Weight loss magazines, food and you – an eternally vicious cycle

Weight loss magazines, food and you – an eternally vicious cycle

Weight loss magazines, food and you – an eternally vicious cycle

It’s all too common to go to any waiting room or newspaper stand and see weight loss and slimming magazines.

If we pick up a few, curious to see what they are like, we’ll see a range of ‘before and after’ stories, which may be amazing to read, but what may blow your socks off is the content in the rest of the magazines, which is all about food – beautifully presented recipes and more recipes, pictures of food by the score and more.

There are so many pictures of food. The magazines give their view of which brands were the best, how to prepare the food and how you should look like if you eat like that.

What powerful images such pictures present in dieting magazines and, for that matter, in all forms of media, social media, TV, film and, so very powerfully in advertising. We are dominated by images in every angle in life. If we look back in our lives, we can all see there never has been a time when the ‘picture perfect’ hasn’t dominated us. We are told from childhood how we should look, what weight we should be, what we should eat, how much we should eat, when we should eat, and why we should eat. It’s an ever-present control. Was there ever a period in our lives when we were free of the imposing nature of the visual demands upon us? The terrible answer has to be no.

From the cradle to the grave we are force-fed ideals and pictures, so much so that when we actually engage in eating food, the act of putting food into our mouths becomes a self-condemnation and eating becomes a sign of failure.

At the same time, when we are unable to control our weight:

We are considered by society to be a failure, to be weak-willed or unable to control ourselves; whichever flavour of judgement we are condemned by, the bottom line is we are not seen as being enough because we let our chips, ice-cream or cakes get in the way of being the perfect picture or ‘living the dream.’

Not only are we condemned by society, we condemn ourselves; we are sold the perfection and also sold the struggle and fight that goes hand in hand with it. But how much of us loves the struggle and fight? Isn’t that part of the hook as well? We fight to get to our attained weight, but all too often can’t sustain it because perfection is unsustainable. We are super self-critical for ‘failing’ – putting the weight on again and repeating the behaviour incessantly. In this way we have perfection gained, and perfection lost, in one unending cycle, ensuring we are hooked on the dieting industry for life and the emotional cyclone it runs with.

Slimming magazines have a huge number of recipes loaded with sugar, dairy and gluten – all of which you’d think would be reduced to a minimum in order to become a glamorously presented ‘after’ to fit the image and ideal, but not if the purpose is to hook you for life into the dieting ‘machine’, which serves to keep us feeling we are less and justifying a whole range of behaviour from self-loathing to self-indulging.

The product being sold here is not weight loss at all, but the hook to move us into the endless cycle of dieting.

Once hooked, we are guaranteed to stay stuck in a ‘film script’ that is written for us, and we are endlessly fed by it – literally. Could we not then say that, in truth, slimming magazines are actually the manipulation of people to meet the needs and targets of the weight-loss industry? Could the massive cost of this industry be human misery, ill-mental health and weight-related disease?

The weight-loss industry tells us what we need in the first place with the ideal pictures, then we demand the pictures we are fed. We want what we are told to want, force-fed by images, and measure ourselves as less for not having it. We are stuck on a roundabout going around and around, playing out the same storyline over and over, wanting, and never achieving, what’s on those glossy pages.

The slimming magazines want to present their product of weight loss as glossy and amazing, something we should yearn to achieve. Yet how harmful is it to continually think we are worth less because of our weight?

Why do we ever allow anyone, let alone a whole industry, feed us even just one thought that we are worth less? Should we not be up in arms and refusing to accept such degradation? Yet we buy the magazines and accept the judgements.

The people in the magazines do look amazing; everything from amazing clothes, hair, make-up and beautiful homes – glossy and glamorised to the hilt. These weight-losers were treated like film stars and looked the part. They made it look like losing weight was the answer to everything … that life would miraculously transform us into living the happiest we could be. That’s such a hook – we are fed ‘you want this’. We look at those pictures and say, ‘that could be me’ and the hook is in our mouth like a helpless fish at the end of a line. We are in it hook, line and sinker. In this instance, the so called ‘winners’ are presented as those who get o be in the magazines, and the millions of ‘losers’ are all of us, fed by the cycle we are asking for and we agree to.

We agree to being judged as worthless.

What if we stopped falling for the lies of the glossy pictures of what life could be like if we lost all the weight we always dreamed of losing? What would happen if we came face to face with the fact that:

The ‘dream life’ we are fed doesn’t make our life any better – it’s making sure we stay stuck in misery.

We are fodder for such money-grabbing, self-serving and insidious business goals that in no way have our best interests at heart – absolutely none, not one, zero, zilch. Instead, this is an industry that diminishes us and sets us to be worthless, and yet we grab it at such devastating cost to ourselves.


If we are always dreaming of being something, we don’t have to look at the devastation we are creating every inch of the way. If we love the pictures so much, we won’t want to look at the lies they are made of.

The killer truth is: we don’t want to take responsibility for our lives and all the choices we are making along the way, so we grab the wishes and dreams that go nowhere to distract us.

Taking responsibility for our choices is not as exciting as always dreaming of something that’s not true in the first place.

Filed under

Losing weightDietsWeightWeight-lossBody image

  • Photography: Dean Whitling, Brisbane based photographer and film maker of 13 years.

    Dean shoots photos and videos for corporate portraits, architecture, products, events, marketing material, advertising & website content. Dean's philosophy - create photos and videos that have magic about them.