Dear anyone who has input on the magazine covers at the checkout line of my local supermarket,
Stop it already.
I’m done looking at your offensive headlines and your photoshopped women who probably don’t even recognize themselves. I’m done with all your weight loss and fad diet bullshit to get ready for bathing suit season. I’m done with you talking about “tighter tummies” and dropping “15 pounds in 3 easy steps”. I’m done with you linking food and bodies in the same phrase on every single magazine cover in the aisle. I’m done with you talking shit about pregnant women’s bodies, and I’m even more done with you praising celebrities who have “dropped the baby weight” as if they didn’t have a personal trainer, a private chef to make them juices all day, and a nanny to take care of their baby while they diet and exercise all day because their career demands it of them. I know you have advertisers to appease, but I also know there is a soul and a conscience in there somewhere. It’s time to stop.
This is not a selfish request. I have two daughters I optimistically brought into this world eight and ten years ago. I’ve been doing my best to keep my head above water over here. Like a lot of women I know, my body looks different than it did before I became a mother. Like most women, I was raised by other women who were also doing their best despite the magazine covers in the checkout aisles of their supermarkets. I do alright. I’m not one of those women who lingers in front of mirrors. (Unless, that is, I’m trying out a new and crazy dance move.) I don’t suck in my stomach. I never make disparaging comments about my body. I wear a bathing suit without fear or shame, even if I’ve grown rounder or less attentive to my hair removal over the winter. I never speak of food in connection with how I look–only how I feel. I do not diet. I understand that I am the most direct model my children have, and I take that very seriously. But I can’t do this alone.
This request is not just for my benefit. This is not even for the benefit of my girls. It’s bigger than that.
I’m sure, being in the news media as you are, that you are aware of some of the challenges we are facing right now in our country and on this planet. I know there are always challenges, and we always get through them. I also know that what you and I may perceive as challenges might be different depending on our political leanings or religious beliefs. But I’m guessing we can agree that the to-do list of issues that need work is long, and it’s not going away.
What does all this have to do with the headlines and covers of the magazines in my local grocery store? A lot. Because in the decades ahead of us, we’re going to need the full hearts and brains of every single person to figure out how to move through that to-do list in a way that actually helps this planet and the people on it. We’re going to need my girls, all their friends, and the friends they haven’t met yet. We’re going to need your girls, too, and your boys if you have them. I think they suffer through this in different ways, but I’m guessing just as much. And I’m sure you’ll agree that if we can do anything to raise a generation of people who aren’t wildly distracted by their own faults every time they pass by a window, we should absolutely do it. Imagine what they could do with all that energy they would inevitably WASTE on trying to make themselves look like your stupid magazine covers. We’re going to need all that extra brain power in these coming years. We’re going to need the confidence and love and passion that could come from getting rid of all the distractions. Just imagine what they can do if we stop distracting them.
My list of requests is short, because I know we have to start somewhere. I know this issue is much larger than you, and that you too, are just a victim of greater, more vague sources of the problem. I know that I’m over simplifying both the problem and the solution so that I can fit it into one page that stands in service of a recipe. I’m a writer, and this one page and this recipe are the tools I have to work with. We all have our own tools–I’ll use mine and you can use yours. I also understand you can’t just start putting pictures of normal people doing good things with their lives on the covers of your magazines (although that’s not a bad idea, right?). But I have to go to the supermarket, and often I have to have my kids with me. So let’s start here:
1. Take it easy with the photoshopping. Celebrities and models tend to be thinner and smoother and more glow-y than most of us anyway, so how about just leaving it at that. No need to make them MORE thin and smooth and glow-y.
2. Stop it with the body-centered headlines. No more “5 steps to a flat belly!” or promises of quick weight loss. We both know that’s just a sneaky trick to get people to open the magazine anyway. When they get there, it’s just more of the same silly advice. There’s got to be a better use of print space.
3. Quit talking about food as if it’s something to fear. Desserts don’t have to be indulgences. They can just be delicious things we eat after dinner. Food is not something to cheat on or with. Stop pretending there are magical lists of foods that will make people feel more beautiful. Stop picking on specific categories of food. Some people feel better when they don’t eat certain things, and that’s totally fine. But I’m pretty sure that the more you holler at people about what they should and should not eat, the more you distract them from their own cravings that, when left to their own devices, will, I believe, lead them to the right foods.
And while we’re talking about food, can we get rid of the idea that salad and vegetables are virtuous, or that to eat them is in some way a sacrifice or a punishment for eating other foods? In fact, can we get rid of the idea of certain foods as punishment altogether? I’m starting to think that when we put foods into categories of good and evil, the other classifications get lost–that is, the more important classifications. How about delicious? Satisfying? Grown and picked with your very own hands? A bowl full of exactly what you’re craving?
This is nuts. It’s time to stop. I really need your help with this. I’m doing my best, but I can’t do it without you.
