So it's pretty much summer, and all of the emails from my online lady-mags are delivering the Hottest Tips for a Beach Body, promising to show us Eleventy Hundred Flattering Swimsuits for Your Figure to my inbox. It's an exciting time to be opening emails. I know that any minute now I am going to put down the bowl of Kraft Mac n' Cheese I eat for lunch and pick up a salad. And then do some crunches, and then buy a bikini. Abdominals!
It's the time of year when every magazine promises to give us the keys to our dream beach body, with "specially designed workouts" and "carefully curated slideshows of swimsuits guaranteed to show off our best assets."
I'm still looking for the swimsuit that accentuates my sense of humor.
Swimsuit shopping is on par with cleaning out the produce bin or writing your will; in short it sucks. (Science says so!)
The one-two punch that fashion and fitness magazines deliver--tips on how to get skinny plus tips for picking out a swimsuit to hide your "flaws"--seem custom-designed to make the process even more depressing.
Take Shape for example. I picked up this month's issue because Biggest Loser host/Days of Our Lives actress Alison Sweeney is on the cover. Sweeny has spoken publicly over the years over her struggles with weight, comparing herself to other rail-thin soap actresses so I was interested in her story. Of course, in spite of Sweeney being the cover story the biggest headline on the mag's cover is "Bikini Body Now! Flat Abs, Tight Tush, Lean Legs."
Sweeney's story is about long-term, healthy weight loss but the takeaway from the cover is that those things (abs, tush, legs) are attainable NOW! Never mind that it took Sweeney years. The "Now!" workout is on page 148--the "Yin/Yang Workout" combining cardio, strength, and yoga--and directly following it is an eight-page swimsuit layout. Mmmmkay. Features on the Shape website include Bikini-Belly Bootcamp, Jillian Michaels' Beach Body Workout (also in the May print issue), and at least a half-dozen slideshows on finding the best swimsuit for your body type.
The same goes for Women's Health, whose May issue features my girl-crush Keri Russell. The main headline promises "BEST. ABS. EVER." (yes, in all caps) and another cover feature will give us "stress-free" shopping so we can "Find Swimsuit Bliss." The shopping guide ("Suit Yourself," p. 66) is actually slightly awesome, organized by coverage--Level One/Minimum, Level Two/Medium, Level Three/Maximum--rather than the usual "body type" approach, which forces us to define ourselves as fruit (apple or pear?) or body part (busty or booty?).
That's not to say the guide doesn't employ those methods--the phrases "small chest," "athletic bod," and "pear shape" do make an appearance--but I'd rather shop by coverage than by comparing myself to a piece of fruit. And I have yet to find a guide that suggests the right suit for "pear-shaped almost-midgets."
As someone who finds the occasional fitness mag inspiring, I think the summer issues in particular do an injustice to both style and fitness. Selling us clothes to suit the body we have, and workouts to change our body "fast" seems a little disingenuous. I know, I know--fashion, disingenuous?! I'm a naïve little pear-shaped almost-midget.
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