Pop Culture Magazines: Why They Ruin Female Fitness

Pop Culture Magazines: Why They Ruin Female Fitness

How does any juicy blog post begin? Shaky fingers hovering my Mac key board, “what will they think of my outlandish opinion” thoughts poking at my mind. Am I calling out too many people on their stuff in this article? Am I exposing myself too much? This is all too scary. Just don’t publicize the article.

My pointer finger on my right hand is stalled to jump the gun and just hit “publish”…and then I gasp. Click. POST PUBLISHED.

I’ve decided to bring this post to the forefront because it is a topic that I am SO incredibly passionate about and believe a multitude of women can relate to in one way or the other. As I am on a plane to Cleveland to visit my older brother, I begin typing some reminiscent thoughts, revisiting a rather precarious and insecure time in my life – a time when I had no grasp of my true self, or what health, beauty and proper fitness was in this world. It was almost as if I was going through that awkward beginning phase of teenage puberty all over again…except in my 20s.

Tracking back to a few years ago during a typical travel adventure, I’d have a Starbuck’s frappucino, maybe some oreo cookies, and of course a girl’s favorite – Cosmopolitan, PopSugar, People, Women’s Health magazine all on deck at my airplane seat. The little girl inside me was damn sure I was good to go with all of this depthless media, ready for a plane ride of “motivational” fitness information and en point ways to achieve my ultimate dream body.

How promising! These magazines were there to hold my hand and tell me STEP BY STEP how to achieve a rock hard physique, a physique I longed for just as any other confused young girl would.

Fast forward. Now on this plane to Cleveland – a grown, vibrant business woman, unattached to the mainstream concept of “dream body” and, might I add, absolutely CRUSHING the negative self image battle – I am proud to announce what awaits me on THIS airplane ride: a bottle of Smart Water, a Quest protein bar and the book Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, an inspirational book on human consciousness and mindfulness that I will discuss in some of my other posts. Total 180, right? Healthy foods, spiritual reading…Womanhood feels fantastic already! 🙂

A few years ago, I am embarrassed to say that the one thing I looked forward to most while traveling was reading the newest addition of every mainstream mag. I mean who wouldn’t want to find out 99 Must Have Summer Dresses? Or EVEN BETTER….5 Moves to Your Bikini Bod. JUST 5 moves?? Heck, that’s too good to be true.

Alas, it *WAS*. Of course back then, I was a victim of believing in such half-baked headlines and fell under a dangerous trap that most females do – allowing a magazine to dictate our love and fitness lives. Of course right now I will just hone in on the fitness aspect.

So why are pop culture magazines ruining our body images and fitness goals as women? Why are they leaving us wondering “Hmm…I did those exercises the magazines told me and I’m not seeing any changes in my body like they promised!” or frustrated saying “I followed the flat abs edition and why do I still have a pouch on my stomach for bikini season?” Disappointment after disappointment is the inevitable snowball effect created by deceitful statements on the front pages of some of the country’s most popular magazines. And I don’t blame you. These are EASY to be lured into. After all, the first thing our eyes see is a fit chick photo-shopped on the front page! OF COURSE we are going to be compelled to open the page and find out “how she did it.” But let’s delve a little deeper, introspect for a moment, and tune in on the truth:

1. These mags will set unrealistic time tables for achieving body composition results.

In a perfectly safe world, yes, some of us would absolutely LOVEEEE to achieve a 10 pound weight drop in two weeks time. Mags will promise the quickest results and sadly enough, the majority of women are fooled into these impracticalities. Do any of these sound familiar? “4 Weeks to Your Beach Bod by Eating Just Soup” or “Lose 30 pounds FAST” or even better “Drop Five sizes in less than a Month!” But what about the fact that your body is its own world – unique, constantly changing, very unlikely to move in conjunction with magazine fitness timetables. If we all had the EXACT SAME chemical processes going on in our bodies, then shoot, we’d all be robots. Didn’t these mags forget to take into account that we all will see various results over a wide spectrum of time? All women have hormonal differences, fluctuating stress levels, offbeat sleep patterns, varying adherence to programs, individual resting metabolic rates, muscle repair and fat storage differences, etc. In essence, one woman may lose weight MUCH faster than the other, and perhaps she was blessed with all of these fitness factors running smoothly genetically. But then another woman could see results over a long period of time and has to fight the gene battle harder than most, lending her to not achieve a goal “in just a month.” We all are different in the natural makeup of our body (heck that’s what makes us special!), so let’s stop trying to generalize with a timetable ironed out by a pop culture magazine. You are your own clock for results.

2. Mags gives us hope that we will look like their idea of a model.

What does a “model” look like anyway? What is sexy? How do we define “beauty”? If anyone knows the answer to these pressing questions, please SPEED DIAL ME.

A few years ago I was on an airplane and was excited to open up one of America’s number #1 female magazines to find the “Flat Abs” section. I saw pictures of girls who I believed were drop dead gorgeous (at least how I defined gorgeous back in the day). I wanted to be them! I wanted that six pack! I wanted those long lean legs! Now here I am today, in jeans that are rather tight around my soccer legs (#soccergirlproblems), a soccer jacket snug around my strong torso, no make-up, feeling like a boss, and not wishing I was that model anymore. Wait, what changed exactly? I awoke to the idea that these mags paint a blurred picture of beauty – girls caked with makeup, straightened hair, and lanky slim bodies, as they are curling 2 pound dumbbells with a sorority smile on their face. Seriously. What the heck! Major “Aha!” moment for me. I cannot help but cringe on the inside at this fallacy of the female fitness world. Let’s set a few things straight: NO, I will not go to the gym with eyeliner, foundation, or lip gloss. NO, I am NOT smiling like those girls striking exercise poses in the mag (are they even working hard??). NO, I am not wearing my hair down as I lift. YES, I will go to the gym with my game face on, not acting like it is easy to workout. Oh, and I sweat profusely. Above is a little bit more accurate – the gym ain’t a dolled up porno!

