When I was a teenager I would borrow Muscle and Fitness magazines from my local town library, idolizing the few women gracing its pages. This was when the only fitness magazines for women were those that worshipped the thin ideal (Shape, Fitness, etc.). Being an athlete, it was eye-opening to see that women who are strong and muscular could also be an ideal to strive for; I didn’t have to be skinny to be beautiful.
What I have come to realize through my experience in the fitness world, as well as my education, is that women aren’t meant to have 8% body fat. Genetics and physiology are against us (or with us). We are supposed to have higher body fat levels than men so that we can reproduce and ensure the survival of the human race. How easily we forget or ignore the importance of our design!
So what is my beef with most magazines? First of all, there may be a few people with specialized knowledge who sit on the editorial boards of these magazines, but most of the authors and editors are writers, not legitimate experts in exercise science. As a researcher, I want evidence-based information, not Joe Muscle’s recycled workout from last week. It bothers me that most people reading these magazines accept the information in it without questioning where the information came from or if it has any value. Sorry, but the size of someone’s biceps or bodyfat percentage doesn’t make them an expert. They may have super genetics or be taking steroids – you never know!
I think the biggest reason I dislike the majority of fitness magazines is that they portray unrealistic body ideals. Having done a fitness competition myself, I understand the work and dedication required to prepare for a show – and the same applies to photo sessions for magazines and advertisements. Maintaining a super lean physique year round is not realistic for many fitness models, let alone the regular person whose life does not revolve around photo shoots and show dates. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a strict lifestyle if that is what you want but fitness should be fun! Working out is about more than just how you look or heaven forbid, a number on the scale (which you should throw out) – Fitness is about being healthy, feeling good, and improving performance, not just about how hot you are. Stop buying fitness magazines and learn appreciate what your body can do, not just what it looks like!