Sweet and Spicy Salad Nuts
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon chile powder (as hot or smoky as you like)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces pecans
1. Combine the maple syrup, chile powder, salt and olive oil in a medium mixing bowl. Add the pecans, and stir until the pecans are entirely coated.
2. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the nuts to the pan, and cook, stirring often, until they grow sticky and sweet and almost seem like they’re going to burn, 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool, and store in an airtight jar. Sprinkle on your salad whenever you crave the crunch and sweetness with your greens.
As a woman, who survived an eating disorder in her teens, and as a mom, who is going to do everything in her power to make sure her daughter never knows what it feels like to be terrified of her body and the food on her plate, I thank you for this.
Lisa G. says
Let’s hope somebody’s listening. One of the things that bothers me the most is this idea of called chocolate desserts “decadent” – what the hell does that mean?
Thank you for a well-needed reminder to resist the siren call of self-loathing, Alana. One of the reasons I adore your blog (and book!) is because your show how nourishing oneself with whole foods is both supremely pleasurable and necessary. So, thanks!
I can only begin to tell you how much I love this post! Thank you!
Rachel @ 6512 and growing says
Desserts don’t have to be indulgences. They can just be delicious things we eat after dinner.
Kristin J. says
I never found myself feeling sympathetic for the Kardashians, but the back-lash against Kim’s baby body is ridiculous. Check out this project: https://www.facebook.com/4thTrimesterBodies
I love this, Kristin. Thanks so much for sending the link.
JF Brown says
In the words of my generation, ‘Right on!’ and ‘Keep on keeping on!’. My daughters and son are all grown, and they have, overall the same food values they grew up with; food is nurturance, food is necessary, no single food is ever forbidden, food is a great deal of fun. We all cook, we all eat, we grow what we can, and I have never, ever, EVER referred to ‘guilt’ in connection with food.
You may feel you are swimming upstream, but your strong, beautiful,wonderful daughters are getting the message, which they will spread to others.
And thanks for a great book, which I co-own with one of my daughters!
PREACH! I love this.
A Plum By Any Other Name says
Wise words, beautifully said. As a dietitian and lover of food, it annoys me to no end that food is marketed to be feared and glow-y celebs are touted as the end all be all. Thank you.
Well said, Alana, well said. There are many of us on board with what you are talking about here, but the more outspoken people are about what kind of messages we want to consume, the better chance we have of changing what gets put on the magazines on news stands everywhere. Bravo.
Amen! I totally agree with you. Coming from a Mother who believes the exact opposite that you do (“Oh you’d be sooo pretty if you just lost weight” is something I heard quite often in my house) I know first hand the damage that can be done. I needed your post today, I was so frustrated with myself and my weight this morning. I’m so tired of being preoccupied with how much I weigh.
Love this post! Beautifully and powerfully written. Well done!
Rebecca M. says
Love this post! Nutrition is important, but who wants to spend their life depriving themselves and eating only foods they hate because they are marketed as “good for you.” There is something to be said for a satisfying mood-lifting meals! And to think more about larger problems then calculating calorie counts for every meal.
Alana, thank you and well said. Our media is creating
such unattainable visions of what looks “normal”. I recently
went to see the Girls on the Run sponsored film about this very
topic. http://gotrboise.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/5-ways-to-combat-harmful-media-influence/. There is something that happens in our
middle school girls that internalizes self demands and pressures to look
a certain way. As a result, young girls go from wanting to be the president
of the United States to unsure of future plans during those formative years.
On a side note, I am going to be vacationing in your neck of the woods (South Lee area ) in August and was wondering if there are any cheese making classes, must visit breweries or specific hikes you’d recommend? Thank you!
This is great, Melissa- thanks for the link.
And South Lee! I could go on and on, but here’s a start: Follow rt. 20 out to Becket and go to the Dreamaway Lodge, then a free outdoor dance performance at Jacobs Pillow (every Wed- Sat, I think at 6?) You’re right on the edge of Beartown State Park, there, too, which is one of my favorite places. I think I need to work on a Berkshires post this summer, so I’ll try to get that out before you come!
Hear, hear! Thank you for speaking out and so eloquently, too!
JoAnn C. says
AMEN! And Thank You.
Jen Cass says
I appreciate your common sense and can onlyt hope that more people will listen – maybe even take action by boycotting these magazines that pander to and heighten our sense of inadequacies and fears.
Thank you for writing this. I think that I’ve only recently been affected by the “morality” of one food versus another…and I don’t like it. I’m writing about this, and will link to this blog because I love your perspective.
So glad you said it! I’ve been working hard at loving me because it’s what my daughter sees – thanks for positing this! You are not alone in hoping for what you’ve requested and I hope that some day we don’t need to ask at all.
we were JUST talking about you today –
I retweeted this even before I read it (I trust you that much) –
now that I’ve read it I may adore and admire you more (if that was possible).
