In the span of three days, just a few weeks ago, I had four different friends email me a link to the same blog post at Jezebel.com. All of their accompanying notes went something like this: “Hey Pilar, this rant about women’s fitness magazines sounds a lot like what you’ve been saying . . . ” And it was.
I can’t post the blog’s link or title here, unfortunately, because both happen to feature language a bit too colorful for this family-friendly publication, but the message was pretty straightforward: that most health and fitness magazines (particularly those aimed at women) bear a troubling likeness to one another — and to bovine excrement.
The blog’s author, one Morning Gloria, puts it this way: “Readers are sold the idea of being healthy and strong and fit and end up with a stack of weight-loss ads and splashy graphics about having pretty hair. The pervasive ‘lose weight’ message is fed to us like a dog pill slathered in peanut butter, and we’re expected to just take it and go happily scampering off.”
The author goes on to lament what she sees as the endemic lack of genuine nutrition and fitness wisdom in such magazines, as well as the glut of superficial beauty tips, the confusing jumble of pharmaceutical ads, and the unrelenting stream of sensationalized headlines. The blog’s accompanying graphic serves up a representative selection, displaying a parade of a dozen lookalike covers emblazoned with the usual exhortations: “Look Great Naked!”; “A Beach Ready Body!”; “3 Minutes to Flat Abs!”
Speaking of flat abs, it’s worth noting that many of the same complaints (superficiality, sensationalism, etc.) can be easily leveled at most men’s health and fitness magazines, too. There are business reasons for all this hype, of course, most of which I’ve addressed at length in previous columns (like “The Cover-Blurb Conundrum” [January/February 2010], and in my essay “Six Packs and Sex Lives,”), so I won’t belabor them here. But what strikes me each time I read a blog like this one, or overhear a conversation on the topic, is the barely contained frustration that a growing number of health-motivated people feel with the status quo of publications that, ostensibly, exist to serve them.
My own frustration, combined with my desire for a dose of honesty about what it takes to be healthy in a less-than-healthy world, is a huge part of what compelled me to work on developing some new-model alternatives, first with Experience Life magazine, then with RevolutionaryAct.com (if you haven’t checked out the “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy” there, please do!), and most recently with my new “Revolutionary Acts” blog at the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com/pilar-gerasimo, or find the link on our home page).
The point of all these endeavors is much the same: to make a spirited detour around conventional and not-terribly-helpful models of health and fitness publishing, and to offer up some fresh alternatives — the kind that address the real concerns of real people, without getting mired in all the hype and hyperbole that have come to define too much of the genre. Judging from the feedback we’ve gotten, the time for this kind of no-nonsense approach has come. It makes me happy to see that a growing number of us have lost interest in “dog pills slathered in peanut butter.” We’re hungry, instead, for the unvarnished, nutritious truth, and for meaningful wisdom that helps us transform our bodies and lives for the better — for real.
In this issue, that’s precisely what we’re serving up, starting with the clean-living example of our indomitable cover subject, Kris Carr — and carrying straight through to the Meditation, which reminds us that taking good care of our health is, at core, a powerful and empowering act of personal integrity. So here’s to doing whatever makes you feel clear, strong, capable and inspired — and to the magic that can happen when each of us lives, and gives, our genuine best.