An open letter to the editors of Self

Dear Self,

I’m breaking up with you. As a magazine, you got me motivated by giving me health advice and guidance in bite size chunks to that it didn’t look scary. You promised quick solutions to all my body issues, even while telling me what to wear if I was “thick waisted, bottom-heavy, long waisted, petite, boy-shaped or plus-sized” because, well, everyone fits into those neat, easy categories, don’t they? Nobody is maybe petite AND “bottom heavy” (doesn’t that description make you super happy?)?

I learnt to skip over your clothing recommendations – I’m sorry, but skinny jeans DO NOT suit every shape unless your aim is to look like an idiotic trend-addict. I learnt to ignore your monthly “lose XX lbs in 1 month” features, especially after reading 3 in a row and realising that every article contradicts the one before it. Become a vegetarian! No, eat meat! No, eat carbs! No, stop breathing!

I visited your website and looked at your forums and realised that your articles and your mission statement kinda worked not to empower us to be healthy but instead empowered us to feel like crap about ourselves. After all, we’re always striving to lose weight and conceal our flaws. We’re always looking for a quick fix. I realised that your forums, while not moderated by your magazine, probably should be – do you know how many girls with serious ED issues post and get ridiculously unhealthy advice? You’re lucky that there are a handful of intelligent posters who come in with good advice but really. Really?

And yet I still subscribed. I still held out hope that those once inspiring tidbits would get me back. But you lost me for good this month with this bit of ‘advice lite’ from your pre-Self challenge for 2009:

Forget for a moment the feel-good benefits of exercise and focus on the look-good benefits. Research shows that extrinsic goals like wanting to look fab in Lycra are more important motivators than intrinsic goals such as wanting to feel strong. Visualize exactly how you’re like your body to look on June 1.

Yes, because it’s obviously going to make you feel AWESOME when you don’t magically have a size 2 bod come June 1. Because it never happens that the stupid intrinsic goals are easier to maintain and use as motivation when those fabulous extrinsic goals aren’t coming through quickly.

Now Self, I’m sorry to say this but you.are.dumb. You are all about the exterior and you’ve forgotten about the important thing inside. I know that when I started this healthy journey, it wasn’t with a “Lose XX lbs in 1 month!” program. It wasn’t with the goal of looking fab in Lycra (if that becomes my goal, please someone kick me). It was that stupid intrinsic one: to be STRONG and HEALTHY; to be able to carry my groceries home even if I chose to buy both milk and juice in one trip; to be able to balance with a strong core and not fall over if someone brushed past me.

Sure, I wanted to look better in jeans too but that goal took a LOOOONG time to come through. If I had used that as my motivation, I woulda been onto the chocolate-coated everything within 2 months. My weight stayed the same. My measurements didn’t change drastically. I felt discouraged. And then – then I realised “hey, I’m getting stronger”. Then I realised that I wasn’t getting out of breathe as easily. Then I realised that I was becoming healthier. And I stayed the course.

But that’s just dumb. Who needs intrinsic goals when looking good in Lycra is oh so much more important? Health, I’m doin it all rong!

So yes, Self, I’m not onboard with this whole women should only look good on the outside thing. I don’t want to be skinny-fat. I want to be STRONG. So this is it. It’s not me, it’s you.




4 thoughts on “An open letter to the editors of Self

  1. Word! Skinny-fat is so TRUE! I remember an episode of America’s Next Top Model when the girls couldn’t do ANY physical activity–it was shameful. Strong, lean, fit… that’s beautiful!

  2. Bravo!
    “Research shows that…” who’s research? what research? Did the author just walk down the hall and take a quick survey? Or perhaps, to make her research fit the point of her article, did she just survey the voice in her head? haha!

    i broke up with Vogue about two years ago for similiar reasons — I loved Vogue, but finally realized that I would never be thin enough for Vogue to love me back. 🙂

  3. Awesome letter! I hope you sent it, as well as posting it here. I had the same reaction to Self for awhile—I thought I felt inspired but really I just felt inferior. It’s hard enough for women to appreciate who they are inside no matter the outside without rags like this contributing to the bad.

    • I didn’t send it but I think I still might. It frustrates me that these mags, which could be so good, pander to the stupid expectations and fluff that we’re surrounded with in other mags.

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