Fitness has never struck me as a title obsessed with looks, but the entire October issue sends out a single message -- "thin is good" -- decidedly at odds not only with its usual feel-better-all-over empowerment spiel, but also its "mind, body & spirit" tagline. Whereas the magazine used to give equal emphasis to its beauty, health and activity components, calorie-counting and flab-flattening now seem the twin orders of the day.
The October Fitness tells readers how to beat stress eating and offers up both a 2,500-calorie workout and the unfortunately titled "booty boot camp." It notes ten tips that "guarantee a better body" and details Charlize Theron's workout (note: it involves a trampoline, in case you need a pleasing mental image to sustain you through the afternoon). This isn't to besmirch the mag's health or beauty tips, all of which are presented with graphic aplomb and welcome brevity, but they get lost in the weight-loss shuffle.
My biggest problem with Fitness, however, involves its images, precisely one of which depicts anything other than a smiley, wafer-thin model. While I understand the reasoning here -- and no, I'm not especially keen on the prospect of gazing at a parade of Mama Cass Elliot look-alikes, either -- it's borderline irresponsible to present a single body type while at the same time ostensibly proffering advice for women of all shapes and sizes. You can't have it both ways.
The cover image features a gal whose tummy could double as an ironing board (as opposed to mine, which has been displayed as a hilly backdrop in Spaghetti Westerns). "How to: Be a Diet Success" depicts a well-coiffed model type who likely hasn't inhaled anything more caloric than dental floss since she was 12, while the aforementioned stress-eating exegesis is accompanied by a shot of a tight-tushed tart bending over to grab what appears to be a coconut-slathered cake. Some might call these images "aspirational"; I call them "false advertising."
Maybe I would have enjoyed the October issue more had I focused on the stories, which are uniformly succinct and smartly appended. The first-person account of cancer at a young age revisits an enormously wrenching episode without resorting to the usual women's-mag alarmism, and "Outsmart Your Disease Genes" offers a glut of actionable tips for women with family histories of type-2 diabetes, breast cancer and other ailments. Of course, Fitness chooses to illustrate the latter story with an image so inappropriate that it borders on the abstract: a blonde model, clad in lacy sweater and panties, sitting cross-legged on a blanket while holding binoculars. Huh?
I've probably wasted too much of this li'l column of mine carping about a single element of Fitness. Unfortunately, that one element overwhelms pretty much everything else in the publication, inadvertently relegating its strengths -- and there are more than a few -- to the back burner. It's a problem easily remedied, so here's hoping that the mag's Powers That Be take a look in the mirror and start depicting on its pages what they see.