WTF, Shape?

First of all, I shamelessly stole the idea of skewering a stupid magazine from Temerity Jane.  Specifically, her hilarious monthly reviews of Cosmo, which are so funny I cannot read them while drinking or in public because they make me snort.  Mine will actually be kind of serious, but if you want to die laughing check out TJ.

Moving right along.  My sister got me a subscription to Shape magazine for Christmas.  I got a few issues a few weeks back but I didn’t have time to read them until last night.  And I read one last night and ohhh shit, I was HOT.  First, check out the headlines on the cover:

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Friends, I thought we’d finally gotten over America’s ridiculous 1980s fat-phobia.  Not so!  Fat is BAD, everyone.  And you know what that fat trap is?  A damn wrap.  (Sorry, guys, I swear when I’m mad.)

Here is one of the first ads I saw when opening the January issue:

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Beer!  And cycling!  They go together like peas and carrots.  Also?  If you are Lance Armstrong and you are cycling a gazillion miles a week, I’m betting you are intentionally trying to take in as many carbs and calories as possible, what with glycogen stores and all.  Does. Not.  Compute.

But wait!  More diet beer!

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A hint of calories?  For fuck’s sake.  I drink beer for two reasons: a) I want to genuinely enjoy it with a meal, and b) I want to get trashed.  If I want to genuinely enjoy a meal, I’d rather use another 60 calories to drink a beer that actually tastes good.  If I want to get shitfaced, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be counting calories.  Good lord.

And a final annoying ad:

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Have a little self-respect, Shape.  Don’t talk about how quick fixes don’t work and then run full page ads for trash like this.  There were more ads, but I got tired of taking pictures of them.

shape 007 I haaaate this kind of stuff.  You enjoyed a treat?  Now punish yourself with exercise!  Way to make exercise completely frought with feelings of guilt and self-hatred.  I prefer to think of exercise as something healthy I’m doing for myself, and not as punishment for something I truly enjoyed.

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Also, Kellie Pickler awkwardly pretends to eat some fruit.  And look, she lost weight!  (The article makes no mention of her exercising, just healthy eating.)

Then we get to the pages and pages of people who lost weight.  Not people pursuing fitness goals, or people getting healthy, people who saw the number on the scale drop.  I’m not denying that what these people did was healthy, but the focus on losing X number of pounds seems kind of intense here. 

shape 010

First things first—good for you, Missy.  I’m glad you got healthy and appear to be enjoying the gym in your picture, and I hope that low-end of the healthy range BMI works for you.  But this was included in an article about women who had lost drastic amounts of weight, going from morbidly obese to skinny in some cases.  My first thought when I saw this?  “Well, crap, I’m a heifer if I’m 5’6” and 160 next to this chick.”  Thanks, Shape, for inspiring fat talk in my head.  Also, with this:

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This woman is one inch taller than I am and weighs about 5 pounds more.  First thought?  “Criminy, I look like that?”  And the answer is NO.  No, I do not look like that, because I am in really great shape, and eat well, and my weight is largely composed of muscle mass.  But, yeah, the fat talk continued.

Basically, this continued on for several pages until I felt like crap about myself because it was all about the numbers.  Nothing was framed in terms of “Sally got healthy and is training to run her first 10K!  Good for her!” and it was instead "Sally went from fat to skinny and looks great in a bikini now!”

I will not say this magazine was totally awful.  They had an interesting article about emotional eating, and some sort of bruschetta recipe that looked appetizing and healthy.  And there was a pretty fashion spread that actually included some items I might wear.  SO, you know, not totally without redemption.

I don’t think I’ll be reading this magazine anymore, mostly because I don’t want to feed into a system that makes me feel like a lardass because of some dumb number on a scale.  I’m smarter than that.  From here on out, Shape will be seeing the inside of my recycle bin.  I’ll stick to Runner’s World, thanks.

Do you think the media’s obsession with weight leads to negative self-images in women?

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28 Responses

  1. I’m so glad you pointed this out! I used to think I was crazy when I’d look at those pictures and think “woah… I’m only two inches taller and 5 pounds lighter and they need to lose how much weight???” Not right…

  2. I get Shape, but I normally glimpse through it. I’m not a fan of the majority of the articles and I never look at ads. That SlimQuick keeps popping out to me though because it’s in almost every magazine I read. Annoying!

  3. Yes, I think the media’s obsession with weight leads to me having a negative self image.
    My stats are almost exactly the same as yours and I think the same thing when I see people who weigh significantly less than me and are considered successful and healthy. Um, I’m never going to weigh 115 – so I look huge compared to her!
    I wish I could see someone that looks like me and is happy with her weight and health in a magazine.

