hearing a women say “Oh I couldn’t do your sessions, I’m so unfit”.
This is when I take a deep breath before I reply with something like “Well we all had to start at the beginning, and even the fittest women in the world feel challenged when they exercise…you just have to give yourself a go and believe that you are far stronger than you think you are”.
The sad fact is that girls are not encouraged as much as boys to play sport and physically use their bodies…and they grow into women who feel just the same.
It’s time to turn this around and as a community of women, and encourage each other to celebrate our bodies for all the amazing experiences they can give us.
Here are a few other reasons why I want to see a change to the images on the front cover of health and fitness magazines:
- Those images are rarely reality and continue to encourage everyday women to feel inferior.
- It sends a message that a women’s body is STILL there to be looked at and not seen as having a real purpose…I’m sorry, but we give birth…that’s one of the most incredible things there is!!!
- It only shows the physical side of a women, and we don’t really get to know who she is and what she believes about herself and her life. I know many women who do look similar to the women on the front cover of a magazine, but they don’t see this and continue to feel ‘not good enough’.
- It shapes our girls thoughts and belief about their bodies. I was recently cleaning out my home office and Olivia saw the disk with the photos of me after my own body transformation.
She asked me why I had the photos taken and then asked that I put it away as she loved me better now. Wow that was an insight into my little girls thoughts I will remember forever.
- Despite what most magazines say, it takes far more effort to become like the model on the front cover than most women would ever want to commit to…more than a few 30 minute sessions and following a low carb diet, that’s for sure. And importantly, maintaining that lifestyle can lead to unhealthy behaviours, disordered eating and mental health issues.
- It’s not inspiring to see a women on the cover of a mag if you don’t know anything about her…has she struggled or faced challenge in her life?
I wonder if there are there any health and fitness magazines out there that promote the talents and achievements of women – whether they be well known or an everyday women – and are willing to feature them on the front cover despite the fact that they don’t look like the normal models we expect to see?
I have nothing against women being proud of working hard to have a fit physique at all – it’s healthy to want to look after your body – I know because I choose to do this myself. I just want to see a more well rounded and diverse range of images on the cover of magazines that both today’s women and the next generation – our girls – can look to for real inspiration and positive role modelling.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and also if you have come across any health and fitness magazines that DO support positive body image, self esteem and role modelling for women and girls.
And a women making real waves in the media when it comes to positive body image and self esteem is Tanya Brumfit of The Body Image Movement and you can find out about her awesome work by clicking here.
Lisa Mills xx
Lisa is on a mission to connect people with their body, their thoughts and what lights them up so they can fully live an extraordinary life. She guides people to discover their truth and purpose so that they can live in a confident. authentic and meaningful way. Lisa is especially passionate about inspiring Fitness Professionals to be authentic, unique and connected with their purpose so they can have a long and fulfilling career or build the business of their dreams.