Every Friday for years and years now, I have looked forward to getting People magazine in the mail. It’s the guilty pleasure highlight of my week, and I particularly look forward to the first issue in January, which is the “Half Their Size” issue. I love reading stories of real people who have lost a lot of weight without surgery.
I used to think People did a pretty nice job of representing the changes a person needs to make to lose weight and maintain the loss, but I’ve always been skeptical of the tidy little package they portray it in. I mean, it’s hard to accurately present years’ worth of emotional and physical changes in a paragraph or two, but I often wonder about the long-term success of some of the people they interview.
Especially now that I am a fitness and health professional, I am becoming more critical of the way they depict these stories.
I know they write the articles and photograph the subjects in a way that will sell magazines, but it bugs me the way they unrealistically glamorize the “After” – putting women in bikinis with high heels (which makes their legs appear longer and thinner), or claiming they wear a size 4 (when certain height-weight combinations are simply not going to result in that size, except with brands who use vanity sizing), or having them stand in positions that are obviously camera-friendly (slightly turned side view, to accentuate the waist and make the hips appear slimmer).
I mean, I’m all for making yourself look and feel your best, but … really?
I wish People would spend more time talking about how the quality of life has improved for these people, or photograph them doing activities that they enjoy, rather than standing around looking pretty and talking about what size they are now.
Focusing solely on the result of how their body looks or the number they’re seeing on the scale is – in my opinion – one of the biggest indicators that a person will not be able to maintain their losses or their “healthy lifestyle.” (I put that in quotes because I don’t feel that your lifestyle is truly healthy unless your mind is healthy, too. And, as I’m about to explain, I don’t think your mind is in a healthy place when you are only concerned with outward appearances.)
So, imagine my dismay when this year’s weight loss issue featured Oprah Winfrey in a not-even-thinly-disguised advertisement for Weight Watchers, boldly claiming that she has “finally made peace with food” because she has lost 42.5 pounds and fits into a size 12.
Honestly, it makes me sad that one of the most powerful and amazing women in the world has such a struggle with her self-image. Because that’s clearly a problem here. Killer B, when (yes, “when,” not “if”) when you have truly made peace with your body and with food, you will not crow about how “that .5 of a pound counts,” or claim that you are wearing a size 12 when anybody looking at your photograph can tell that you’re not, or announce that you will “probably be counting points forever.”
That’s not peace.
Peace is knowing that the scale fluctuates, but that you are doing just fine within a range of about 5 pounds.
Peace is buying clothes that fit and flatter your figure and not caring what size is on the label.
Peace is trusting yourself to eat foods that help you feel healthy and keep you active.
Peace is eating foods that you enjoy in quantities that fit into your overall healthy day.
Peace is appreciating and enjoying your body’s movement.
Peace is being realistic about where you are and what you look like and loving yourself in all your imperfect glory.
Peace feels good and whole inside.
And peace takes time to achieve.
Don’t worry if you’re not feeling it just yet. Practice making choices that make you feel good, practice speaking to yourself nicely, practice noticing changes that aren’t in the mirror or on the scale.
And in the meantime? Step away from magazines that aren’t really promoting peace.
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