A good friend of mine recently suggested I maybe take a break from reading my multiple fitness and health magazines. She worried that those images of models I’m bombarded with (that we’re all bombarded with) might not be helping my cause, and that all the articles on health, dieting, and fitness might only be feeding and fueling my disordered eating tendencies.
Although I understand her train of thought and of course appreciate her concern, fitness and food are my hobbies; I can’t imagine not reading them.
I’m smart enough to know that all images are Photoshopped today. (They call it Photochop for a reason). And I know that the study I read today about protecting yourself against, say, skin cancer, by eating X, will be rebutted next month in a different publication, and that suddenly Y will be the new power-food.
We get a lot of mixed messages through the media today. I’ve been moved by Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, and annoyed that Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada is chastised for being a size 6 (“Six is the new twelve!”).
What comforts me in a world of contradictions is that the majority of the magazines I subscribe to don’t glamorize extreme thinness, but rather fitness and positive body image. I look at these models with pure admiration. They give me something to work toward, and ironically, don’t make me feel bad about my body. Even though I know I probably will never have six-pack abs, I have a flat tummy and always have, even when heavy. That’s something to be proud of!
Women’s Health, for example, showcases toned, muscular bodies throughout their pages. And while Fitness, Shape, and Self tend to feature celebrities on their covers who have trainers and personal chefs helping them get back to their pre-baby weight or to tone up, for the most part, the models in their workout sections are built and fit versus skin-and-bones girls like I’d see in, say, Cosomopolitan or — even worse — US Weekly!
With the 2008 Summer Olympics coming up next month in Beijing, many of these magazines have highlighted female athletes. When I see their beautiful figures — chisled from hours upon hours of training, healthy food choices, and sheer determination to succeed — I am truly inspired.
On the pages of these women’s magazines, the nation’s top gymnasts, soccer players and vollyeball players and swimmers and runners and hurdlers that will compete in the Olympic Games this summer have shared their workout strategies, their nutrition secrets, the mottos they live by:
These female powerhouses have shared their goals for the future, and challenges they’ve overcome. These gals aren’t a “perfect size X” and their body-mass-indices would probably put them in the “overweight” or “obese” category in spite of their lean, muscular figures. But they are strong and fit. These are the women I think we should be admiring–not the emaciated lollipop stick celebrities we see dominating PerezHilton.com and In Touch .
I’m not naive; I don’t expect to ever look like one of these Olympiads, nor do I want to. But I think we can take a lot from these women, absorb some of the wisdom they impart and strive to go after the proverbial “gold” every day of our lives with the same gusto they do.
If I had a daughter, I’d want her to look up to someone like swimmer Dara Torres or gymnast Shawn Johnson. These women stand for inner fortitude and perseverance. And they promote healthy body image, something often lost on young women today.
How about you? Are you inspired or discouraged by the media today?