Dear Self Magazine: WTF?

December 20, 2016


Dear Self Magazine,

It’s been a long time since I saw you last. You were a staple of my gym rat days–along with Fitness and Shape–in the late nineties and early aughts, providing me with monthly workouts that defined my muscles and kept boredom at bay. Good times! But somehow we lost touch over the years, so I was surprised to find the January 2017 issue in my mailbox this afternoon.

But hey! The cover declared “It’s On!” and promised that the New Year’s Challenge was 28 days of fun workouts, so I flipped it open and started reading. After 45 pages of Birchbox ads, I finally found it.

And…Are you kidding me? Maybe I just don’t understand your target audience. Are we talking twenty-something, pack-a-day hipsters? Seventy-year-old grandmas recovering from a hip replacement? Because you can’t be talking to anyone who wants “OMG results” no matter what your headline says.

The plan consists of two cardio sessions a week–the longest of which is a whopping 13 minutes!–and three sessions of strength training (which is admittedly better than the “cardio”). The worst cardio session is ten minutes long and includes three sets of planks, interspersed with one-minute rests. That’s right! Keeping your body static for 20 second intervals now counts as cardio!

Why am I bothering to write this, you ask? It’s your last in-print issue, clearly I’m not a subscriber, and I’m not so ignorant of health and fitness that I could be fooled into doing this workout. But that’s the thing: I’m not ignorant and I have you, Self Magazine circa 2002, to thank for that. What about the person who has no knowledge of fitness, who picks up Self Magazine for the very first time? Is she going to believe that two ten-minute “cardio” (quotation marks for obvious reasons) sessions a week are going to improve her heart, her lungs, or her overall health?

Yes. Because you, Self Magazine, told her so. And you’re the expert.

And before you argue that, when it comes to exercise, something is better than nothing, let me remind you that you didn’t promise a stop gap workout. You promised changes. You promised a challenge. But the truth is that no one is going to get stronger or fitter on your plan. What then? Completing your “challenge” only gives someone yet another excuse to believe she can’t be healthy, because she followed all the rules and still couldn’t get results.

I’m tired of so-called experts setting women up to fail, either by telling us that we can achieve impossible results if we only work hard enough, or that we can achieve results without really working at all. Neither is true. I can’t imagine a men’s magazine printing such garbage–they would be laughed off the newsstand. Women deserve better than this. We deserve honest, research-backed information on how to improve our health, not gimmicks and false promises.

Something like Self Magazine, 2002.

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