Health Magazines – More Harm than Health?

Written by Karina
Edited by Farah

Spot magazine cover. Get attracted to title: “Get a bikini-bod in 4 weeks”. Buy it. Work out for a day, a week, daresay a month!. Give up. Buy another mag.

You cry out – Will the cycle ever end?

Health magazines, the feel-good guides to drool-worthy bodies and healthy lifestyles. They are often messengers of hope for all us deprived ones of sleep, nutrition and yes, exercise.

Now, I’m no expert on Health Psychology. As it is, I have already had to tease its meaning from various sources. What have I discovered? You really can find health psychology in health magazines. But how legit are the things we find in there? Can we believe what we read or rather, see in there? If these oft suggested techniques and regimes do work and give us the results (especially those on magazine pages), then let’s just say that world peace has finally descended upon us.

All right, maybe the part about looking good isn’t really that important. But certainly, being healthy has its effect on the physical appearance of a person. Let’s face it, if you’re ill, you just don’t look all that wonderful. Which might explain the onslaught of magazines sprouting like mushrooms looking to fill the vacuum of the aesthetic, even in magazines genuinely concerned with dispensing trustworthy health advice, aka the health magazines.

Sadly, that link between good health and its aesthetic manifestation has many times been forgotten. Let’s face it. Magazine companies need to make their share of the profit too. Eyeballs need to be grabbed with the glossy pictures of “achievers” in the regime. Think: “I lost XXX pounds in a week!”-esque headlines and its accompanying photo of MODELS who have probably never had a fat day in their lives. Leading many willing but sadly misguided participants to more harm than health. Stages are skipped as people anxious to achieve the glow best achieved with living the life first. It wasn’t too long ago that 4 young models from Brazil died from anorexia in the same month. And while these cases seem a tad extreme in evaluating the effect of health magazines, it’s certainly a possibility that maybe these girls wanted to look healthier and hence better via the extreme methods undertaken. But it was a case of too much too soon and too carelessly as well – nevertheless spurred on by the role models portrayed on the covers.

Have the magazines, which sought to harness the power of health psychology, generated a trend where people are harming themselves in the name of HEALTH? This thought seems almost contradictory but it might be a reality indeed.

Now we might say that responsibility lies in no better hands than the people who read health mags. And certainly, that is true. But honestly, with information presented as the results of research, it is hard for those of us who simply wants an answer, a solution in fact to the way we look or the state our health is in. Think about this, notice how your facial products always say that it has been “dermatologically tested”? Well, how about it being “dermatologically approved”? As far as we know, it’s been tested, but the only results we know after the testing is the marketing blurb at the back of the product.

Speaking of experiments, perhaps another thing about having psychological methods and theories dominating the domain of health magazines is also the fact that experiments and results do alter with time. But sometimes, we are duped into thinking this:

Tested stuff = Unchanging/Fixed results. Conclusion: It MUST be always good/bad for my (fill in name of body part) in this (fill in effect of product) way.

If only it were that easy. The fact remains that well, facts don’t remain as facts for long. And it is possible that we might see this trend especially more so in health psychology, a “relatively new field…evolving and developing” (Wikipedia) as a field of applied psychology. One moment we hear that chocolate is good for us and the next we find out that finding was pretty flawed to quite a huge extent. Now if that isn’t confusing, I don’t know what is.

Certainly, I’m not asserting here that health psychologists and magazines that employ the theories and methods advocated by the discipline are out to make our lives a living hell. What I am saying however is, perhaps we need to leave some room for consideration by weighing out the suggested theories and methods proposed within these sources. Get that magazine by all means. Some advice like eating more greens and sufficient exercise do carry weight (pun not intended). But as always, discernment will go a long way.

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