The Women’s Magazine Weight Loss Story Formula

I love a women’s magazine. Not the glossy ones full of adverts and expensive handbags.  Not the ones with worthy articles.  I love the real life versions.

These magazines have a formula. Problem pages and horoscopes.  Reader tips, letters and photos.  Ordinary people doing something different or over coming adversity.  And nothing says over coming adversity than a former Big Girl who has lost a whole load of weight.

The story goes a bit like this (all of them).

  • Before photos. The more unflattering, the better.
  • How they put the weight on. This is usually all about business of life, too many take-away meals and being slightly oblivious to the ever increasing waistline. There will be no attempt to really understand what makes people put on weight.
  • Their experiences of being big. People laughing and commenting, the acceptability of fat shaming.
  • The moment that made them change. Needing a seatbelt extension on a plane. Failing to fit in the seat in the rollercoaster. Breaking a chair. A terrible photo on Facebook.
  • A sidebar with before and after typical daily diets. TBH, I often prefer the first one.
  • A reference to their new love of (add to the list as you see fit: running, Zumba, weight training etc.).
  • After photos. The more glamorous the better.

I am not attempting to be critical in this post. Truly.  I wrote my own one of these stories after all.  I have also found it inspirational to read the stories of others.

But these magazines are hugely influential. Check out this piece here about how a leading women’s magazine has influenced our views on slimming for decades.  Flick through the pages in any of the magazines I’m talking about and you will most likely find a diet plan or some slimming recipes just a little further along.  Some of the approaches that the magazines tacitly promote aren’t necessarily health ways to lose weight – or sustain it long term.

We are fed a continuous diet (if you will excuse the term) of messaging about how terrible it is to be fat and how much more wonderful your life will be when you are thin.

For every person these stories inspire, there will be another who will be made miserable by it, should they find themselves unable to achieve the desirable ‘after’ photograph.

We need role models. But of health and wellness and not just thinness.  We really don’t need any more diet plans.  There is no ‘secret’ of weight loss or miracle plan, no matter what the articles try to tell you.

We also need to acknowledge that weight loss is not a panacea for a happiness. My life is better for losing all my weight in that I am healthier, more confident, and more capable of doing little things like walking up a flight of stairs.

But let’s stop pretending that it is the answer to everything. Let’s try and stop the quick fix, follow a magazine diet to lose weight instantly mentality.

Let’s stop doing this stuff to each other.

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