These periodicals exist for one reason, and one reason only: sell ad space. To be duped into thinking otherwise is absurd. And that's the issue with fitness magazines and advertising.
I know this first hand because I turned down an internship at Weider Publications, specifically "Muscle and Fitness Magazine," when I realized that magazines exist to sell ads, not articles. Well that and capitalizing on human tragedy or triumph, but that's another soap box session for another time.
In most fitness magazines, when someone is shown exercising, you very often see a too thin person looking more like an ultra marathoner rather than someone who spends time in the gym. Thin defintely does not equal fit, or healthy for that matter.
"For a business focused on health and fitness, it’s hard to believe that they could intentionally release ads that depict only Victoria Secrets-looking models who are splayed out in some rather compromising positions," writes Deborah Dunham ("New 'National Chain' Ads Promote Unhealthy Thinness And Degradation Of Women, Not Fitness"). "Not to mention the fact that they look like they spend more time on crash diets than in the gym."
Here's where the line between empowerment and perpetuating the problem persist.
"The guys, on the other hand, are photographed with their muscles and six-pack abs on display. Making the stereotypical point, once again, that women should be frail, thin and dainty, while men should be strong and muscular," writes Dunham.
Fingers have also pointed negatively at Self Magazine for having former American Idol contestant, and "Smash" star Katherine McPhee on the cover because of her bout with bulimia. Shape Magazine also took heat for putting McPhee on their cover as well.
"After purging as often as seven times a day, for five years, you’d think McPhee would know better than to perpetuate the very same unrealistic physical ideal she admits to struggling with," wrote Katie Drummond in her article "A lesson in health hypocrisy: Katharine McPhee and Shape."
"I think there is a misconception (that pisses me off) that women are weak and can't handle weights," says new mom and tenacious exerciser Heather Washburn.
"Women aren't supposed to be strong they're supposed to be soft and motherly. It's perpetuated by the media and very unfortunate." Washburn also feels that an image of models and their lean physiques incorrectly says that is where the key to beauty resides.
Heather Savage, Marketing Director for the Red Power Divas Running Club also feels the media is also responsible for inaccurate depictions of what is actually healthy.
"Magazines perpetuate the myth and play to the masses by portraying women as delicate flowers who carefully lift pretty little pink dumbbells (so as not to break a nail), and afterward sip refreshing smoothies at the gym’s juice bar... in full make-up, of course," says Savage.
Carolyn Thompson, MTB racer from Team Spike (and hopefully IPF!) agress with Savage.'
"I think the desire to look thin drives women to use less weight in an effort to "tone but not add muscle bulk," says Thompson.
Both are hopeful that a new Reebok ad campaign will turn the tide.
"I really love the ad campaigns from Reebok lately with the 'strong is the new skinny' tag line," Thompson said. "I really hope the notion of healthy, fit & strong women = sexy catches on!'
Savage concurs saying "fit is the new skinny, and more women are finding their strength and power in a good, sweaty workout. Thankfully, I believe that many of my brainwashed sisters are starting to wake up."
Since we know weight lifting is the fast track to fat loss, why is that not spun as the best way way to get fit? It seems group classes oriented around dance and plastic boxes to step on seem to get more ink.
What about spin classes in the relentless pursuit of cardio that don't fit the rider as they do things most people's bodies aren't ready for? Ever seen one of these? They're actually Catastrophic. I've put several people back together who've injured themselves in spin classes riding a bike that doesn't fit them as they moved with dysfunctional joint patterns unrecognized by their "certified" instructor.
"I think part of the appeal for women in classes is not just the weight-loss part but the social nature of cardio classes," said Thompson. "I do think there is a general lack of understanding about muscle helping burn fat - it just isn't a commonly understood concept in my opinion. I certainly labored under the delusion that only cardio, the same neighborhood jog over and over, was going to burn my way to a smaller jean size."
Along those lines, Washburn feels that "women think that lifting weights will make them bigger, not stronger so they focus on cardio because they think that burning as many calories as possible will make them thin like the models."
And that's the problem. The only way around this is better education, and that's what we will get into in "Why Women Should Lift Weights Part IV."