3. It’s not just EXERCISE. Mags fail to incorporate other critical aspects of reaching a fitness goal.

OK, so maybe you CAN loose X amount of pounds in X number of weeks but they don’t mention what else is essential in the fitness equation – the mind, the diet and the sleep. “Lose 5 pounds with just these moves!” will eventually lead you to a plateau of diminishing returns. If working out were the only thing I needed to do to lose weight then I’d freely be downing Chipotle burritos, peanut butter oreo cookies and milkshakes every weekend. Not to mention, imbibing some serious amounts of red wine with my girlfriends. Think of fitness as a recipe – you blend the proper nutrition, strength and cardio training and sleep (again, this goes back to regulating your hormonal levels for efficient metabolism) to sculpt your physique. That’s not to say eating crap and only exercising doesn’t work because for some people with magical genes it does. But these mags forget their audience IS indeed the general population of women who have to mesh everything together to reach their goals. And some must do a bazillion moves as opposed to “just 5.”

4. Celebrities do not represent the general population.

Very often you’ll see a celebrity fitness feature such as: “How X Got Her Body Back.” And then of course, you think to yourself ‘Wow, if they can do it, I can!’ And then you ponder, ‘I wonder what they are eating.’ So you eagerly flip to the page and are disappointed to see what the reality is: “Kim K’s juice cleanse” “Britney Spears only eats nuts and veggies.” Well, shoot, that was anti climatic. Again, let’s revisit your uniqueness. Just because eating almonds, greek yogurt, and veggies (practically bird food) worked for one person doesn’t mean it will work for you. Workouts and nutrition alike, everyone is different so forget trying to follow Kim K or Britney Spears’ diets because they probably can’t adhere to strict diets anyway. When I eat I always follow one rule: eat food that makes you feel good before AND after. This will increase your chances of maintaining a sustainable healthy diet for a lifetime. No extremes involved, simply balance and happiness 🙂

5. Mags make us believe we as women should be lifting light weights only.

I have yet to see a hot chick doing insane power lifts in a magazine. Can someone please sign me up? I’d love to take the job. Quite frankly, I don’t think any pop culture mag showcases a girl lifting a weight heavier than 5 pounds. I usually call these “barbie weights.” Admittedly, I die on the inside every time I see a girl at the gym, or in mag pictures, holding a 2 pound dumbbell and doing bicep curls, tricep extensions, or unloaded sit ups (BUT, if you are a beginner, I do understand why this is a starting point. We all start somewhere). However, a proper exercise plan (especially for fat loss and transformation) should be formulated with gradual loads and progressions, eventually going away from the “barbie weights,” to yield the best results. My favorite book on women’s strength training The Female Body Breakthrough by Rachel Cosgrove highlights the importance of women lifting heavy and challenging their bodies over time so that they do not adapt. But also, so that they become even more badass and strong! It’s really a win-win. Once we adapt, our ability to build muscle and burn fat will stagnate, pumping the brakes on our metabolic rate. With that said, I’ll keep my dumbbells to 20s, 25s, 30s and 35s.

So next time you pick up any pop culture magazine, try to see past the BS before you rush to find misleading routines for what you’re trying to accomplish. I want to truly empower women and young girls to see the truth of what we are stimulating ourselves with every day. It’s a whole lot cooler to fit in a 30 minute challenging resistance training workout than slaving away on an elliptical for over an hour or doing the same moves with VERY light weights, right? Plus, you’ll feel more energized too. 🙂

And I know. I’ve been that confused, vulnerable chick, walking from machine to machine at the gym lifting the bare minimum AND lifting 2 pounders for an entire year without challenging myself. A lot of this can makes us feel insecure and like we aren’t capable of much, like we can’t achieve our fitness goals, like we ought to be like that model in the magazine lifting barbie weights. I’m here to remind you that fitness is about you and how you feel. Begin to focus on performance at the gym, challenging yourself to greater heights, beating your own personal records. And of course, the physique you want will be a natural byproduct of it all.

  • Marcelo Barros
    Posted at 05:24h, 06 March Reply

    Very inspiring and so much truth in what you wrote Erica. I see women at the gym all the time and I hope in mind head that they are training for the right reasons, and doing what makes sense for their bodies, and for the minds, the “right” way. There are no quick fixes, but a good coach and the right mindset can help us all accomplish goals we never thought were possible.

    Appreciated the article. Really enjoyed reading it.

  • CJ
    Posted at 16:11h, 02 August Reply

    Great post!
    I had to come and read it as you mentioned it in your article about how to start to write a blog.
    I’m amazed you’ve not had more comments.
    Thank you for the “how to” article, btw, useful.

    • erica
      Posted at 16:31h, 02 August Reply

      Appreciate it!

  • Jay
    Posted at 14:49h, 17 June Reply

    Whoa, didnt know that this was where you started? Interesting how your style has developed… This first piece is a bit cautious still 🙂

    • erica
      Posted at 16:48h, 17 June Reply

      Yes, first post from over three years ago. I always tell people, it takes time to find your voice and style. I finally feel comfortable and consistent with it all now 🙂

  • Barkins Denver
    Posted at 18:29h, 23 March Reply

    Bookmarked your website for easy access! These articles are great

    • erica
      Posted at 18:46h, 23 March Reply

      Thank you!

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