The girl circled is Taralynn of UndressedSkeleton, a rather popular “fitblr” here on our quaint little website. In the photo, one can see the caption “She lost 50 pounds the healthy way!” under her name. What’s so bad about that? Well, nothing. Putting aside any fat-phobia, losing weight the ‘healthy way’ (i.e. eating appropriately and exercising on a regular basis) is great. But that’s not my issue. Taralynn claims time and time again that her eating habits are normal and healthy, but the truth is, they’re not.
A quick click-through of her blog brings up the following:
She addssugar-freejello to everything. In an attempt to cut out added sugars, she switches to using artificial sweeteners (in this case, aspartame). Despite the reports that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners may not actually be harmful, sugar-free jello lacks something that fruit does not: nutrients.
I want to be forward here: I am not saying Taralynn has an eating disorder. What I am saying is that her means of dieting are not healthy and that it is unfair to herself and her readers to claim that they are.
But my issues do not lie solely with Taralynn herself. I have more of a problem with Seventeen Magazine for featuring such habits as the “healthy way” to lose weight. Let’s be real: teenage girls are impressionable. The girls who read Seventeen look to the magazine for inspiration, as though it is their big sister. To feature a girl whose eating habits are nowhere near healthy is extremely irresponsible and I am disappointed in the lack of judgment on their part.
I decided to send Seventeen the following email:
I’m disappointed. As a magazine that millions and millions of young girls read and look up to, I thought you would be more careful in your selection of topics. Girls in the US and across the world already have too much pressure put on them to be thin, and eating disorders are spreading like wildfire. Your magazine has acknowledged this with articles about the effects anorexia has on the body. However, I am disturbed by your recent choice to feature Taralynn from the tumblr UndressedSkeleton.
Taralynn promotes unhealthy ideas about weight loss and provides very, very unhealthy “tips” and “tricks.” Her “diet plan” consists of eating 1000 calories and 0g fat a day, and putting sugar-free jell-o packets in plain greek yogurt—this is the stuff eating disorders are made of! I would think that a magazine that is aware of eating disorders and their effect on young girls would be more careful in their selection of “inspirational” women for these girls to look up to. You give your readers direct messages about body acceptance in your Body Peace feature, but the subtext of featuring women like this reeks of fat-phobia and promotes a body ideal. It’s as though the only body that girls should be accepting is a skinny one.
I hope in the future you are more careful with your selection of topics and, within those topics, the people you feature. If you are going to have a diet and weight loss section in your magazine, then it is your responsibility to make sure you are promoting healthy ideas.
And this is the response I got:
Thank you so much for writing to Seventeen with your concerns. Encouraging a healthy body image is incredibly important to us, too. As the largest and most popular teen magazine, we feel we have a responsibility to the 14 million teens who rely on us to create something each month that is not only fun and entertaining, but is also a positive influence in readers’ lives.
That’s a big reason why we are using more and more real girls (as opposed to models) in our pages. We are committed to making our readers feel good about themselves.
Thank you for expressing your concerns on this important issue.
Okay, so, essentially—Seventeen completely blew me off with this generic piece of crap email. They did not address anything I wrote about. In fact, all they seemed to care about is telling me how popular their magazine is. So now, I’m sending another email directly to the Health editor. And if she responds in the same way, I will go to Hearst Communications. And I’m asking you to do the same. Seventeen needs to realize that they have a responsibility to their readers to provide accurate information. They claim they are committed to making their 14 million readers feel good—so why are they giving them a way to develop an eating disorder?