Are women’s 'health' magazines bad for us?

Date

Melissa Davey

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Let me tell you how to be healthy. I am well qualified to offer such advice because I have been reading some of the women’s health magazines available each month which sport colourful headlines on how to be healthy and contain a lot of healthy words in their titles.

Here is what I have learned; you should invest in heavier pots and pans, because lifting heavy things aids weight loss. Be sure to place your stapler far enough away that you have to stand up to reach it because standing-up burns calories. I know; how about you just place all of your stationary up a tree in a nearby park ... the combination of walking and climbing will equal a weight loss double whammy! Remember – health comes when your stomach is flat enough to use as an ironing board and you’ve magically melted away so much fat (preferably in the space of 14 days or less) that you too will be wearing nothing but a pair of undies and a crop-top in winter.

How refreshing it is to have this offering of literature that goes beyond fashion, models, diets and shopping to instead cover a topic that should really matter to women – their health.

Let’s not kid ourselves.

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Despite the liberal use of "health" and related words, none of these magazines can claim to be truly dedicated to women’s health. I challenge you to read a couple of them and not feel inadequate or guilty along the way.

Here is a small selection of headlines found splashed across so-called health magazines recently; Shed one size in two weeks! Drop 1 kilo a week without exercise! Flatten your belly! Look great naked! Shrink your belly in 14 days! Firm and Fit, NOW! Slim and Toned, NOW! Lose weight and still hang with your friends! Scattered between articles are often ads for questionable weight loss products.

Sensing a theme yet?

Women’s health magazines effectively swap skinny celebrities for skinny "average" women; promote expensive runners and workout gear instead of stilettos and designer dresses; encourage just as much, if not more, dieting and food obsession; and push women to feel just as guilty as ever about their less-than perfect, non-bikini clad, wonderfully diverse bodies.

If I could create my version of a women’s health magazine, there among the skinny, hot-pants clad, sweat-free women you would also spot women like me. Working out in the kind of clothing that should legally only be worn while cleaning or sleeping. Make-up would stream down their sweating but glowing faces [who has time to de-mask before exercise?] and headphones would protrude from iPods shoved down bras, safe and secure in bosoms alongside house keys. There would be advice on what to do if you’re getting changed at the gym after work only to discover you’ve forgotten your sports socks [answer – fashion a pair out of your stockings using your house key as a knife]. And there would be numerous articles on how to stop the chaffing, the endless chaffing – under arms, between thighs, against shirts. There would be lycra, because lycra is funny. And on the cover and inside would be staunch women of all shapes and sizes; fit and thin, fit and with saggy boobs, fit and with thighs that meet.

The most scandalous articles of all would be those encouraging women to stop fearing food, fat and fashion, to instead do whatever exercise that they darn well want, not the ‘one’ that maximises fat burning. Lifestyle - not weight loss - would be used as a basis for health success. Being able to eat and buy food without feeling guilty or stressed; ending body comparisons; promoting a positive mentality and outlook; teaching women which foods nourish without relying on ‘good food, bad food’ lists; ditching terms like ‘plus-size’ and ‘minus-size’; getting over the obsession with looking good naked; helping women feel confident to exercise no matter what they’re wearing or how they look while doing it; and promoting exercise and food for an overall health instead of purely for weight loss should be among the goals of a ‘real’ health magazine.

The first step towards achieving such bliss? Save the $8 and 45 minutes you would usually spend on health magazines. Put on some Prince and dance naked around your living room instead.