Fitness Magazines and Body Image, Part II

First of all, thank you all for your lovely comments and likes on yesterday’s post! Y’all made me smile, and I’m so happy to know that this resonates with so many of you. 🙂 Thank you for making my day!

Rachel — who writes over at The House Always Wins and is one of my favorite bloggers — brought up a great point in the comments section:

So, one thing I’ve seen with some mags is that they’ll use “real” looking models for regular stories (like, say, a story about being happy at work) but they ALWAYS use super fit fitness models for exercise routines. I suppose they are just trying to say their routines work but it’s still kind of a bummer. I’d just love to see DIFFERENT fit bodies — not all fit women are tall and very thin. I’d like to see petite dancers or super-muscular athletes too. I honestly like looking at beautiful fit bodies, as well as beautiful bodies that look more like mine, so more diversity would be a huge improvement.

This makes perfect sense. Body diversity in fitness magazines would be fantastic — I’d love to be able to see women who are naturally tall and skinny, short and muscular, average height and curvy.

Athletic Female Body Types
Image source:

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that two things could happen if fitness mags deviated from the tall and impeccably toned norm:

First, showing a diverse set of body types would help drive home the point that there’s a wiiiiiide range of sizes and builds that can be considered normal. 

As I said yesterday, I used to seriously berate myself for not fitting the tall and thin, beautifully sculpted norm presented in fitness magazines — but if they were to use models who are athletic, fit women of different shapes and sizes, those of us in the audience would be better able to identify with those women.

I mean, women who are gymnasts are petite and muscular. Women who are ballerinas are petite and lithe. Women who are built for sprinting have an entirely different body type than women who are built for distance running. Meanwhile, women who are swimmers look very different from women who are yogis.

But you know what? They’re all athletes. They all take health and fitness seriously. And they all can serve as fitness role models.

Athletic Female Body Types
Image source:

This would help women realize that they can be in great shape without looking like they fell out of a photoshoot — and that, in turn, can do wonderful things for a woman’s confidence and body image.

That brings me to my second point: by showing a wide range of body types, fitness magazines can truly emphasize fitness instead of weight loss.

Fitness is about being as strong and healthy as you can be. Why not emphasize strength, health, and well-being over perfectly toned abs, sculpted thighs, and a tight butt? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the aforementioned perfectly toned abs, sculpted thighs, and tight butt — but for me at least, working out so I can look like a fitness model makes me feel wretched.

When I work out for aesthetic reasons, I feel like I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never work hard enough. I’ll never do enough squats or crunches to look like a woman who, y’know, gets paid to look like the poster child for squats and crunches.

By emphasizing health and fitness over weight loss and skinniness, fitness magazines might introduce reasons to work out that really make women feel good — reasons that focus on their intrinsic worth (i.e., “I want to take care of myself because I love my family/job/insert-gratifying-thing-here and I want to be able to do the best I can in that role” or, in a truly revolutionary approach, simply loving oneself and wanting to stick around and be healthy for as long as possible) rather than how they look.

Ultimately, I think Rachel hit the nail on the head with her comment about body diversity. Body diversity in fitness magazines could drive those magazines and readers alike to focus on being healthy, strong, and physically fit — no matter what you look like.

16 thoughts on “Fitness Magazines and Body Image, Part II

  1. IHeartVegetables March 22, 2013 / 12:02 pm

    I totally agree with you! It would be nice to see that people come in all shapes and sizes, even in a fitness magazine. It can be disheartening to open a fitness magazine and see a bunch of girls that look like Victoria Secret models.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte March 22, 2013 / 3:48 pm

      Right?! The super-skinny uber-toned people make normal, non-model types feel bad, but it’d be hugely positive to see models of different shapes and sizes.

  2. Robin March 22, 2013 / 12:45 pm

    this is great, and something I think a lot about. I came online today and thought my next topic would be on where we get our inspiration, and where we don’t, and headed down the lines of the fact that fitness magazines do nothing to inspire me. I am now at the acceptance stage in realizing I won’t look great in a bikini, ever, or like some of these women, but you know what? I think I work a hard at it–exercising every day, strength training, weight lifting, squats, every program imaginable. BUT….it’s just impossible to look like an airbrushed supermodel! Thanks for your posts…Will continue to follow!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte March 22, 2013 / 3:47 pm

      Thanks, Robin! I completely agree with you: I’ll never look good in a bikini, no matter how hard I work out — but like you said, the important thing is that you work hard and obviously have a great fitness regimen. I also love your blog, so thank you for stopping by and following! 🙂

  3. cjoye7 March 22, 2013 / 1:11 pm

    Agreed. Setting up women for failure because their bodies will NEVER be 5’10” and 120 pounds is not only unrealistic but dangerous. I’d love to see a fitness magazine (or any magazine for that matter) use real women. I’d also love to see clothing catalogues use real people so I can assess whether something would actually fit me or look good on my body type.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte March 22, 2013 / 3:50 pm

      I totally agree that this sort of thing sets women up for failure and self-loathing, which is just…total crap. Clothing catalogues are another awesome example — I’d love to see how clothes fit on women who have, y’know, hips.

  4. chasingchels March 22, 2013 / 2:45 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, love! The focus on getting thin is way too prevalent in the fitness world in general…demonstrating how “healthy” looks in a variety of ways would be amazing…no two people look the same, so why should we be expected to conform/find similar results from exercising and eating well? Showing what different healthy body types look like would do a world of good for everyone’s self esteem, i think…something to shoot for!

  5. Alex @ therunwithin March 22, 2013 / 3:12 pm

    this is well put. everyone’s healthy looks different. plain and simple

  6. Erin March 22, 2013 / 4:38 pm

    AMEN SISTER!!!!!

  7. jessielovestorun March 23, 2013 / 12:18 am

    Another great post written by the wonderful and beautiful Lillian! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us.

  8. olivetorun March 23, 2013 / 11:08 am

    This is such a great post! I’m with you 100% on this and I do think there needs to be more promotion for ALL athletes’ and women’s body types!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte March 24, 2013 / 12:07 pm

      Many thanks for the support in this! I’m really glad to know that there are lots of people who feel this way. 🙂

  9. TiffanyMarie March 29, 2013 / 6:26 pm

    Have you ever checked out Oxygen magazine ( I can’t stand the fitness models in magazines like Shape… I mean seriously, who’s going to get fit with the 5 pounder she’s lugging around. And while I think Women’s Health is better, they could use some variety too. I REALLY love Oxygen, while I will say, they are all very fit (so you don’t see ‘every’ body type), but you do see all shapes & sizes. From Tosca Reno, who’s in her 50’s, to Alicia Marie, who’s 5’10”, buff, but more lithe, & Jami Eason, who’s 5’2: and stacked, both of which are in their 30’s, and every where in between, you see how different women are built, and the magazine is PACKED with tons of good ‘clean eating’ and work out advice. Anyway, you might bounce around on their website to check it out. Its often too much for some women, depending on your opinion of female muscle, but I’ve personally never found another magazine with as much good advice.

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