  4. I used to read Shape too but it became more and more ridiculous. I now stick to Women’s Health which has real advice/workouts…same ads though 🙂

  5. I subscribe to Shape and lately I’ve been thinking about getting rid of all my mag subscriptions. The only thing I’m really liking is SOME of the workouts. I think the only mags I am going to keep are Women’s Health & Oxygen.

  6. I definitely have to fight the media’s obsession with fat. I recently saw a 2 minute TV spot about an old Baywatch actress that got “fat” and her time in Celebrity Fit Club. There was even an comedy bit where drowning people didn’t want to be saved by her because she was a “fat lifeguard”. She was my height and had my body fat %, which is at the high end of acceptable. I was fuming all day after that!

  7. Oh, and I just wanted to point out that the woman who is your height in that magazine has 35.4% body fat. There’s no way that you have that much body fat Brie, and you definitely do not look like her!

  8. Hm, I never really thought about this before… I’m sure this helps contribute to the trend too of so many people just doing crazy things to lose weight, rather than by simple diet/exercise. Whenever people ask me how I lost weight, I tell them that I lost weight by changing my lifestyle to eat healthier and exercise. They almost literally just sort of roll their eyes at me and completely discount what I just told them! They rather listen to the person that initially lost weight when she went on the no-carb-of-any-kind diet, but then gained it all right back.

    There really ought to be more of a focus out there on general health than just simple weight loss. My greatest success is now being easily able to run the distance from home to work, when the slow walk for that distance used to MURDER me!

  9. I am SO not a fan of those weight loss profiles. I think firstly, it just gets women to compare themselves to those stories. They see themselves as either better off (“yes! I’m that height and weigh less!”) or worse off because they weigh more, or think they look like the “before” picture. Ugh. Also, they’re so short that they never go in-depth about what it took to lose the weight. They all say the same things “I started running, eating 6 meals a day, stopped snacking at night, etc, etc.” A lot of these fitness magazines aren’t even about fitness. It’s pure fluff. Bottom line, if it has a fashion spread that isn’t workout gear related, or makeup reviews, I’m not interested in reading it for training advice.

  10. That’s the best title!
    Eek. My stats are simmilar too, I remember reading that story and even stupidly showing it to my husband…LOL he puts up with a lot.
    I am not renewing my subscription. There are so many reader stories…I also look at the pictures and stats for the person featured and immediately compare myself…”ohh good, that’s what I look like” or “heck no, I look waaay better than that with those stats”…Run Eat Repeat was just talking about not comparing yourself yesterday! It’s so hard, it’s our first instinct when we see/hear something to check in and see if it applies to us in some way. I still clearly remember a woman from Norway on Oprah saying how women in her country would never feed their kids peanut butter, because it is total junk…
    One magazine puts out a “best packaged foods for women” (search that if you want to find it, I wasn’t sure I should put the web address) and while some of the foods are good ideas, such as antioxidant rich sorbet loaded with berries, many of the items are crammed with artificial sweeteners. /rant
    Great topic!

  11. LOL. You are HIGHlarious. Fitness magazines like that bug me, that’s why I stick with cooking magazines. But even then, somethings they have articles/tidbits like that that make my eyes roll out of my head.

  12. I hate magazines like this. HATE. I got rid of Glamour, Cosmo, Shape and all others years ago. The only magazines I read now are Body + Soul, Cooking Light and an occasional People magazine every now and then!

  13. Let me just say that I’m in publishing, and it’s a struggling, *dying* industry right now. I think this is the result. I’m sure Shape–like most every other magazine out there–has to take the ads where they can get them, and they have to give readers copy that will prompt them to buy the magazine. And I’m guessing this is the sort of the thing their “average” reader responds too…

  14. Ok, I am officially de-lurking because this was so hilarious! Great review of Shape!! I love the “You ate it (fatty), Negate it!” How about I eat healthy and workout when I should, not keep track of everything I eat and then go punish myself for however long by working out. “Crap – if I eat this spinach salad, I am going to have to do 1 hour on the treadmill….maybe I just won’t eat… ”

    Love your blog!

  15. Try being 4’11. The only people near my weight are 5’8 or something! lol! Makes me feel like going out to graze in a pasture somewhere! lol!

    Apparantly my doctor reads Shape because she told me that I needed to get my BMI lower even if I had to lose muscle to do it. Yes I’m serious. She even said she rather see me at my “healthy” BMI with a little fat hanging off me than how I am now! WTF! (For the record I have huge hips/thighs and very little ab flab).

