Body Image Coaching

How Health and Fitness magazines fail to help us get fitter, healthier or happier

Health and fitness magazines sell to our insecurities, promote weight loss and do nothing to promote healthy body image and wellbeing.

If you are anything like me you have picked up some of these magazines in the past, pored over every little article, tried out the workouts and recipes and read, digested and believed every word written on the pages. I never stopped to consider the validity of the information, the messages behind the articles or the impact of the constant exposure to the thin-ideal might have on my own body image.

So much of what we see both consciously and unconsciously becomes part of our mental filter and unconscious thoughts. If we are consistently exposed to the same messages and images our perception of reality slowly changes.

Although print media is said to be dying out, magazines are not going anywhere they are just moving online. They are still the last thing you see before paying for your shopping, the posters on bus stops and the Facebook ads popping up our scrolling.

So let’s have a look at the top fails of the ‘health and fitness’ mags

  1. They have superficial and one dimensional view of health. They latest language towards ‘Wellbeing’ is merely incorporating nutrition and food rules into the already narrow view of what fitness looks like. The biggest contributors to a women’s wellbeing are her stress levels, sleep, hormones and her NEAT(non-exercise activity thermogenesis) exercise levels. Exercise and nutrition are like the icing on the cake.
  2. They sell to our insecurities. Yes we know that the basis of all advertising is cultivating a desire for things you don’t have however this kind of marketing is cruel and insidious and the messages are so often repeated they become deeply ingrained.
    The language is focused on comparison and scarcity mindset where we are encouraged to scrutinise our bodies and appearance and come to the conclusion we are not worthy. Encouraging you to believe that what you have is not good enough, however if you complete this 6 day transformation you will now be smaller and more attractive and worthy of feeling happier, popular and sexy.
    It plays into the forever not good enough mindset, the goalposts are forever changing and there is no finish line. These magazines sell people the idea that if they were able to change their bodies they might solve their problems of feeling inadequate, unlovable or unhappy.
  3. The fitness articles focus on exercise as a way to lose weight, tone up and change your shape. Recent research has shown that the health and fitness magazines have approximately 20% of the articles about dieting, alongside that is advertisements for fat burners and weight loss pills. Health and fitness magazines often misrepresent and fail to actually talk about fitness in a movement based and positive health behaviour space and focus only on the aesthetic outcomes.
  4. They fail to recognize the positive health and mental health benefits that come with physical exercise. In particularly they completely neglect the benefits exercise has on positive aging and physical health for older populations. If we pretend we will never get old it won’t happen?
  5. They portray only one model type to represent fitness: a young Caucasian, white, attractive female with very low body fat, typically a size zero. This does in no way represent the general population as 67% of women are size 14 – 34. However the constant exposure to that thin-ideal can create an extremely limited view of what bodies should like look. Refinery29 recently started the 67% challenge to increase the size diversity in their articles and embrace a more body positive approach to their fitness advertising. It is hoping more companies will follow suit, take a look here.

So what can we do?

  1. Access accurate and factual information for health and exercise advice, leave the magazine on the shelf.
  2. Recognize that you can take to take your power back. Don’t be brainwashed into believing you need to buy all the false-promises they are selling.
  3. Practice gratitude and focus on all the things you do have rather than everything you don’t have.
  4. Remind yourself you are enough.

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