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Minding Women’s Magazines: Asinine Advice

Women’s magazines are packed with eating and exercise advice. Churning out new, novel ways to eat less and work out more is their bread and butter. So to an extent, I can understand why advice may be hit or miss. I get that it’s tough to come up with creative strategies to eat better for every issue, every year. And in all fairness, some advice is helpful. However, while all of this is true, I’ve also run across some tips that are simply silly (like laugh-out-loud ludicrous) and others that are downright infuriating! Initially, I was going to let the advice speak for itself, but for some tidbits, I just couldn’t contain myself.

1. “Satisfy a snack attack” with dried plums. “The women [in a San Diego State University study] said the intense flavor [of the dried plums] satisfied their craving for sweets as much as the [low-fat] cookies did. Stash some in your desk for a healthy snack—five prunes have just 100 calories. {Women’s Health, October 2009, pg. 32}

I understand the idea behind this tip: Satisfy your cravings with something that’s both sweet and healthy. Realistically, though, I can’t see how a prune can substitute for a sweet treat like cookies or chocolate. Plus, the study used low-fat cookies, which aren’t exactly delicious. Maybe if I had to choose between a low-fat cookie and a prune, I just might reach for the prune (or a delicious piece of dark chocolate).

2. “Read between the lines…’Descriptive adjectives like luscious and juicy are all over restaurant menus and can actually make you order more,’ says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating…Practice picking out these adjectives on a menu the next time you dine out (sizzling, creamy and rich are a few of the most popular.) The more easily you recognize them, the less they’ll sway you.” {Fitness, September 2009, pg. 180}

3. “Your fear: ‘I overeat at parties.’ Celebratory spreads make it easy to stuff yourself. But obsessing over every bit will ruin your night. ‘Ask yourself, How do I want to feel tomorrow? Bloated and disappointed or proud and healthy?’ Beck says. Strap your watch on the wrong wrist as a visual reminder of your goal; you’ll automatically eat less.” {Self, November 2009, pg. 87}

As I was reading the first few phrases, I found myself nodding in agreement — especially the part where we shouldn’t be obsessing about food — up until the value judgments rolled in. So what if I do enjoy one too many appetizers at a holiday party, instead of saying to myself how delicious the food was and acknowledging that I did overeat and will try to avoid that next time, I should feel like a bloated, disappointed failure.  Thanks Self!

4. “Give your guy the first bite. Women in relationships tend to mirror their man’s dining habits, consuming heftier amounts of food. If you’re coupled up, let your guy dig in to appetizers and snacks first so he can wolf down a few man size bites. By the time you get to it, there’ll be less to pig out on.” {Cosmopolitan, November 2009, pg. 152}

This is wrong on so many levels. Here are several: Why are men allowed to indulge in a tasty appetizer or snack, while we, little ladies, must pore over every crumb? Also insulting is the use of words like “heftier,” “wolf down,” “pig out” and “man size.”  Who knew enjoying an appetizer could turn into an out-of-control, free-for-all? I can’t say I’m all that surprised to find such insightful advice in Cosmo. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that many younger girls read the magazine, and you can see why this can be very problematic.

5. “Eat after Happy Hour. A drink or two of alcohol causes blood-sugar levels to drop, bringing on intense cravings for high-calorie grub. Thwart the reflex to order a sausage-and-cheese pizza pie by having a low-calorie, filling snack, like popcorn, waiting at home.” {also Cosmo}

When I think of “filling snack,” I never ever think popcorn. Also, let’s be honest: What kind of replacement is popcorn for pizza?

6. “Buddy up. When a java craving strikes, invite a fit friend (the one who drinks small skim lattes) to join you; that peer pressure may help you make a positive choice.” {Fitness, November/December 2009, pg. 119}

Peer pressure seems like the last tactic anyone would recommend for making healthy food choices. Sadly, you can’t have a “fit friend” with you everywhere, and sometimes, we might even have to make decisions on our own.

7. “Sip your way slim. Oversized and overfilled stemware has turned a once-harmless glass of wine into a hardcore diet buster. Now the calorie conscious can get their drink on without screwing over their weight-loss efforts. Discreet frosted rings on Wine-Trax glasses mark off four, six and eight ounces, so you can practice portion control with ease.” {Women’s Health, November, 2009, pg. 32}

8. “Women tend to match each other’s behavior at the table,” says Atlanta nutritionist Marisa Moore, R.D. Let your pal order first—she’ll feel the pressure to set a good example, and you’ll likely follow her lead. And don’t invite your whole clique—a recent study in the journal Appetite found that ladies who lunched with four friends averaged 150 calories more per meal than those who dined with three.” {also Women’s Health, pg. 64}

I don’t know about your friends, but my friends order what they want. If they’re in the mood for creamy, rich fettuccine alfredo, that’s what they order. They don’t feel any pressure to set some supposedly virtuous example. Plus, I never realized that, wow, dieting has so many hidden bonuses: It’s also a great strategy for isolating yourself and offending your friends.

9. “Instead of this: Sitting at your desk (83 calories burned per hour); Do this: Stand at your desk (115)” {also Women’s Health, pg. 134}

What silly advice have you seen in women’s magazines? Or maybe you find the above to be good tips. If so, how come?

Minding Women’s Magazines: Asinine Advice

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2009). Minding Women’s Magazines: Asinine Advice. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Nov 2009
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