  16. On the ate it/negate it. I get mad because when I have a latte or something I work it into my daily calories so I don’t have to run 8 hours on the treadmill or the rest of my week balances it out. Stupid.

  17. I totally believe that media’s obsession is passed on directly to the women (me) who consume it. I feel great about who I am, including what I look like and each an every curve MOST days of the week. There are times when we all get a little blue – and they are often spurred by crazy media portrayal of what is “normal,” “healthy,” and “beautiful.” I just hope that younger women can weed through this and find the glory that lives within themselves and realize that it shines through

    ODDLY ENOUGH – I just sent in for a new subscription to Shape because I want to take a break from Runners World. Hopefully the good articles will be worth it. But this all could be said about most women’s magainzes. I have a stack of Women’s Health to get through that is the same exact thing.

  18. I am so glad you brought this up! I have been thinking the same thing, specifically about the Bridal “slim down” trend (I swear if Facebook shows me one more ad of how I can get in shape for the “big day” I’m going to delete my account!)

    What’s annoying is, magazines mention nothing about the long-term. Sure these people lost weight for the photoshoot but what happened a year later? One cannot subsist on fruit alone (Here’s looking at you Kelly Pickler!) And you’re right, no mention of exercise at all!

    Not that its true for all people, but I “gave up” the gym a year and a half ago, lost 10 lbs and have never felt better. (I also put down magazines like this that made me feel bad about my body, and took up walking everywhere…) But I look fine and more importantly, i’m not “hangry” all the time (hungry+angry)… because who’s going to marry that??

    Great post!

  19. Love your blog! A few things…

    –I was just thinking the same thing last night with some of the crazy ads. My mom gets Prevention and some of the ads for food are filled with preservatives, sodium, etc, etc. However, what a pp said, they do need the ads for the money…sigh. As far as fashion mags go, I still shamelessly read cosmo as a guilty pleasure, but take everything with a grain of salt (uh, make that a full bottle of salt). I am finding I do enjoy Marie Claire though…

    –I noticed you eat Chobani! I love their pineapple one *wipes drool from face*

    –While I don’t think people should punish themselves for enjoying a treat, I do sometimes enjoy the “facts” like from the book “Eat this, Not That”. I think there was an example of if you eat a Dairy Queen blizzard, you will have tu run x amount of times across a football field to burn the calories. My problem is with my suit tooth, there are no limits so it’s sometimes good to stop and think before I eat something

  20. YES! YES! YES!! I am 4’11” and there is NEVER any articles about people with my height and wt issues. These articles revolve around
    Also, what about those who do know how to eat healthy but for some reason the lbs are not going down? Are we considered obese and lazy? According to Shape, we are.

    I used to subscribe to Shape but not anymore. I do subscribe to Health and I may subscribe to Runner’s World.

  21. Hell yes! I had enough body issues as it was and I was an athlete in high school and college! I feel awful for girls nowadays! Honestly, I haven’t been on a scale since December and plan to keep it that way! I’ve gone down two wedding dress sizes with a few more to go. If I want a few beers, I have them! Btw, the mich ultra commercials make me nuts too…like I can only be active and skinny and beautiful if I drink that pisswater…forget that! I love to be active and enjoy real food…and beer!

  22. Thank you for writing about this!!! I see stuff like this all the time…it’s in Runner’s World (it is probably actually everywhere) they’ll tell you how to fuel properly for a long run and then have an ad for some diet pill in the back. The same goes for magazines that tell you time and time again that there is no magic pill, and then have an ad for diet pills. GAH!!!

    I could go on forever!

  23. I think some magazines try to address the issue in a healthy way, but then they end up putting stuff out that is totally contradictory. Take Glamour for instance. They made a huge deal out of their spreads using normal sized/plus sized models and how important it is to be healthy and not be pressured to just be skinny. But they also include ads like the ones you mentioned and they put Victoria Beckham on the cover. Though Beckham has denied having an eating disorder, she’s clearly far too thin. The magazines seem to want to have it both ways.

  24. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Most of the magazines out there are full of contradicting messages.

  25. I have been a reader of both Shape and Self for a few years now, and I have been pretty unhappy recently. I don’t know which is changing – the magazines or my outlook. I completely agree with your review.

    I recently picked up an issue of Woman’s Health and really liked it. Do you have any thoughts on that magazine? I’m thinking of switching subscriptions.

  26. […] to add* Go and visit Brie, The Fit Bride, and read about what she found in Shape magazine. I love this post so much! I think about the kinds of ads that fitness magazines have whenever I am reading one. I am […]

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