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Off the rack

Checking out at the grocery store makes me sad. Not because I have to hand over my credit card, (though that doesn’t fill me with paroxysms of joy either) but because of the magazines. Oh, the magazines. The covers of tabloids that ridicule women for being too fat or too thin. Covers that pimp the soup diet and the potato diet and the carrot diet. Covers that speculate on who’s pregnant and who’s just fat. It’s depressing and I rarely ever want to buy any of those magazines. I doubt I will, until I see a cover that touts how to lose 20 pounds sensibly in 20 weeks instead of in 20 days. Why are there always women on the covers? Magazines marketed at women have women on the covers and magazines marketed to men…also have women on the covers, though usually with considerably less clothing. Odd.

Seeing covers like that makes me glad that I’ve essentially checked out of pop culture over the past few years. I’m really picky about what TV shows I watch, and even then I don’t watch commercials. I don’t read fashion and beauty magazines that tell me I’ll be inferior unless I buy certain products. It’s been really great for my mental health. A lot of who you are depends on who and what you surround yourself with. If you want to achieve a goal, you need to hang out with people who support that goal. I want to run a mini-marathon, so I’ve been hanging out with runners in my training program every weekend. If you want to feel good about your body, you need to surround yourself with media that supports that. Thus, me and pop culture have essentially gone our separate ways and it’s been good.

But I still read the news, and I recently read that Lisa Marie Presley is suing a British newspaper for making fun of her weight. Personally, I think this is a bad move. I had no idea anyone had called Lisa Marie fat until she filed a lawsuit. I suspect a lot of people didn’t know the tabloids had called her fat. So, if she found the tabloid story to be embarrassing, she just magnified that embarrassment tenfold.

After the articles came out, she got on MySpace and said, “I have had to show my cards and announce under the gun and under vicious personal attack that I am in fact pregnant.” Second mistake – never let them see you sweat. She’s clearly pissed. While she has every right to be mad for being publicly ridiculed, I think it’s better to never let people know they’ve hurt you even if you’re bleeding profusely out of your severed arms like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “It’s just a flesh wound!” And why did she have to show her cards? It’s no fun being made fun of, but if she wanted to keep quiet, that was an option, a tougher option perhaps, but still an option. While she talks about being under the gun, no one was actually going to shoot her if she didn’t talk about her baby bump.

In her law suit, she alleges that the story was “slanderous and degrading.” I haven’t read the tabloid article, so it’s possible that I’m talking out of my ass here. I have no doubt that the tabloids were cruel, because that’s what tabloids do, but there’s no law against being mean. Mostly it makes me sad to think that calling someone fat is considered slanderous and degrading. I certainly prefer being thin to being fat, but I was not a bad person because I was morbidly obese. If someone called me fat, they could certainly hurl it as an insult, but ultimately it was true and in a perfect world there would be no reason to consider the word “fat” to be slander.

I understand why Lisa Marie was hurt by a mean article that made fun of the way her body is changing in ways she can’t completely control. She might be sensitive to the issue because her father, Elvis Presley, had an obesity problem later in life. I don’t know. It sucks that the tabloids taunted her, but her reaction to the mockery doesn’t make me any happier.

Now where can I find a checkout lane without any magazine racks?

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Michelle • March 14, 2008 at 8:40 am

I think LMP’s main issue was being compared to her father…that she was going to die like him, etc. He put on a considerable amount of weight, abused RX drugs…you know the story. So there were comments in the story about her following the same path, just based on her increased weight. I think someone has to step up and stop the nastiness that is posing as journalism and entertainment, and I say good for Lisa Marie!


psychsarah • March 14, 2008 at 8:59 am

I think you are so right about feeling better when you don’t consume too much pop culture! The more attention you pay to those “who is too thin? who is too fat?” messages, the easier it is to internalize those ideas, and constantly be worrying if you’re too thin or too fat or whatever!!

I think they should have magazine free aisles, just like they have candy-free aisles for those with kids. I loathe standing there and having my peripheral vision catch the horrible schlock they put on the covers. Even the ones that aren’t tabloids per se feed into the idea that women should be consumed with their weight-every issue of Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal has a “Walk off the Weight Before _____ (insert holiday or other arbitrary deadline here)” or “Low Fat Recipes Your Family Will Actually Eat” story promoted on the cover.


