You’re not good enough. You never will be.

That’s what the headlines on “health” and “fitness” magazines ought to read. It’s what they want us to think, after all. That we’re too fat or too skinny. We’re ugly. Disgusting. That we’re unhappy.

Above all else, the publishers need us to know that they can make us happy and beautiful. If we read their magazine. Do their workouts. If we buy the products advertised within the pages. We can be a better looking, more fit version of ourselves.

Picture Perfect

It’s no secret that these publications use programs like Photoshop to edit images. They airbrush photos. Cut out cellulite. Alter every aspect of the original photo. All in an effort to make it known that we’re not good enough. We never will be.

The celebrities and models who grace the covers aren’t even good enough. Biceps are enhanced. Hips thinned. Tummies tightened. And, for what? Maybe an editor from one of these health magazines can help us understand the rationale.

Enter Self’s Editor-in-Chief Lucy Danziger. Surely she’ll be able to explain away the process of using programs like Photoshop to create health related propaganda. You’d think she’d have some talking points prepared. Maybe a media and communications specialist worked with her to craft a thoughtful response.

If you thought that, you’d be wrong. Here’s how Danziger explained a cover-photo controversy from a few years back.

“of course we do post-production correction on our images”

We do it, “to inspire women to want to be their best”  

Wait. You fabricate a false ideal, then encourage women to chase it? Oh, shit! She really said that? Yes, yes she did.

Come and get it!

Fitness magazine self hateThe business of health and fitness is a gimmick. It’s all an attention grab. A mean trick. A cruel game. One you’ll never win. You can’t. It’s designed to feed on your weaknesses. To trap you in an endless cycle of trying and failing.

They dangle the carrot in front of your face. “Come and get it!” You can have THIS. You can have it all. The perfect body. The physical ideal. Then you can be happy. In only 6 weeks. Once you get your beach body and washboard abs.

Men, you can be more muscular. Ladies, thinner. Or stronger if you prefer. It doesn’t matter. Marketers don’t actually care.

Think about the recent mantra being touted to you ladies. “Strong is the new skinny.” Do you think CrossFit, T-shirt companies, supplement makers and magazines care if weight training makes you healthy, happy or a better version of yourself?

If you do you’re delusional. The only reason they care is because it makes them money. You bought the shirt, the gym membership, the pills and powders. Their work is done. Another one bites the dust.

Get real

The reward you’re chasing doesn’t exist. The carrot they’re dangling in front of your face, it’s an illusion. They used Photoshop to create it. Remember? They carefully crafted the cover image so that it would be out of your reach – forever.

No matter how hard you try. Regardless of what you’re willing to give in pursuit of this deranged definition of health or beauty, you’ll never win. If you get close, a few mouse clicks will redefine what it means to be fit. They’ll launch a new product to help you achieve it. You’ll buy it. The cycle begins again.

Here’s how it works –

1. Propaganda – präpəˈgandə/ (noun) information, of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

Put simply, you’re not good enough. Magazines, models, TV shows, websites, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. All of these things exist to tell you how much you suck.

2. The Pitch – Thankfully there are experts out there who can help. You know, personal trainers and gurus. They have all of the answers. After they finish telling you how flabby you are, they’ll sell you their product.

3. The Products – Supplements, magazines, home workout DVD’s, fitness equipment. You name it. If they can slap their name on it and produce it at scale they will try. Shake weight and ab shock belt anyone? How about my absolute favorite. The $100 e-book. It’s a compilation of their best blog posts, copy and pasted together, and delivered to your inbox as a PDF.

Worth it? Doubtful. But, people continue to fall for the pitch.

Break the cycle

You don’t need them! Forget their pitch, their products and the perfect images they’re manufacturing.

Know that bigger biceps won’t make you healthy. Abs won’t make you happy. If you still want those things you can have them. You don’t need their products, pitches or promises to get them either. What you’ll need is the one thing that all of this propaganda leaves out. You have to work at it.

Health and happiness require hard work. You have to want it. Then you have to work at it.

You don’t have to chase perfection. It’s not about achieving someone else’s definition of health or happiness. You should be writing your own rules. Figuring out what fitness means to you. Fitting it into your life. Your way.

If you do that. If you work at it. If you commit to moving more and eating well. When you begin to do it consistently, you will see results. You’ll look better in the mirror. You’ll feel better too. More energy. Clear thinking. Less stress. More confidence.

You’ll be a better version of yourself.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway

That quote will never grace the cover a fitness magazine, but it should. It’s all that matters. Continue to better your best. Do it everyday, in the gym and in life.

Don’t ever stop.

What are you training for? Are you chasing the cover images? Have you been mislead by a “health” magazine? What would you do to change the current standard?