I read trashy magazines from time to time.
I read non-trashy magazines, too, but as with the occasional craving for McDonald’s french fries, sometimes you just want your salty, greasy fix.
As someone who reads trashy magazines on occasion, I’m well aware of their Eight Core Topics:
1. Celebrity relationships
2. Celebrity relationship breakups
3. Celebrity drug / alcohol excesses
4. Celebrity arguments
5. Celebrity pregnancies
6. Celebrity clothing
7. Celebrity family issues
8. Celebrity bodies and diets
Basically, every story they run can be tied back to one of these things, but the last one, number eight — bodies and diets — touches all of them.
That celebrity looks like she’s got a bit of a belly… she must be pregnant! That celebrity has gained a bit of weight… he’s going to lose that role! Look at how rail-thin that celebrity is… she’s falling apart! Look at her bones poking out of that dress… is she on drugs? Look at that fat old actor… remember when he was hot? Look at how great that celebrity looks in that dress… clearly she’s in love!
It wasn’t always this overt… and I’ve been reading them for 26 years, for better or for worse, so I have some sense of the evolution. But in the midst of our ever-growing obsession with artificial sweeteners and low-fat versions of things and new exercise classes and Spanx and skinny jeans and muffin tops and all things body-conscious, the editors of trashy magazines have one simple reason to run anything weight-related they possibly can: they know we’ll read it. And now that there’s an internet to load up with derision and photos, we can dig even deeper into those physical neuroses.
If I know a woman as anything more than a passing acquaintance or a client, I can guarantee she’s referenced her weight in conversation with me at some point. Maybe she’s setting aside dessert with a cringe, or worrying she can’t get to the gym, or commenting on something she could never dare wear, or perhaps even saying something “nice” about how another woman looks better in her clothing… but it never fails to come up.
I understand that not all body references are unhealthy, and that fitness, nutrition, and feeling good about how you look are all fine things.
But I also know the fight to keep those conversations healthy and appropriate is one we lose far too often. And that the way we talk about ourselves in those moments drifts perilously close to the trashy headlines.
Of course, I come at this from the perspective of the “underdog”, so it’s probably easy to disregard how I see it. Because I’m overweight, I’m oversensitive, or I’m projecting, or I’m “hating on” people who take better care of themselves than I do.
Don’t I know that obesity is an epidemic? Don’t I know that fat people put a terrible burden on the health system? Don’t I know that vanity sizing in stores is making us delusional? Don’t I know how much more money I’d make or how I’d be promoted or how differently people would see me if I’d just lose that weight?
Don’t I want to be skinny? Don’t I want to be toned? Don’t I want to wear a skimpy bikini? Don’t I want to live up to the ideal, lest I be ostracized like a celebrity who balloons up to a size two and dares to wear her size zero dress?
And you can say, “Well, what do you expect? Those magazines are trashy.”
You can even say, “I avoid all that stuff, and I feel much better about myself.”
I don’t doubt it.
As much as it irks me, though, articles like the ones listed above aren’t really the core of the problem; rather, they’re a hot-pink, boldface, scream-y symptom of the standard we hold others to, famous or otherwise.
The problem is that we think it’s okay to be unkind about appearances. We think that way, we talk that way, and we believe it. If they want to be treated differently, they should change.
We think it’s okay to make “fat” into a value judgment deeper than a number on a scale. Because you choose to look like that, you’ve clearly made a whole bunch of other bad choices, too. We’ll absolve you… if you lose weight.
We think it’s okay to torture ourselves because we could be more attractive, more likeable, more successful, more interesting… just, more. Why are you settling? Don’t you want to be awesome?
I know it’s not going away.
The people who stare at my big behind and wonder why I live like this will still stare. People will still giggle that they’re “eating like a fat kid”, so we’ll know they’ve counted those calories… and that they’re not actually a fat kid. And US Magazine will still print thousands of stories a year about losing baby weight and miracle diets and makeovers and cellulite because each one gets read — our obsession with weight will never fail to spur us to click.
What I want to challenge you to do, however, is to take your little piece of all of this and give it a rest for a day.
24 hours to go to the gym and eat healthily and have your goals, but without tying them to your intrinsic value as a human or your desirability to anyone else. 24 hours to not click on the trashy story about a celebrity’s weight gain, even to be disgusted by it (she said to herself.) 24 hours to not flagellate because you ate a cookie. 24 hours to not raise an eyebrow at someone who weighs more or less than you. 24 hours to not self-deprecate out loud or in print. 24 hours to not needle other people about being lazy when they don’t keep up the schedule you do. 24 hours to not pointedly poke your spouse or partner in a spot that isn’t as firm as it used to be. 24 hours to acknowledge that this just may be a charged topic for you, and that the language you use to talk about it could be cutting a hole in people you love.
Then maybe 24 more. And so on.
Then, maybe, the things printed in trashy magazines would seem more unreasonable… instead of the extreme (or not) version of things people I know and love say about themselves and others every single day.
I read trashy magazines from time to time, for better or for worse.
But I’d like to feel better about myself all of the time.