Being a magazine editor taught me to challenge toxic diet culture this summer
It was only April when PR pitches for “beach body” articles began flooding my inbox.
How You Can Cut Calories with Exercise This Summer
Foods That Will Help Your Summer Diet
How to Get Your Perfect Summer Body
I stared at the influx of diet and exercise-related content directed at women longing for “summer bodies,” and, for the first time in my life, I began to wonder if I was “doing enough” to look like an airbrushed model in a glossy magazine spread.
Four months ago, I was hired as an editor for a digital millennial life magazine, and I eagerly assumed that I was mentally prepared for the task. I was meticulous, passionate, and an AP style aficionado. I quickly learned the intricacies of SEO, on-brand photo selection, and compelling headlines. However, I was unprepared for the sheer amount of diet-focused media I’d encounter, and the harmful impact it would have on my body image. I have a history of body image issues and disordered eating, and soon felt unexpected and intense pressure to trade in my gradual self-love journey for a rigorous diet and exercise regimen.
Despite my knowledge of diet culture’s dangers, I wondered, if women in my generation were willing to cut calories and exercise their way to flat abs, shouldn’t I want the same for myself?
After work, I looked in the mirror and struggled to compliment myself. I saw my perceived flaws magnified in front of me, analyzing each burgeoning love handle, barely perceptible dimple of fat, and inconspicuous stretch mark. My healthier self-perception had been so distorted. Could I still be “enough” this summer if I loved myself as I am? If I refused to restrict my eating?
When media outlets everywhere began billing the “Toblerone Tunnel” as this summer’s “dangerous new body trend,” I realized that I wasn’t only consuming diet culture-focused media at my job. Triggering information was all around me during these summer months, and it made my eating disordered brain practically light up. Instead of understanding the harmful”Toblerone Tunnel” fad as dangerous, I wanted to body check — or obsessively examine my appearance.
That’s when I realized that my job and my writers were not responsible for my mounting obsession with a “summer body” — no one I worked with had mentioned these dangerous ideas in their articles.
The culprit was my exposure to other media — all the other sites and magazines that refused to promote body positivity and adhered to irresponsible reporting practices.
I had wasted so much time obsessing over my stomach and legs while brainstorming ways to cave into diet culture, and my body-focused mindset suddenly seemed ridiculous. Why should I sweat my way into an extra-small swimsuit or starve myself until my thighs resemble a piece of British chocolate? Why should I work to change my appearance when I could instead wholeheartedly love myself?
For the past few months, in order to practice self-care in my editorial work, I have restricted my access to media that promotes “summer body workouts” — rather than restricting my caloric intake.
By avoiding other media that promotes diet and exercise, I am better able to regulate my disordered thoughts when I have to edit articles at work. If the writer references a “beach body,” I can remind myself that every body is a beach body and that I don’t need to engage in diet culture to be beautiful. I ignore the world of toned abs and slim waistlines and provide myself with nourishment and positive affirmations instead. I don’t regret it if I choose to eat ice cream and binge-watch The Bachelorette in my pajamas instead of hitting the gym. This is self-care, and it helps me challenge the pervasive and toxic “diet culture” norms that infiltrate women’s body image during the summer.
While sifting through written representations of diet culture at work, I hope that I can inspire my writers to love themselves this summer — without feeling pressure from the media to change their bodies.
In my editorial work and in my life, I am body-positive and proud. I strive to inspire other women to shirk the oppressive weight of diet culture and develop undying self-love, too.