Kaeti • March 14, 2008 at 9:01 am

I totally hear you on the women’s mags (which is why I chose to work for the magazine I do — no hype, real people, etc). Your “media diet” definitely sounds like something I should work on. It’s just way too easy to find myself caught up in the blitzkrieg of news, advertising, culture, etc., and forget to focus on the *positive* influences.


Carrie • March 14, 2008 at 9:17 am

I guess she’s never heard the phrase “never feed the trolls.” Tabloids are so ridiculous. Our Giant stores have “family friendly” lines with no tabloids or candy. Too bad they never open them!

I hear you on avoiding pop culture. I have been so much happier and mentally healthier since I started avoiding pop culture.


Rah • March 14, 2008 at 9:20 am

“I had to show my cards.” Your commentary about that is so wise. It is NOT always necessary to do so, and often it just provides the reaction the speaker was waiting for. Sometimes the classier act, and the more sane one, is just to walk away.


Daisy • March 14, 2008 at 10:08 am

[Quote]: Now where can I find a checkout lane without any magazine racks?[/Quote]

Trader Joe’s!!

PQ – They also have big blocks of chocolate. So hard not to grab one and stuff it in my mouth before I check out.


BrightAngel • March 14, 2008 at 11:29 am

Above you stated:

“I certainly prefer being thin to being fat, but I was not a bad person because I was morbidly obese. If someone called me fat, they could certainly hurl it as an insult, but ultimately it was true and in a perfect world there would be no reason to consider the word “fat” to be slander.”

This is a very good point.

I’ve found that once I’ve accepted an “ultimate truth” and am not in Denial about it, being told that truth can’t hurt me.

Like I know my hair is brown. I accept my hair is brown. I like brown hair. So if someone said:

“Her hair is soooo brown.” I wouldn’t be hurt by that, I’d just say…”you’re right. I have brown hair” and I’d feel no shame about it.

I wouldn’t suffer an injury because of the statement, but when it seemed clear there was an obvious attempt to insult me, I’d wonder WHY that speaker felt so hostile to me.


Sarah • March 14, 2008 at 11:30 am

I completely agree with you. I used to read the crap like “Us Weekly,” but about a year ago I resolved never to so much as glance at it again (and for the most part, I haven’t). These magazines constantly place celebrities under scrutiny for being too thin, speculating whether so and so has an eating disorder, but the second any given celebrity steps out looking like she’s gained seven pounds or simply had too big of a lunch they’re crucifying her for that, too.


Wendy • March 14, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Hi, PQ! I’m a long-time reader, first-time commenter!

I quit watching broadcast TV two years ago when we cancelled cable. I still catch my favorite shows (most of them) on the computer, and I love Google Video, but no more endless ads and social propaganda. For me, my addiction to Law & Order marathons led to a daily overdose of hypnotic messages to buy too much, eat too much, and ignore The Man behind the curtain.

It’s just like my new way of eating: I wish I could convince everyone to try it.


Lisa • March 14, 2008 at 12:49 pm

” She might be sensitive to the issue because her father, Elvis Presley, had an obesity problem later in life.”

Elvis died at 42. There was no later in his life.

(Lisa Marie just turned 40.)


Laura • March 14, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Heh, there’s also the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” angle. Maybe she’s got a CD coming out soon and needs to generate some buzz. Not good buzz, but at least she’s in the headlines again.

I’m so jaded. I think Hollywood is a big stinkhole and celebrities die a little every day they aren’t in the rag mags. Hence, one reason why I love Courtney Cox’s show Dirt.

Agree 100% with your reasoning that fat shouldn’t be slanderous.


AndrewE • March 14, 2008 at 1:13 pm

I honestly don’t get why people read those tabloids. Who gives a damn what the ‘celebrities’ are doing or wearing.


Michelle • March 14, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Daisy beat me to my comment…

Trader Joe’s has no magazines (though they do have some candy).



AG • March 14, 2008 at 1:52 pm

I totally agree with this post. Sorry, I don’t get inspired by seeing a movie star who is afforded a chef, a trainer, a shrink, NEVERMIND on a photoshot, a makeup artisit, hair and wardrobe PLUS someone to digitally make her look longer and thinner, AS SOMEONE I SHOULD ASPIRE TOO!!! (Notice I’m a lil’ sensitive to this subject?)

