Surely I’m not the only one. Surely!
So a couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of “Women’s Health” (it was in a bundle package with Runner’s World and that’s the excuse I’m going with) and leafed through it, as you do, half-hoping that it would give me some good ideas about cross-training and keeping myself ready for the half marathon. I’ve read fitness magazines before. I never found them particularly offensive – at worst, I just snort and tear pretty photographs out for my scrapbook collages.
This one, for some reason, left me fuming. It was all the things I found annoying about other women’s magazines, but magnified to about 1000, and finally made me want to take to the Internet to air my frustration.
First things first, what is with that magazine’s obsession with fertility? And I don’t just mean increasing your own fertility – a hefty chunk of the advice doled out was about helping increase your partner’s fertility. “Encourage him to drink less beer” and “Make sure he has a soft bike sear” – the kind of advice you only see about once a year in Cosmo – seemed to appear on every other page, which made me wonder:
a) Are all the readers of “Women’s Health” cisgendered, able-bodied heterosexual women of a baby-making age, or are they simply assuming that?
b) Since when is it a woman’s responsibility to take care of her partner’s health, reproductive or otherwise?
c) Not everyone picking up this magazine is interested in having babies, for a variety of reasons. So why is reproduction such a key feature of the mag?
Focus on baby-making aside, I found it annoying how often the suggested workouts and diets relied on expensive equipment and access to a gym/pool. Britney Spears has a great bod and she needs to be in top shape to be able to do an ongoing show in Las Vegas, but not all of us can afford to have a treadmill in our house, buy a gym pass, or even buy a fancy sports watch that measures our heart rate. (The first time I tried to understand what “tempo running” is, I gave up halfway through because it required me to do the kinds of mathematics I haven’t touched on since high school. I wasn’t able to figure it out static, let alone while pounding the pavement.)
What about the people living in rented accommodation? What about students? What about the introverts who would like to keep into shape, but can’t stand an over-crowded gym, or the fitness newbies intimidated by pretentious, overly zealous instructors? Can you give us a guide to choosing the best coach for us alongside that workout plan, or do you assume everyone can afford the “dating approach” – spending money on lessons until they are most certain that this person is not a good fit for us? (And don’t even get me started on the “12 months minimum membership” contracts.) What about those of us who can’t drop £100+ on a juicer, or even a cheap Sainsbury’s food processor? Or those of us who don’t have a car to help us haul our weekly shop from the farmer’s market?
In fact, while I’m on the subject of food, how does anyone manage to purchase some of these products if they don’t live in London, or rely on dodgy Amazon wholesalers? Where do you go to buy rice malt syrup if the delivery cost for one measly Biona squeezy tube is more than the product itself? Or spelt pasta? Or raw cacao? The local supermarket might or might not stock it (my money is on “might not”) but for everyone else, it’s either online shopping or driving to the nearest big city to find a Wholefoods.
Of course, sometimes you find a well-stocked Holland and Barrett, and I can’t complain as the farmer’s market at Bath is both cheap and accessible… but I’m pretty privileged, not only to live in proximity to such shops, but also to have a healthy pair of legs and a strong back to carry me to and fro. Not everyone has that, but to read some of these fitness mags, you get the impression that, unless you are eating locally-bought wholefoods and only the rawest of chocolate, you are committing a moral sin against your body.
The irony, of course, comes when, after reading an article about a power workout, or a cartoon where a woman looks down at her belly saying “what went wrong?” and the belly responds “cake”, you get a two-page ad for zero-calorie chocolate pudding, or fat-free yogurt. Seriously? You’re going to sing the praises of whole foods and exercise while trying to sell us products that are processed within an inch of their lives? No thank you.
All of this, of course, is present in other magazines as well, but for whatever reason, two weeks ago, I reached the end of my patience. I took the magazine straight to the recycling and didn’t even think twice, I was that frustrated.
Am I the only one? Surely I can’t be.