Improving Treatment and Awareness of Eating Disorders: How One Magazine Promotes Healthy Sizes

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Improving Treatment and Awareness of Eating Disorders: How One Magazine Promotes Healthy Sizes

In a keynote address at last year’s NEDA conference, Chandra Czape Turner, Executive Editor of CosmoGIRL! magazine, described some of the efforts the publication has made to promote healthy sizes and shapes. The monthly magazine, which reaches 8 million readers ages 14 to 22, has changed its editorial policies to promote healthy living among young readers. The magazine also offers scholarships and award programs, such as “Born to Lead,” for young women who have made great accomplishments in their communities. One program, Project 2040, is designed to help get women into the top leadership tiers of every industry—and maybe even the president.

Turner noted that the magazine’s goal is to help girls feel happy with their size, whatever it may be, and to stress healthy lifestyles. For example, she said, the magazine has an unwritten rule never to run an article on dieting, but instead to include articles about healthy nutrition and exercise. The staff approach eating disorders head-on and are very careful not to give the “how to” or go into the details about the methods used to perpetuate the eating disorder. Instead, the focus is on information.

For example, in a recent issue, an editor who once had an eating disorder shared her story. Another story followed a 19-year-old girl at the Renfrew Center, and described how long it took her to accept and change her behavior, contrasted by the reality that her insurance only covered 19 days of treatment. The magazine has included an article about boys with eating disorders too—even though young men aren’t the target market, most readers have brothers and boyfriends who may have eating disorders, Turner said.

Model sizes are dictated by the fashion industry

“Why was a size 10 the ideal in 1959?” Turner asked, noting that the February 2008 issue would present a more realistic and healthy body ideal, “showing that all shapes and sizes are beautiful.” The young women presented in the articles project a healthier, stronger, more beautiful image, whether they are short or tall, and most of all project confidence.

Magazines cannot control the advertising
and often don’t even see the ads until they
are published.

Some of the problems with the super-thin model images projected in magazines have to do with a simple fashion industry fact:. Designer clothing comes in sample sizes, and models are expected to fit into the clothing. Thus, if a model is a size 6 or 8, she must starve herself to fit into the samples, which are a size 2. The fashion industry and media have a strange marriage, Turner said, adding that editors want to cover the latest fashions, but most clothing is made for a tiny body size. CosmoGIRL!staffers work to select models for their magazine who are healthy and strong. However, when an audience member pointed out that a recent issue had a super-thin young model on the back cover, Turner admitted the challenge of working with advertisers. The editorial staff at CosmoGIRL! and other magazines cannot control the advertising and often don’t even see the ads until they are published.

“Young people have to learn to see ads through a healthy lens,” she said, “so they can differentiate the ads from reality and not buy into them.” She added that the editorial team hopes to do that by celebrating healthy differences in body types, stressing accomplishment over size, and doing what they can to portray a variety of sizes.

—Source: Eating Disorders Review, Vol. 19, No. 1

Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Winter 2008 Volume 6, Number 1
©2008 Gürze Books

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