Hopefully websites like yours shows what it’s like for real women to lose weight. I long for the day I pass a cover and it says “Losing weight: It’s long, hard and sometimes it sucks!” Now that’s a magazine I’ll buy!




victoria • March 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm

First of all, thanks for being so tolerant of my earlier comment/question, and for answering it so gracefully. Also thank you for this post.

The thing that gets me about those magazine articles about how Janet Jackson gained weight or whatever is that they make sense only if the reader assumes that it’s Lisa Marie or Janet’s JOB to maintain a slender body. Media act like they are the “boss” of celebrities whose job includes slenderness (and therefore fit for public consumption), and the media reprimands these employees when they don’t fulfill their end of the bargain.


Sagan • March 14, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I think you bring up an interesting point about being called “fat” as being slander. Because it’s not slander at all, or at least it shouldn’t be. I guess it’s what a person intends when they use a description such as “fat” and in what context it’s used as to whether it’s viewed positively, negatively, or if it’s neutral (check out my website; I just posted an entry earlier today on how various words effect us). And in our culture, you have to be very careful in describing someone as one thing or another, so as not to offend- just because our society has come to the general consensus that certain words are on par with the concept of not being good. It’s especially sad, because it’s labels like that, and the intentions behind different words and labels, that probably spark a lot of body image issues. Sure makes a girl long for that perfect world you were talking about!

PQ – Have you ever read the book “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink? He’s the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. The book is very readable and covers all the psychological food experiments they conduct. In one of the experiments, if I recall correctly, they serve everyone the same food, but half of them get a menu with really descriptive, tasty names and the other half get a menu with dull names. The people with the descriptive names report enjoying their food better. It’s very interesting.


mel • March 14, 2008 at 2:29 pm

i think that l.m.p. acted like a typical pregnant woman. someone talked shit and hurt her feelings and those pregnancy hormones kicked in. while she should not be granting bad behavior with any type of reaction, sometimes i think that you HAVE to speak up for yourself to feel better. if that makes sense.

also…if you shop at a health food store or a co-op there will be no magazines that are mentally unhealthy. they will probably have stuff like mother jones, utne etc. at least the co-op i work at does. its great!

HOWEVER…..keep in mind just because it is a “health food store” or the food is vegetarian or vegan that it is healthy. lots o’ hidden fats.

myself, i like looking at those magazines because i see these women that are beautiful and normal and thin and i see society saying they are fat. it makes me realize how f-ed up our society is and that i should take everything they say with a grain of salt. ie: they say britney is fat….she is what a size six? five? i would kill to be that small. here i am proud of my size 12 self….


Catherine • March 14, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Regarding the use of women for virtually all advertising, I once heard that it’s because they get everybody’s attention: men will look if they see a woman, and women will look to check out the competition.

Good for you on checking out of pop culture to some extent. We don’t own a TV and we don’t miss it.


Reb • March 14, 2008 at 2:38 pm

I agree with Laura, she is looking to extend the range of the publicity that the original tiny article got. I gave up purchasing mags a long time ago, but I love to read the trashy headlines and laugh.


jae • March 14, 2008 at 3:01 pm

My Wal Mart has a “Family Friendly” isle that has no mags and almost no candy. But you need to have less than 20 items. ~j


K • March 14, 2008 at 4:06 pm

I agree with you about the magazines! So depressing. There are mazazines in Britain (such as Heat) which basically exist JUST to show photographs of celebrities… not looking their best. I honestly don’t care about celebrities, but these magazines are hugely successful, and that makes me wonder what’s wrong with Britain’s culture, that it’s so obsessed with appearances.

It has to be said that British newspapers tend to have sharper teeth as far as gossip is concerned than newspapers in some other countries. The Daily Mail isn’t exactly an intellectual paper, but it’s not a traditional tabloid, either.


Heather • March 14, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Great post.

It’s really sickening the magazines print this filth, and more sickening that enough people buy it and believe it to warrant continuing. Most these women they try to catch in unflattering poses are not fat by any stretch, and so what if they did put on a little weight? Weight is not an indicator of who you are. I despise it, and will never purchase a magazine that participates in or encourages such things, and I do enjoy and regularly purchase magazines.