Also (oops, bonus 4th item) Hanna was here this past weekend, she gave me new canisters for my baking supplies (belated Mother’s Day gift). Pictures up soon over at my place, and on the Facebook page. We credit you with my evolving love of all things kitchen.
Truth truth truth!
Sadie Dean says
I firmly believe in this. Thank you for using your blog to share with the world. Food is about nourishing our mind and body. Its about keeping ourselves healthy so that we can do all the amazing things in the world we were made to do, its not about fat and calories and antioxidants and all these other ridiculously hyped things!
I hope you sent this out to them directly too – I feel a little more sane after reading it. I’m making your crockpot yogurt recipe for the first time today – almost down to 110 degrees – blanket it ready. Love your blogs and recipes.
Hooray! Let me know if any questions come up… yogurt hotline is always open.
I can’t even tell you how much I LOVE this!! Thank you, Alana!!
Well said Alana! I hope it starts more people moving in this direction.
BTW, I think I’m not the only one who notices that non self-loathing and appearance-obsessed people are so much more attractive.
I believe that’s called irony…
That is NON-appearance obsessed people are more attractive.
I would also like to add that along with the obnoxious magazines there are marketing strategies in stores that (literally) bring my family to tears. We had an all-out tantrum yesterday as I hurriedly ran into Michaels to buy Plaster of Paris with my little boys. They put a GIANT CANDY SUCKER DISPLAY right inside the door. There was a half hour of crying, sweating, I’m-calm-on-the-outside-but-fuming-on-the-inside mom talking, chasing, and finally EXITING that store. Why put such terrible temptations out like that? My apples and homemade pb&j can’t compete with shiny wrappers and colors.
Amen and amen. Let’s use our collective energy for something that matters.
Anastasia M. says
Brilliant, powerful and beautiful.
If I were you, I’d practice some gorilla journalism and tape a xrox copy of this to the shelf of every check out stand to give everyone something real to read.
maybe we should all print this out and head to our local stores to do so.
Yes. Yes to all of it. What a beautifully-written post, too. Thank you!
Amen, Alana! THANK YOU. Sharing on facebook and wherever else I can think of.
Ashley Lynn says
These are easily the BEST words I have read all month! Thanks for keepin it real
Alana, this is a beautifully written piece and a sentiment that is worth preaching over and over. Thank you!!
Oh my good gracious YES. Very much in agreement on all of this, but particularly the ways language shapes our relationships with food. We are not bad because we eat one thing, and good because we eat another. We are good because we’re alive, and eating to keep ourselves that way.
Allana, Thank you so much for this post. This is such an important topic, not just for our girls, but also our boys. This idea that women have an ever smaller waist-line is harmful for both genders. I never want my son looking down on his mother, sister, girlfriend, stranger because of they way she looks. And girls are not the only ones who have body image issues. It’s time to banish this constant stream of negativity.
It’s true, Amber- I think it’s really a question of raising a new generation of boys and girls who will become men and women who have moved beyond all this!
We are “normal” people in our house. The people on the magazine covers are “abnormal.” That’s what I tell my girls. And I tell them to look around the grocery store at the people there and ask, “how do they look to you? Normal, like us, or abnormal like the ladies on the magazines?” Of course there all different shapes and sizes of the “normals” at the store so my girls get it. Hopefully they will keep getting it. We reinforce it all we can. Thanks for the great post!
Caitlin Hotaling says
We have a saying, from a Bernice Lewis song, in our house “Normal’s just a setting on the washing machine.”
Thought I’d share this link:
From the article, “Popular U.K. department store Debenhams recently announced a ban on all retouched lingerie model shots, proclaiming that they had a “moral obligation” to “encourage positive body image.””
Caitlin Hotaling says
Thank you and I’m presuming it’s ok to do as another has and share on facebook, totally my world w/bathing suit season and all. I too am raising a girl, ten going on 18. Suddenly very aware of how much I have said and done already that got the ball rolling in a bit of the wrong direction, though I thought I was being so conscientious about it. Sigh, good to get a refreshing reminder and redirect my mind and mouth.
10 going on 18– sounds familiar. I feel that way too- I’ll be so conscious, and then I say something I just wish I could take back! Just the other day I was in a store with a friend and both my girls, and I tried on a dress and asked my friend if it made me look pregnant. It’s more subtle I guess, but still… It’s all a work in progress, right?
Well said & brings me to tears. Thank you!
Bernadine kringel says
Thought provoking and so well said. Thanks so much.
Halleluja! I am so tired of these magazines that are not offering anything positive to anyone. I think I should write to my local grocery stores….
Mariana Abreu says
Dear Alana, just found out about your blog and this was the first thing I read! Just gotta tell you how wonderful you are and I’m your newest admirer! I don’t have kids yet, but I live in Brazil and here the pressure to look thin is huge! I hope you don’t mind, but I shared your text in my blog! You’re welcome to visit it! Keep it up!
Thanks so much Mariana, and welcome!Thanks for sharing your link, too.