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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why I Don't Read Shape or Self

Shape and Self magazines


Once upon a time, when I first began to incorporate exercise into my life, I subscribed to Shape magazine. With my newfound interest in fitness tips and exercise ideas, I initially found the magazine to be informative and helpful. After a few months, however, my opinions of magazines such as Shape and Self began to change. It seemed as though the majority of the content was geared towards advice on how to lose weight, get a bikini body, drop those last few pounds, etc. I grew tired of reading about weight loss. Now, I take these magazines with a grain of salt. As someone who has been working out 5 or more days per week for over ten years, it makes me wonder - if I read these magazines, have an active lifestyle, and follow some of their tips, then why do I need to lose weight? Shouldn't I be happy with myself the way I am? Why are women always made to feel that they need to drop a few pounds, tone up, or blast some fat? The majority of women are not going to look like the fitness models in the magazines, and let's face it - real men prefer women with curves.

As much as I ride my bike 40 miles per week, walk 12 miles per week, use the elliptical trainer, and work out with weights, the truth is that I'll never have thin thighs or a perfectly sculpted, flat stomach. I've got bulky calves and hamstrings from running and walking uphill and big, masculine quads from biking. There's little I can do to change that. Skinny modelesque legs will never be mine. I've come to realize that, accept it, and be happy with my body.

Reading Self and Shape used to make me feel like I was doing something wrong, perhaps I was not working out hard enough, or eating enough salads, or not challenging myself enough. Well the truth is that I have a low BMI, healthy cholesterol levels, and a 26" waist. I weigh less than I did in high school or college. I'm proud that I work out, and I'm able to enjoy the occasional unhealthy treat without guilt. It's good, because given my love of peanut butter and graham crackers, my weight fluctuates now and then, but I rarely weigh myself and instead focus on how my clothing feels. I don't want to be a slave to a number on the scale, and if I gain or lose a few pounds, it won't affect my self image. Some of the best advice I've read in fashion magazines, oddly enough, is to focus on what you like about yourself. That's something that Self and Shape should consider instead of barraging readers with tips that make them feel inferior and overweight.