Michelle • March 14, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Slander is defined as defamation; malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report.

If they manipulated pictures & print them – it’s false; therefore it’s slander.

If they defame her, it’s slander. To defame is to charge falsely or with malicious intent.

No one here can tell me that the comparisons to the death of her father and her going down the same path was meant in kindness.

London newspaper The Daily Mail said, “Like father like daughter? Bloated Lisa Marie is now the double of dad Elvis.”


adrienne • March 15, 2008 at 8:02 am

I never thought about it, but that’s probably WHY I love Trader Joe’s.

Except for a few fleeting years in high school, I never had any interest in such magazines. My mom tended to subscribe to magazines with pies, cakes, and cookies on the cover. I think that took a lot of the pressure off me to look a specific way- although I have a passion for sweets that lingers.

I was always the way-too-skinny kid. All knees and elbows with pants that wouldn’t stay up and Olive Oil legs. The cookies didn’t judge me (although they did contribute to high cholesterol and other long-term health issues).

Now I subscribe to magazines with babies, kids, DIY projects, or vegetables on the covers.


Dana • March 17, 2008 at 9:41 am

This is why I love grocery stores like Whole Foods. I am not continually assaulted by garishly-colored ads when I’m already in the store and aiming to buy something, and the magazines in the checkout line are actually uplifting and useful.

Shame you gotta pay more for groceries just to not be visually and emotionally assaulted… but them’s the breaks.

Another possibility is the mom ‘n’ pop grocery store, and I don’t mean convenience stores. Up here in Columbus they are typically ethnic food shops. Down in my parents’ south Louisiana hometown they were a couple of regular grocery stores because there wasn’t enough of a customer base to support chains. Until Dollar General came to town and shut down the grocer who was a friend of my family, but… grumble… I’ll not hijack the thread… grumble.


JoLynn Braley • March 17, 2008 at 1:26 pm

I cannot remember the last time I spent money on one of those magazines – they pretty much guarantee that you’ll feel worse about yourself instead of better, if you compare yourself to the images. What’s sad is that it’s an illusion – most of the images are photoshopped so women are comparing themselves to an image that isn’t real.

I’m sorry to hear about Lisa Marie’s woes – maybe you’re right that she picked up a sensitivity about her weight from her dad (?).


Linda- Weight Loss Blog • March 17, 2008 at 7:24 pm

What is sad is that the women create the atmosphere themselves. Hollywood, etc creates the elitism. I don’t think these celebrities are victims at all- they chose to be a part of the system= it’s every day women that are the victims of this.

I read an interesting article in Chatelaine magazine about the new bizarre trend of the public accepting photoshop version of celebrity- like Oprah looking slim and trim on the cover and then .. well like a real person elsewhere.

That we now think that this is NORMAL .


Becca • March 18, 2008 at 7:49 pm

First, I completely agree. My husband and I spent last weekend (our wedding anniversary) in a little cabin in Brown County Indiana. The cabin was well stocked with magazines like Self, Marie-Claire, Redbook, etc. Because they were there (and because I needed something to read while I soaked in the hot tub) I read through them. During my lovely weekend away, I learned that I need to buy a LOT more makeup, my purse is not nearly fashionable enough, I need to lose 5 lbs in 5 days, and I am not rich enough, pretty enough, thin enough, stylish enough or self-obsessed enough. Yuck. Fireplace fodder, I say.

And second – GASP! – is that an advertisement for Allure Magazine I see on your side panel PQ?? Perhaps Fitness Magazine, or Runner’s World, or even Reader’s Digest…these I would understand – but the celebrity filled, self-confidence stredding Allure? Horrors!

PQ – Well, that’s why it’s an advertisement, not an endorsement. You can read my ad policy here. And Runner’s World is certainly welcome to place an ad with me if they wish!


Annika Q • September 5, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Fred Meyer – I would assume other Kroger stores would do it as well – introduced a “family friendly” checkout recently. It stocks the space where the magazines would usually go with gum and candy. Funny thing is the first time I saw it, from a distance, I thought family friendly would mean candy free, but I guess not… it does address your concern though.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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